With the release of The Walking Dead: Season Two Episode 2 – A House Divided, developer Telltale Games has started spinning quite a compelling story for the young woman Clementine. Learning from their mistakes of Season One and improvements made in Fables: A Wolf Amongst Us, Telltale starts off the new season with some gut-wrenching moments.
It’s prudent to mention that there will be spoilers from here on out – so if you haven’t played previous episodes, you might want to avoid reading further.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
In both episodes of The Walking Dead: Season 2, we found ourselves emotionally moved by two starkly different character moments. Nowhere is this truer than in Episode One, where a scrappy stray dog befriends Clementine early into the game. Clementine, alone in the woods, welcomes the dog to join with her for some time before she is forced to violently put it down after it attacks her in hunger. We are still surprised at how well this resonated with us emotionally, having to pause the game to digest what had just taken place.
Conversely, Episode Two reaches another emotionally heavy moment – when Clementine is reintroduced to Kenny, from the game’s first Season. Instantly, we feel all the dialogue options available to choose in Clementine’s’ reunion with the troubled family man; we quickly chose to hug Kenny, as we miss him as much as Clementine does. The golden rule holds up strong: if you don’t see the body or the death in the scene, then more likely than not, the character survived any supposed death.
These two dramatically different character moments provide greater insight into Clementine’s character. With two episodes under her belt, Clementine’s personality and depth is becoming much more refined. Telltale has performed an admirable job of transitioning from playing as Lee to playing as Clementine.
While these exceptional moments with Clementine help create an improved gaming experience over the First Season, there are problems we notice in episode one that carry over to episode two. This leads us to wonder if that old Moscow Rule “once is a coincidence, twice is a trend,” may be a sign that these problems may last throughout the entire second season.
One such problem is that after two episodes we’ve yet to feel any real connection with the new cast of characters outside of Clementine and Kenny. This should not be much of a surprise as both Clementine and Kenny have had much more screen time to become more fully developed and fleshed out characters. Nevertheless, most of the new characters featured so far feel more like placeholder zombie-fodder than the characters from Season One.
Telltale does provides a few background notes on what some of these characters have gone through, but really only Nick gives anything substantial with the killing of his mother. However, we’ve not yet really connected with – nor do we feel any attachment to – members of the new group, even as they rather quickly have opened up to Clementine. This could be the case as the group is clearly hiding something more than what they are obviously hiding: who the father of Rebecca’s baby is.
Furthermore, there’s not been much down time to get really meet the new characters as every scene is short and pushed right along with little time to stop and chat. Season one had frequent stops along its rails to let Lee converse with various characters about the events that were transpiring and their thoughts on what’s taking place around them. This helps make the side characters more believable and it really mattered when something bad happened to the group.
When the A House Divided does let you stop and talk with the characters most of them only have a line or two of short dialogue, and most of their dialogue is urging you to move on to completing the task at hand. There is little given in the way these characters are motivated and even less in who they really are.
Moreover, on more than one occasion we find ourselves asking why every adult character putting so much trust and pressure on eleven year old Clementine? Why is it this little girl’s fault that someone died when the adults are holding the guns? Or better yet, why is it all these perfectly capable people are asking this young girl to search the creepy cabin or climb up a dangerous wind turbine? Are they lazy or incompetent?
This was a perfectly acceptable, if not annoying, mechanic in season one to have most people ask Lee to help them out. Lee was a strong man who had a bold personality and was fully capable of handling himself in any dangerous situation. Now we’re not saying Clementine is unable do these tasks, but it was more believable with Lee.
With a wink and a nod Clementine even mentions the absurdity of the other characters constantly asking for her help on more than one occasion; this provides a rather meta commentary on the main character always having to perform the task that Lee never needed to address. The other characters will always dodge your response or keep prodding you until you do the assigned task. Events like this take place several times over both episodes and should make you question the judgment or motive of some of the other characters.
Given that there are still three episodes left in season two these issues may get ironed out over time as Clementine will have more time to get to know her new group better. We should point out that we think this season is a marked improvement over the first season, and that we have thoroughly enjoyed our return to The Walking Dead universe. We also found A House Divided to be particularly refreshing as it features a down play on zombies, choosing to bring human aggressors to the forefront.
This is a brand of storytelling that is new to gaming, and Telltale has rightly built up quite a reputation for themselves and their games. If you enjoy Telltale’s particular style of storytelling and gaming experience, or played the first season and haven’t yet picked up season two, we highly recommend it. But if you haven’t played through season one of The Walking Dead you should start there first as you will need to know where Clementine has come from before you can learn where she is going.