Return to Form
“Amid the Ruins” returns The Walking Dead Game back to a lot of what it was known for in previous episodes following a stifling experience in the last episode. In Episode four, the player is given even greater responsibility over Clementine’s new group, to the point where it may mean life or death for a few of its members. With so much control and with a revolving door of cast members moving in and out of the group this season, it may find it hard for the user to stay invested in the characters that do bite it this time around. That being said, the overall story lifts it over last episode’s let-down.
After the Escape
Fleeing from their occupation after the events of the last episode, Clementine must work to keep her group together, despite elements that would pull each member away from each other. Add to that the impending birth of Rebecca’s child and the Civil War memorial, where much of this episode takes place, becomes a seeming powder keg of raw emotion.
Here, Clementine learns more survival techniques from fellow former captive, Jane, as they navigate through the wasteland in the surrounding area. Through Clementine, the player will learn new mechanics to dispense with the zombie threat. Though there is a bit more exploration to do in this episode than the last one, the puzzles this go around were much easier to contend with despite their appearance of complexity.
Jane and Mike
It was great to experience a truly diverse cast of characters with the seemingly thrown together group of people out of Carver’s prison state, especially Jane and Mike who were crowd-pleasers, each in their own way. Having Jane here, is actually much akin to the first season’s character Molly, who too becomes a confidant for the main character as well as a sisterly character for Clem. The character work Telltale put into writing her character was definitely the highlight of this chapter as she taught the younger survivor better ways to dispatch zombie threats as well as giving her food for thought when it comes to managing or even leaving a group.
Mike thankfully gave a refreshing comedic turn for the episode. I never thought I would laugh so hard about somebody lamenting their desire to eat a rat before I played this episode and it further proves how well the writing has been for this series to this point, at least when it comes to dialogue. It’s a shame that with only one episode left this season that we may not get to hear juch more of the performance by voice actor Dan White.
A Dwindling Cast
As “Amid the Ruins” moves forward it hammers home the themes of how fragile these characters’ lives truly are. In that vein the Telltale Crew put the player in agonizing circumstances that may risk the group’s well-being or outright doom certain characters to death. During a skirmish, do you take the time to pep talk a friend who won’t budge or do you leave them to fill the bellies of your pursuers? Do you allow a man to go free, back to his own group after finding his secret stash or do you take care of him now? It’s all patented Telltale entertainment that will continue to haunt you into the final chapter.
What is pretty remarkable is that this episode finally works its way around the technical issues that have plagued most of the publisher’s games since they adopted this model of episodic storytelling. The subtle loading glitches and hiccups that still occurred even in the latest Wolf Among Us, went unnoticed if they were apparent at all.
Does Choice Really Matter?
This may be a fact because most of your decisions from previous episodes really don’t matter when it comes to this episode. It really has its own narrative that it wants to convey to the player and while it does well in doing so, it also breaks the player’s investment in their previous decisions to this point. There are consequences here that do occur from the last chapter, but no more before that.
Further, I feel a creeping point of disappointment that I just won’t find out what happened to y adopted group by the end of this season. A lot had been built up with the first three chapters of this season as to the threat of Carver and is people as well as the great reckoning that created the group’s separation away from him. Granted, one can surmise all the broad strokes considering the elements and evidence left to piece some things together, but it would be nice to have some of the veil lifted off of this last mystery.
The Final Countdown
“Amid the Ruins” is definitely a great place to set up this season’s epic conclusion. As the player continues to groom Clementine into the survivor she will become, the episode teaches them well that there are no easy days in the zombie apocalypse. It gets that much harder as winter hits the region and the living get more desperate. With how Telltale Games has been churning out games as of late, gamers won’t have to wait long to get their hands on the final episode of season two, ominously entitled “No Going Back.”