The Walking Dead series continues as Clementine finds herself with a new group and facing a new threat in the form of the mysterious Carver.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead video game series has had so much copy dedicated to it already it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a new angle. From relative obscurity, the first season turned won awards and audiences hearts with its brutal and emotional glimpse at life after the world ceased to be. And it was all for Clementine.
The second season kicked off well with All That Remains, introducing us to an older Clementine who became the protagonist of the piece. It was heavy on action and incident, forcing the player to reconnect with the character through fear and one moment of terrifying pain that was one of the best scenes the series has delivered so far.
Episode 2, A House Divided, is a very different experience. After the set up, we now have to exist in this world which leads to a more deliberate pace and a story that’s more about building up relationships and letting us get to know these characters.
Initially, that makes things feel a little slow paced. The action here is fairly limited and player freedom more curtailed than ever. Long stretches feel like a barely interactive cut scene, with dialogue leading us from one place to the next.
After the relatively energetic All That Remains, this can feel a bit disappointing but there’s agency in what Telltale is doing. They’ve long been fans of subverting the expectations of their audience and do it beautifully here, forcing us to change our opinions of certain characters and bonding with the group as a whole in a way that’s no doubt set to be devastating later.
One great new addition is Clem’s relationship with young leader-sort Luke. It starts in a casual way, the young man finding a kindred spirit in the determined 11 year old girl. But it soon deepens to become altogether more significant, a feeling almost of sibling joshing and mutual respect that shows just how much Clementine has matured since her bond with her guardian Lee was shattered.
Other stand-out moments include a long conversation with the fairly sinister Carver – voiced by none other than Michael Madsen. This scene is put in the control of the young girl and can be played a number of ways but in each the tension mounts unbearably.
Player choice continues to be an element of The Walking Dead but the major branching moments are more subtle here than ever before. Players can now jump back into individual chapters in the episode to fiddle with their destiny or right a wrong but it feels a bit out of place. I react the way I do in certain situations because I know Clementine and part of the appeal is making those decisions on the fly and living with the consequences across a whole series arc.
There are other elements to enjoy in A House Divided but I’ll let you discover them on your own, including an interesting Season 1 cameo, but there’s little doubt that it’s another high quality entry from Telltale. It didn’t grab me in quite the same way as All That Remains but the same held true for the middle episodes of season one. Telltale has a 10 hour story to tell here and sometimes that means taking time to fill in the edges and corners of your world. And I for one can’t wait to see the payoff.