The follow up to The Walking Dead Episode One: A New Day has been long anticipated. Having skipped its originally planned release schedule of one a month, the anticipation has been palpable following the success of the first game. But can the second episode live up its predecessor’s outstanding narrative, and the promises of truly divergent experiences?
Let’s recap on the defining characteristics of this game straight away, as some of you reading may not have played the first episode. This is not an action game, puzzle game or adventure game in the traditional sense of the genres. This is, at its core, an interactive story with elements of all three genres used to progress the character and story arcs contained within the game.
Much like the graphic novels and the TV Show, the zombies plaguing the world are not the main antagonists, but can be considered more like a persistent but evadable threat, no more intelligent or manipulative than any predatory animal. Underestimating or ignoring them though, can be the last mistake you make.
The writers instead make it clear that the true enemy is your own internal conflict and those you encounter, as you fight to ensure your survival in a world where death is sometimes only a slip of concentration away, and trust is as rare a commodity as the food and water you need to live.
The latest episode of the Walking Dead resumes the story of Lee Everett three months after the events of Episode one. The Motor Inn from the first game has been fortified by your diverse band of survivors, as you continue to try to endure the zombie apocalypse. A new military trained survivor in your midst, Mark, gives indication that your group has been busy in the intervening months, and to survive you have been scavenging the nearby Air Force base Lilly mentioned during your first encounter. The game opens revealing that the supplies salvaged from the base are already running short, and so too are people’s tempers.
Once again you find yourself faced with tough choices. Your first major decision emphasizes how desperate you, your group, and all and those around you are in this apocalyptic world and how a single decision you make can have further ramifications on those who rely on you.
With dwindling supplies insufficient to feed your group, a chance encounter with the St. John Brothers throws you all a lifeline and your decisions could mean a safer place from where to protect Clementine, the young girl you found alone in a zombie infested neighbourhood and decided to take under your wing.
The brothers offer you a reprieve from your situation in the form of trade: their food for your gas. But is the offer they are making to re-home your group out of kind-hearted generosity, or do they have other motives for their open invitations?
Do you select what is best for the entire group? Where you have previously laid your loyalties? Or do you choose an option based solely on your own or your character’s perceived moral compass?
Regardless of how you choose, there are always repercussions that will affect the ongoing relationships defined in A New Day, and alliances and grievances will be born out of these stand-out moments. With adaptive dialogue based on your choices and what you have said previously to other survivors, in this episode you can start to see the outline of your relationships with characters developing with each decision you make.
For these choices Telltale have really stepped things up a gear, as they now have more consequence than those in the first episode, and there are no free rides or sitting on the fence for any of the key moments. As one of the main characters himself states, “it’s time to choose sides.”
All of the key fundamentals have been retained unaltered. Dialogue choices which will influence your relationships with the other characters are still timed and cannot be replayed making your decision that much harder to role-play, and as such you will sometimes shock yourself with the decisions you subconsciously make in that few seconds you have to weigh up your options.
The quick time events make reappearance for those high tension action moments that, rightfully so, are few and far between.
The storyline for this episode is finely tuned, drawing you deeply into the narrative. Without spoiling any of the key moments, Telltale’s writers skillfully build up the suspense to a crescendo, before the reveal which unleashes a torrent of activity and revelations that are defined by your actions and choices.
The sublime storytelling, graphic novel style, and superlative voice acting continue as A New Day left off, but a few technical problems do appear to disengage you from the evolving world unfolding in front of you. Slips in the lip syncing of the characters, and occasional jarring of the animation when moving from one scene to another occur with enough frequency to sully what would have been a perfect second episode in this series.
Those few flaws aside though and this is yet another fine additional to The Walking Dead lore, and retains that “did I make the right choice” feeling you get after every major decision.
The replay value of alternate decisions will no doubt cause many people to play through each episode multiple times, and has again left me with a feeling that in Telltale’s capable hands, each instalment could be finer than the last.
MLG Rating: 8/10 Platform: Xbox 360/ PS3/ PC Release Date: 27/06/2012
Disclosure: The Walking Dead Episode Two : Starved For Help was purchased by DigitalPariah. The title was reviewed over the course of two days on an Xbox 360. For more information on what our scores mean, plus details of our reviews policy, click here.