Developer: Telltale Games | Publisher: Telltale Games | Played On: Xbox 360 | Release Date: July 22, 2014 (PC, PS3) | Price $4.99 | ESRB: Mature [Blood and Gore, Drug Reference, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Strong Language]
Trust is a vital component of human interactions, and it’s the basic necessity during times of distress and survival. This is why The Walking Dead, in all its current forms of media, has always had some aspect of that weaved into its story, but The Walking Dead: Season 2’s fourth episode “Amid the Ruins” is the installment that brings that most to the surface.
The episode begins immediately where the last episode left off, where Clementine and the group are trying to escape a horrifying ordeal. Already Clementine has witnessed some of her friends get hurt, but what’s important now is to escape the undead horde and regroup. In essence, everyone’s broken: people are scattered, confused, cold, hungry, and still on alert for any dangers. Clementine is looked to for guidance, which is still a daunting responsibility for a little girl, but—depending how you choose to play her—it’s a task she can handle.
Season two has done a marvelous job of showcasing how choices matter right in the moment; just look back at “A House Divided.” The same can be said for “Amid the Ruins,” so much so that I found myself cheating a bit by pausing the game when asked to make some difficult choices to give myself more time to think—I didn’t do this in previous episodes because I preferred to be in the same position as Clementine where I only had a few seconds to make a judgment call. But now the season has trained me to take a detailed mental note of every dialogue choice I make to see how it comes back to haunt me, which is a commending of The Walking Dead’s writing prowess.
There’s a bit more action sequences sprinkled throughout, almost on par with season two’s second episode, but it’s mixed in with odd moments where you’re randomly tasked to walk to a certain point before the next dialogue sequence happens—as opposed to just transitioning to the scene. In these moments there wasn’t an option to explore or look around for more items to interact with, it was just pushing Clementine forward so the next scene would start.
This is only a noticeable annoyance because of the egregious loading times this episode suffers from that manage to break some of the tension. But there are still those moments where Clementine can walk around and read nearby billboards and even pick up some items that may be of importance later—maybe being the operative word since during season one there were times items you picked up didn’t matter.
Clementine is still the hardened child the season has molded her into, but this episode really tests how far she’s willing to go to make grown-up decisions. It’s unfortunate she’s in the position in the first place, and it’s evident those around her are blurring the lines even further of protecting her as a child versus just treating her as a survivor.
As the series continues to develop and repercussions on our choices are made more clear, there’s this growing need in me for Telltale to make even more choices matter, even though they’re doing a good job of that now. For instance, there’s two scenes in the episode where you have to make a choice about keeping important supplies or not, which had the potential to play into characters’ well-being but it falls a little flat.
Of course, that’s not to say those choices won’t be significant in the last episode. Season one’s finale is a great example of that: a choice made in episode two came back to haunt Lee. But that played more into narrative continuity than it did story manipulation, and I’m hoping Telltale is able to lean more on individual choices serving to carve out our own personal tale with Clementine. Though admittedly that is a difficult balance to keep.
“Amid the Ruins” ends abruptly, even a bit cheesy, but the cliffhanger still serves to amp up the suspense for the finale. This second season has accomplished what season one did so well: it’s managed to keep me both eager and dreading the new episodes, and with just one more left, those feelings are now strengthened. Still, those feelings are nothing compared to what Clementine is feeling.