Sheer brutality like never before
Season two of The Walking Dead is off to a really great start so far. Unchained from the binds of the father-daughter tale of season one, Clementine is on her own, stuck between various factions, groups, and relationships.
Seeing the end of the world from her eyes has made for a significantly different season, and the last episode raised the stakes considerably. It's amazing that Telltale can keep it going yet again.
The Walking Dead Season Two: In Harm's Way (iPad, iPhone, Mac, PC [reviewed], PlayStation 3, PlayStation Vita, Xbox 360)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release: May 14, 2014 (PC, PS3) / TBA (iOS, Vita, Xbox 360)
MSRP: $4.99 (Each Episode)
[Editor's note: there will be no major spoilers present for the episode reviewed here, but events in previous episodes may be discussed.]
The impact of the final act of episode two is immediately apparent with In Harm's Way. Depending on your choices you could have fewer survivors than you started with, changing the episode in a way that has never been done so significantly before. It's a bold move by Telltale for sure, as many people tend to make the claim that their narratives don't really change all that much.
Clem and company have been taken by Carver, the newly minted villain of the series, and are in transit to his creepy community -- a homecoming of sorts for your old group. I wasn't entirely sold on Carver as a villain (and I'm still not entirely), but the fact is, he's killed in cold blood and isn't afraid to smack small children across the face. He's evil enough, though he could have stood to have a little more nuance.
Said community is the real draw of the episode, as it's a more interesting setting than most of the samey tight-knit colonies you've seen in the past seven tales. They're dire circumstances that you get to experience as a group, which is a very cool feeling that most games cannot replicate. Stockholm syndrome is clearly depicted in this camp, as are the effects of ruling through fear. You'll have a chance to brew some malcontent or stay in line, which creates some unique dialog choices.
You'll also see a schism between multiple groups, and you'll have to side with one on occasion. The key here is that you never really know who to trust -- a stark comparison from the relatively likable group at the start of season two, and Lee's crew from season one. There's also tons of backstory on your new group and where they came from, as well as crucial character development for Kenny. Man, I really missed you, Kenny.
Once again Sarah continues to be a glimpse into a mirror of what Clem could have been like without Lee's rigorous survival training regiment, which is something I'm thinking about in every one of her scenes. As a whole given the fact that there are six episodes behind us there's a lot more foundation to build on than season one, which was largely a story of Lee and Clem's relationship.
It's not that season two is necessarily better than season one so far -- it's just different, and I'm glad Telltale has managed to create something new. To drive this point home, Clem gets a snazzy new outfit roughly halfway through In Harm's Way. There are also a few new characters that I quickly grew fond of, including Reggie, whose voice actor delivers a particularly funny performance (my favorite lines are "Why is this kid being shitty?" and "Oh, that's Mike, he's kind of a dick").
Choices are seemingly small, but they have major impacts within the episode itself. They're not as monumental on the legacy of the story as episode two was, but they are important. A choice at the end is one of the most violent and brutal events the series has ever done. 400 Days also links up in a small way.
Episode three was probably my favorite from season one of The Walking Dead -- so far, I'm feeling the same way about In Harm's Way. Based on the preview the next tale seems to be a buffer of sorts before an explosive end, and I'm really looking forward to seeing how Clementine's journey ends. You hooked me yet again, Telltale.
The Walking Dead: In Harm's Way reviewed by Chris Carter
Impressive effort with a few noticeable problems holding it back. Won't astound everyone, but is worth most people's time and cash.
How we score: The Destructoid Reviews Guide