Scared of the living dead? You haven’t met the survivors yet…
Posted on Wednesday, July 4th, 2012 by Alex Trotter-Fernandez
TellTale Games sure do know how to keep a guy waiting… Two months after the release of A New Day, a brand new piece of episodic content has finally hit the market place and I’m able to continue my story of Lee and his sort of kidnapped child-friend Clementine. While episode one was a fairly peaceful entry into the series, with a few decisions that perhaps lacked the weight of actually knowing the characters, this second entry into the series is heavy in more ways than one. Starved for Help may be one of the first times I’ve cowered behind the sofa in the face of a difficult choice. TellTale’s invisible hand may still be at play, but each ultimate decision, heartbreaking and alarming, feels like my own.
Lets get the obvious out of the way first, The Walking Dead still looks like a gorgeously rendered three dimensional graphic novel, keeping in tune with the aesthetic of Robert Kirkman’s series. The voice acting is still superb and performances are strikingly believable, this is a given considering it’s still the same game. However the technical issues that plagued the first episode still persist, and although they are minor visual glitches and tics they still snap you out of a game that’s often incredibly immersive. It’s a shame, because the presentation of TellTale Games’ The Walking Dead is otherwise impeccable.
The story picks up from where we left off, fortified in a broken down hotel the survivors must now contend with hunger amongst other things (Like the living dead, whom are also hungry). Within minutes of playing you are presented with two difficult choices, the hardest one deciding who gets to eat. Four items of food amongst ten people, I automatically felt like I should feed the kids. The problem is at this stage survival is at the forefront of my mind. Do the kids need that energy to color in books, or do the adults need it to protect them. Playing the “paragon” in this game is a minefield, perhaps because that black and white choice making popularized by the Mass Effect series doesn’t actually work in the “real world”. There are no right and wrong choices, even when trying to apply some kind of goody-two-shoes moral code. Ultimately The Walking Dead is a survival simulator and the good choice isn’t necessarily the smart choice – there will be repercussions on every decision you make.
Decisions made in the previous episode carry on through, although the choices themselves weren’t exactly game changing. Instead they set up your future alliances with specific characters, and for the most part you can work towards mending bridges if you decide to switch sides. However, not giving anything anyway, there comes a point where your alliances are pretty much set and you have to make a snap decision regarding a situation that occurs. It’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to put the water under the bridge after that point, and I love the fact that your choices are so final.
The mood of the episode is what really sells it, it’s dark, bleak and unforgiving although not without a touch of goofy humor (Yes, a Dinner Knife sure is a formidable weapon…Batteries aren’t included). Once more the most dangerous enemies are other survivors, and the final twist will shock you to your core. People are dicks. The ending is climatic and is reminiscent of the second season finale of the Walking Dead. Heart strings are tugged, jaws are dropped and plenty of dead bodies litter a perfectly good floor. This was one of the rare few times where I’d play a game and the situation would feel desperate. Your final choice in the episode illustrates this, at some level you know that its morally wrong, but how else can you survive? Will you take the high road and starve to death, or will you do something that might very be plain evil and bite you in the ass in the future. The Choice is yours.
Poor Lee has a lot of weight on shoulders and if the series continues heading down this trajectory that said weight will crush him. Lets hope it does and this soap opera con Zombies continues to strum all the right notes.