There has been a decent amount of vitriol on the internet towards Telltale Games and their sporadic release schedule for their episodic adventure game The Walking Dead. What was supposed to be a monthly occurrence has seen releases push well past the 6-week mark, often with little to no forewarning when they finally do see release. At the rate we’re going, the game certainly won’t wrap up prior to the Season 3 premiere of the TV series (which is a nonissue given the two don’t share a canon), and gamers feel the need to constantly voice their anger on various message boards and forums.
To be honest, while the arrhythmic releases are certainly an annoyance (hey, I got a schedule to figure out), they are completely forgivable, as I have never felt myself so engrossed by a story, gaming or otherwise.
The Walking Dead: The Game Episode 3 – The Long Road Ahead (that’s a mouthful) is a far less action oriented entry than its predecessors, save a frantic grab for supplies at the beginning of the episode. Lee and Kenny are challenged right out of the gate with a moral conundrum when they encounter a woman being chased and ultimately bitten by a mob of walkers. Do I show mercy and put the woman out of her misery with a sniper shot, alerting the walkers to our presence, or do I let her provide a distraction and use the extra time to gather more supplies? I opted for the latter, and the woman’s tortured screams rang throughout the drug store as I raided it for food and medicine. I actually felt a pang of guilt over my actions, and immediately began to weigh out the alternate scenario and its consequences and began to rethink just what I’d done.
This is the sort of moral ambiguity that populates the third episode of the game. The last episode offered up some of these decisions, but they were more built on knee-jerk reactions that offered no real payoff. Sure, I could have let the cannibalistic farmers that had murdered my friend live (a little advice to all the Walking Dead characters: stay the hell away from farms), but I decided to murder them all. They were cannibals. It’s a pretty clear cut choice.
Instead, episode 3 is a mishmash of interpersonal drama, accusations, betrayal, murder, and suicide, all hinged on the game’s stress-inducing timer that demands that you make decisions on a gut reaction, then live with the consequences. The group is forced to abandon the relative safety of their hotel camp for the open road, and their lives all but unravel from that point. The entire episode is an emotional meat-grinder, a brutal experience that honestly left me drained, sad, and in desperate need of a drink.
It’s not all bleak, however. The brief moments of bonding between Lee and his young tagalong Clementine continue to be sweet and full of hope in spite of the death and chaos that swirls around them. Even as Lee teaches Clementine to shoot a gun, there is a genuinely paternal love that comes out of his actions, and it gives a welcome palate cleanser to the overwhelming sense of hopelessness that pervades the rest of the episode.
So Telltale Games, don’t let gamers get you down with their venom towards you over your spotty scheduling. Don’t let them make you feel like you have to rush to meet some deadline. Just keep up the quality of the story and characters for the remaining two episodes and all will be forgiven.