Developer: Telltale Games | Publisher: Telltale Games | Played On: Xbox 360 | Release Date: May 13, 2014 | Price $4.99 | ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language]
I should probably end the review there, because that’s all I kept saying as I playing the latest episode of The Walking Dead: Season 2. I even made an effort to alleviate the stress I’d experience by lighting some candles, but even that wasn’t enough to lessen the impact of episode 3, “In Harm’s Way.”
I take my video games very seriously pic.twitter.com/Lzx3PPxOMO
— Esmeralda Portillo (@EsmeraldaIP) May 11, 2014
The title is a big indication of the troubles Clementine and the gang face, especially if you’re not careful with how you speak to certain characters. Just to provide a small glimpse into the seriousness of the situation: in the first two minutes of the episode, Clementine is told it’s rude to listen to other people’s conversations. I chose to play the sympathy card and use Clementine’s innocence to my advantage, which didn’t get much of a reaction from the other individual. I had to restart the episode because I was on the wrong save file, and this time decided just to stare blankly when I was told how rude I was being.
One slap to the face later and I realized how grave the state of affairs was.
It’s a difficult task to continue to rev up the stakes while simultaneously ensuring you don’t cross the lines of unbelievable—as possible as that is in a zombie apocalypse. I’ve never feared the game would go the way of Resident Evil-like proportions, but it’s always been a fear that when you have so much happening to Clementine already, and you factor in what’s occurred in the comic book and TV series too, what else is left? Writer Pierre Shorette, the mind behind the finale of season one and “In Harm’s Way”, proved there’s still much for Clementine to experience.
As someone who is up to date on the comics and watches the show, it’s very important for Telltale to retain its distinctiveness with its games—and they continue to do a great job at that. This new episode reassures me that the same formula is possible to achieve with Game of Thrones and Tales from Borderlands, though we’ll just have to wait and see if their stories will be as strong as Lee’s and Clementine’s.
Fans already know what to expect in a Walking Dead episode: dialogue choices mixed in with some zombie thrashing. It’s light on the action when compared to the Wolf Among Us, but still enough tension builds during close encounters. Season 2 introduced more stealth maneuvering, to play into Clementine’s small stature, but where this episode truly shines is in its character development.
There often came a point where I wondered if it mattered if I acted defiantly or not. That’s often the case with Telltale’s The Walking Dead, but given what the first few minutes taught me, I was too timid to explore the depth of how rebellious I could be. And that’s a strong theme to take from this episode: it’s written in a way to scare the player from acting compulsively—as I’m sure that’s how many of us choose to play the game. This corresponds with how Clementine was being conditioned by her oppressors. Fear is the driving force in the third episode, and it goes beyond the perils that Clementine faces on screen.
The choices made in the DLC 400 Days are said to matter here, but I must have missed those connections, other than the inclusion of more of the DLC’s characters. What is truly evident is how you played the last episode, and the consequences of your actions.
There’s still the odd camera angles and loading time to contend with, which I’m still hopeful Telltale Games will be able to overcome someday, but those moments are minimal and cannot take away from the brutality of “In Harm’s Way.” This episode is a dire reminder of how the cruelest monsters aren’t the undead, and that the worst is always lurking around the corner.
Poor Clementine, I wish I could say it will all be over soon.