What happens when you scream whilst stood amongst a pack of zombies? Well, they try to eat you. Welcome to the penultimate episode of The Walking Dead Season Two – Amid the Ruins; one of the most agonising yet enjoyable experiences of the season so far. Try not to get eaten. Really, just try.
Amid the Ruins throws us instantly into the worst part of a bad situation, but honestly, what could we expect from the ending of In Harm’s Way. With a sea of zombies enveloping our survivors, you’ll have to stay on your toes to avoid the game over screen within the first half hour. This kind of tension has been virtually unheard of so far, and you’ll likely never have watched Clementine be devoured by the dead so many times in one episode. However, once all the dying is over, the majority of the episode will smooth out with small pockets of action nestled amongst the usual walking-and-talking scenes. It’s altogether a wonderfully put together experience with the right pacing to keep players engaged throughout, which is something that was sorely missing from the episode’s predecessor.
Amid The Ruins also brings us back to the point-and-click we know and love from Telltale, with oodles of exploration and item hunting amongst the usual button mashing QTEs to escape the zombies. It was great to really feel in control and become Clementine once again, as In Harm’s Way often felt closer to an animation than a game. Interaction really is the key to making players care about The Walking Dead, and simply watching events play out just isn’t enough.
That said, choices are still at the core of story, and Telltale were sure showing them off in Amid the Ruins. Some major decisions were akin to pulling teeth as you knew whichever option you picked would, ultimately, be a painful one – yet still a choice had to be made. The apparent lose-lose situations were simply perfect for the tone of the episode, as in the game of life and death sometimes there just isn’t a good path to take. Lives hang by a thread, with the final say always resting with Clementine, as you continue to try and find a balance between doing what’s right and doing what it takes to stay alive. You’d think we’d be used to it by now, but still Telltale find a way to make each decision as significant as the last. Though the onslaught of terrible situations made the episode feel like a bit of a landslide, it is no doubt a prelude for what madness awaits us in Episode 5.
The only real let down of Amid The Ruins revolved around the character of Jane, and what her real purpose in the game actually was. While the heart-to-heart interactions between Jane and our heroine do hold some significance to Clementine’s personal journey, getting to know the woman behind the screwdriver just seemed like time wasted. All Jane’s minor character development was seemingly for nothing when she up and left towards the end. Unless she makes a spectacular return in the final episode, at this point it feels as though she was only put in the game to serve the purpose of planting a seed in Clementine’s brain, and if she does have nothing else to give, then this is disappointing.
Small narrative hiccup aside, when it comes to the overall season, there is no shadow of a doubt that all arrows seem to point towards Clem being the ultimate survivor and eventually going it alone. With everything that Jane ever said encouraging our heroine to cut ties to her group, while we continue to see all the weaknesses of others, it is enough to make players wonder whether they should, indeed, walk away. It could be that Telltale are slowly convincing us that this breakdown will inevitably happen, leaving it possible that a future third season of The Walking Dead will star Clementine all on her own. Then again, it could all be a double bluff, with Clementine’s companions coming to her rescue in the game’s final hours.
Whatever lies in wait for our survivors in Episode 5, it has some huge boots to fill in regards to Season One’s emotional pit of a finale. However, Amid the Ruins did a great job of getting us ready for our final outing with Clementine, come what may from the episode’s explosive closing moments.