The Walking Dead Season 2 Ep. 2 Review: Dividing Loyalties

There’s an overarching theme developing in the second season of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead — it’s one of family. In a world in which the dead eat the living, who you’re with and why you’re with them are some of the most important questions a person can answer.

So it is for Clementine, this season’s young protagonist. Fate has brought her to the group at the cabin introduced in Episode 1: All That Remains, and despite initial distrust from the group, by Episode 2, she has already been through a lot with several of its members. A trust is developing there, and an understanding; it could one day be family.

But Clementine is still finding her place in the world. There’s Christa to think about, who went missing in the opening moments of Episode 1. And there’s Clementine’s past — she had a family, and lost it; she found a surrogate family, and lost it. It’s clear her trust is hard to earn.

In The Walking Dead: Season 2 Episode 2, dubbed “A House Divided,” Telltale brings Clementine’s story into much greater thematic focus. It also starts to introduce the more serious dangers of Season 2. More than all of that, though, this latest episode takes Clementine’s story from setup to rising action in a powerful way, and challenges Clementine, and the players who control her, to decide what values she holds most dear.

The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 2: A House Divided
Platform: PC (Reviewed), Playstation 3, Xbox 360
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: March 4, 2013
MSRP: $24.99 (all episodes)

As mentioned, “A House Divided” reveals a thematic intent in The Walking Dead Season 2 that starts to recolor everything we’ve seen so far. That feeling is brought on by the slow revelation, hinted in Episode 1, that there’s someone out there, looking for the cabin group.

Of course, the ins and outs of that plot would get into spoilers, but suffice it to say that there’s a lot at work in the realm of loyalties here. Clementine is faced with a number of important, tough decisions.

In fact, if there’s a criticism to level at Episode 2, it’s that the decisions are almost a little too tough and numerous. Clementine quickly earns the trust of her new group and it’s very clear she’s clever and discerning beyond her 11 years, but she’s still a kid. It’s occasionally hard to swallow the number of times people look to Clementine for a decision or even, in some regard, for leadership. It feels a bit like this is a contrivance on the part of Telltale to make Clementine more influential to the plot than one would think a young kid might be.

In the gameplay department, A House Divided feels a touch on the thin side. What short “puzzles” there are aren’t really puzzles at all — at one point, for example, you’re challenged to turn off a piece of machinery either by staring at it or picking up the only other nearby interactive object, a key, and using it. There’s more emphasis on action, though, and you’ll dodge, fight and shoot several walkers. The logic circuits of your brain go more or less untested in this installment, though.

It quickly becomes apparent, however, that the real puzzles in Episode 2 are interpersonal ones. There’s a ton of dialogue here in which Clementine must decide how to deal with various members of her group. Social interactions are the real star of The Walking Dead, and while Telltale is skimping a bit on traditional gameplay here, it’s making up with a lot of moments that are all about what kind of person Clementine is, and how others perceive and react to her.

That stuff, of course, is great. Episode 2 feels like it’s just flooded with moments that could go one way or another depending on a few key words from Clementine and the actions she chooses.

In fact, this feels like the most choice-heavy installment in the series that Telltale has yet produced. The Rewind feature, which allows players to try out different potential paths, reveals a few of the dead-ends, but there are also several of the more poignant “[blank] will remember that” moments we’ve seen so far.

The first episode of The Walking Dead Season 2 suggested a lot of potential for this story, even over and beyond what Telltale accomplished with the first game in this series. A House Divided is another powerful, emotional installment, and continues to make a beautiful, tense experience about finding and trusting one another the end of the world.

Pros:

  • Makes clear some of the overarching themes and plot moves that will inform Season 2
  • More of the same poignant emotional power
  • Clementine’s development as a character continues to be deep and fascinating
  • Plot moves are mostly about how Clementine treats and is perceived by the other cast members, and they’re getting more interesting and fleshed out here
  • Feels like the real gameplay is subtle, interpersonal stuff happening under the surface, rather than an over-reliance on gameplay mechanics
  • Strong integration of the “400 Days” installment from between Season 1 and Season 2

Cons:

  • Not a lot in terms of traditional adventure gameplay, even for The Walking Dead
  • Seems like other characters put more stock in Clementine’s opinion than is realistic for dealing with an 11-year-old

Final Score: 90/100


The Walking Dead: Season 2: Episode 2 was reviewed using a code provided by Telltale Games ahead of launch. GameFront employs a 100-point scale when reviewing games to be as accurate about the experience as possible. Read the full rundown of what our review scores mean.


Phil Hornshaw is deputy editor at Game Front. Read more of his work here, and follow him and Game Front on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

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1 Comment on The Walking Dead Season 2 Ep. 2 Review: Dividing Loyalties

GazH

On March 5, 2014 at 1:39 pm

While this episode was good, neither this or the first one comes close to the brilliance that was Season 1. More than anything, I’m feeling railroaded in Season 2, Season 1 felt like it had more options and major decisions, where you could see the results of your decisions in a big way, where Season 2 it feels like I’m just tagging along for the story they want to tell. The character is mine, sure, but the results of decisions are so subtle that I’m starting to wonder if they make any difference at all. While I’m sure they do, the feeling doesn’t help the game any.

At the end of Season 1 I had Lee tell Clementine to keep moving and to avoid people, yet I can’t seem to get away from them. In the part where you have to choose a seat, next to Kenny or the new guy, I didn’t want to take either – I wanted her to sit alone, but I wasn’t given that option. Every reply I’ve given has been for herself, keeping away from people and not trusting any of them, leaving them to their own device or attempting to push them away, yet the story keeps dragging her back to where I don’t want her to be. While that’s inevitable as it’s a story driven game, feeling like I’m forging my own destiny would go a long way.