Slick’s Nit-Picks: The Walking Dead Episode 204 – “Amid The Ruins”
The Walking Dead video game series has been wildly successful due to fantastic writing, a highly talented cast of voice actors and its ability to push the envelope like the comics do. Regardless of all that, the one reason that fans are truly enamored with the series has to do with a little lady named Clementine. Ever since she “found” her parents in front of Marsh House and (depending upon your choice) put Lee out of his misery, players have been truly concerned with her overall welfare. When she saved Lee from her babysitter she was only eight years old. Now she is eleven and has lost everything that is precious to her. Along with her ever-changing group of companions, Clementine heads north toward Wellington, Michigan, where the cold halts the advance of the walkers. Lee told her to stay away from cities, a rule she has never broken since the start of this season. Unfortunately, she has come to learn that even when you are not up against zombies, there are always plenty of other dangers.
AMID THE RUINSUnlike past episodes that may pick up weeks after the end of the last, this one begins right where we left Clementine: literally in the middle of a herd. For one reason or another, Kenny leaves you there and you have the added burden of getting Rebecca to safety. Sticking to the plan, you head for the war memorial and get as much of the group back together as possible. This is one of the more morally difficult episodes as Clementine finds herself faced with several choices similar to the ones that Lee had to make. The group is tasked with finding a safe place for Rebecca to give birth; unfortunately, she goes into labor before they can move her and I for one have never heard of a woman being quiet at this time. Her screams draw a fair amount of walkers and the time is up. Things eventually calm down and Rebecca gives birth to a baby boy. They stay where they are for a few days to let her rest. As the episode closes, The remaining members of the group continue towards Wellington. Snow begins to fall and as usual, things are never as easy as they seem. The final episode of season two is going to begin with a bang.
PUSH THE PANIC BUTTONNothing has changed in terms of gameplay if you have been playing since the beginning. When I first started season two, I thought the fact that actions were color coded instead of actually telling you what button to press would be an issue but it works just fine. If you cannot remember that colors of the PS3 (or 360) buttons, you only have to realize that there are four slots on the action wheel and that the location of each one corresponds to the proper position on the controller. The only time things can get a little annoying are in the most tense of the panic events where a zombie is bearing down on you and you not only have to hit a button but have to also aim properly. In those instances, your reticule is often off to the corner of the screen and in the two seconds it might take you to realize, you are well on your way to joining The Walking Dead yourself. Even then, you just hit continue and do it over the right way. the most challenging part of the game is making the “right” choice. There of course is no wrong choice, but as I mentioned earlier, players actually care about Clementine and many of them want her to do the right thing, especially if you chose to keep Lee on the straight and narrow in season one.
THE TELL-TALE SIGNSThe Walking Dead game has a very distinctive art design. As the story was first served up to fans in comic book form (and still is), so a cel-shaded style is used. I cannot say that it looks like the comic because even in situations where characters from that storyline appear they do not look exactly like the paper equivalent. Regardless, I feel that the visuals are exactly what they need to be. The time that Clementine lives in is nothing pretty, so it would feel wrong if everything and everyone looked like something out of a Final Fantasy cutscene. A game does not need cutting edge graphics to be good and that is not meant to be a slam against this one in any way. The zombie genre itself is flooded right now and the style used here makes sure that you know you are looking at The Walking Dead versus something from Resident Evil, Dead Rising or Dead Island, for example. My only complaint is that ever since way back in episode five of season one, there have been framerate issues. The animation chops and skips in certain places and the load times for this episode seem longer than previous ones. While this neither breaks the game nor ruins the experience, I feel that it needs to be mentioned and I hope that it will be addressed. The collected versions of season two are due out in October on current and last-gen consoles; I hope that the disc versions will be a “smoother” experience. For those that chose to wait until the season is done.
Playing The Walking Dead game is not an easy thing to do. I am not saying that the game is especially difficult or painful to play in the gamer sense. Anyone who has at least finished season one will agree that the writers do an excellent job of making you care about characters and how they develop. The main issue that a lot of fans are noticing is that a lot of the story is getting repetitive. Clementine is facing similar issues and having to make some of the same decisions that Lee had to make. This is fine (to me) for this season as it is very much a coming of age story for her, but season three (it has been confirmed) needs some fresh ideas. Aside from this, there is the rumored 800 lb. gorilla that is flying about the internet. Yes, much of Clementine’s story this season follows the same pattern as Lee’s story from season one. She has even had to take care of a little girl (physically older, Sarah was mentally like 5). People are afraid that Telltale is going to kill off Clementine in “No Going Back,” the final episode of the season. Personally, I do not see that this would happen and that is also my hope and prayer that it doesn’t. If Telltale is planning this, they should consider a threat many fans have voiced similar to that of the television show. Fans of the TV show have said that if Daryl dies they would stop watching and people are making similar threats regarding Clem’s possible demise. I have uttered the same words to myself to be honest but I would still play the third season. The issue is this: Clementine is like the gamer version of Shirley Temple. She is a sweetheart that is not afraid to put a bullet in someone’s head, dead or alive. When the Stranger kidnapped Clementine, you wanted him to die and when Carver smacked her, you wanted him to die. Some people even want Kenny to die after how he has treated her in this episode. Clementine is the Rick Grimes of this story and she has even more appeal to fans than Daryl does. Killing her would be a mistake in my eyes as I think it would turn a lot of fans off. If she makes it to season three and some years pass (she lives to her teens) and dies defending someone (possibly younger than her-HINT) then I could see fans accepting that. In all, the series has been fantastic thus far, even though this episode felt a bit derivative.