If you’ve been keeping up with MiddleEasy you know how we feel about Telltale’s The Walking Dead around here. It is held in incredibly high-esteem for being one of the best examples of interactive storytelling in the gaming world, while still bearing the load of the expectations that come with a pretty big license. Episode two of the second season, “A House Divided” is probably the best episode of the series yet, right up there with episode four of the first season. That is extremely high praise, mind you.
Please note that it is next to impossible to talk about this episode without some spoilers being involved. If you haven’t finished the first season, please, go do so, it is well worth your 10 hours or so.
Oh my god, this episode. If the first episode of this season was stark and depressing, this episode at least showed some glimmers of hope on the horizon for little Clementine. I found the first episode to be quite tremendous, really showing how Clem was alone after the death of Lee and how the world seemed that much more hostile for her now. The second episode starts where you left off; living with your decision that you had to make at the end of the episode, with whichever character you chose to stay with trapped inside of a shed with zombies trying to beat down the door.
It doesn’t take long for Clementine to have to prove herself as an adult in an eleven year old’s body, making sure that a grown-ass man knows that there is a world beyond his sorrow and hate. We’ve all known that Clem is capable of doing tremendous things, but this first scene really hammers home the point that this little girl has grown a lot from that little girl hiding in a treehouse clutching her walkie talkie tightly. Her new group might not be the best group of survivors that she has known, but at least they are kind of accepting her and not locking her in sheds anymore.
This is The Walking Dead, though, so the group can’t stay where they are thanks to a mysterious visitor who tries to plant some doubt into the mind of Clementine. Just like you’ve come to expect in The Walking Dead, things get crummy and their journey to their next location is one rife with decisions and zombies that need their skulls smashed in. The action scenes play out smoothly, with them trying to introduce a few new mechanics along the way, as they are akin to do, but it doesn’t feel forced.
Where the episode really shines is when your group reaches the ski lodge. I’m not sure that I’ve ever felt such a sense of being overwhelmed in a game by seeing one character than I have in this episode of The Walking Dead. There was a choice to “Hug” and I don’t think that I could have pushed that button fast enough to correspond with how the game made me feel. That moment is probably one of the defining wins for Telltale in just how good of a job that they do in crafting this world with these characters. I’ll let you find out who it is for yourself.
Things are looking rather bleak for the next episode, like the most bleak that we’ve probably ever seen for Clementine. That is kind of exciting in a way, right? We knew to expect someone that Clem knew in this episode and it was still surprising, so I suspect that the next episode will deliver in a similar way. As we’ve seen, Telltale knows how to make us feel feelings, right down to the smallest detail, like the song that they chose for the ending credits.
The good news is that A House Divided is a lot less glitchy than the first episode was, at least on the Xbox 360 version. The Telltale engine runs like butter on a PC and will probably do just fine on next generation consoles whenever that leap is made, but until then we have to deal with last generation systems and a game that is trying to grow within the confines. There were a lot less instances of the game lagging out or button prompts just not responding, which means you’ll have to replay action scenes a lot less this time around.
Overall this episode just felt like it got everything right. There was a great mix of action and down time, the surprises were genuine and there were some really interesting cameos. Hell, if you played 500 Days there was even a character from that involved, which really made you start wondering. The world that Telltale has woven is marvelous in its desolation and despair, but brilliant in how it all comes together. You will want to play this one a few times, I think.