The Walking Dead: “A House Divided” Review

Episode One of of the second season of The Walking Dead Game from Telltale, was a mostly successful start. Putting technical flaws aside, the decisions to focus on Clementine was one that led to very effective moments of vulnerability.  Does the follow up keep the momentum going, while shedding light on the broader cast of characters?

NOTE: Minor spoilers ahead. Play episode one before reading.

Season Two started off with Clementine being accompanied by Christa and Omid, but certain events find her on her own. Eventually, you run into a larger group of characters that, understandably, find it hard to put their trust in a complete stranger. Episode One ended with Clementine and Nick having to escape a zombie horde and leaving Pete, Nick’s father figure, for dead. Or the other way around, based on the choice you made.

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You deal with the immediate fallout of that choice and the writers give you a reasonable way to handle the situation. Episode One had hints of a mysterious figure named Carver and the episode wastes no time giving you answers. We also get to learn more about the other characters and the episode does a good job fleshing out most of them. There’s also a great sense of uncertainty with this new group. They take no time to warm up to you, perhaps a bit too quickly, but you’re still unsure of where their motivations lie. Throughout, I second guessed siding with the group because of that uncertainty.

There’s a lot happening in “A House Divided” and because of that, Clementine gets lost in the mix. She is an 11-year old girl in the molding phase of her life, so it’s reasonable for that to happen, but the episode still left me feeling a bit cold towards her.

The episode has great surprise characters who pop up along the way, as the group you now are a part of, is forced to coexist with a new group led by a familiar face. The way your group deals with the situation is what lends to those moments of ambiguity for Clementine and the player. Are these people who I decided to side with, good? Or are they reactionary?

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Personally, the writing of Telltale’s Walking Dead series has always had a tough time building these moments of conflict. Although story beats are mostly handled with finesse here, there are times where things escalate far too quickly. A more subtle approach would be a welcome change. But as I’ve said before, when Telltale gets to those moments, they nail them.

The last episode was plagued with some pretty serious technical issues. I won’t waste time getting into them but read that review here, if you’d like.

I’m happy to say that this time around, I didn’t run into any glaring problems. The game didn’t stutter as much, but a big part of that could be due to the episode’s emphasis on storytelling over action sequences.

The gameplay here, more so than ever before, relies more on narrative. It feels like with each new episode, the action and explorations or the “gameplay” elements are rare. This is something to be fully endorsed, as the action can feel shoed in and is outside the realm of what Telltale excels at.

Decision making feels more and more muddled and ambiguous. But this isn’t a negative thing. There are so many characters and relationships to balance. And although this can feel frustrating, it’s a fact of life. You can’t please everyone and the game takes away you’re ability to even try to.

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Verdict: 8.0 out of 10

Telltale and Nick Breckon, now more than ever, are doubling down on their ability to tell a story. It’s discouraging to see Clementine, our heroine, getting lost in the mix but Telltale leaves you aching for the next chapter in this young girl’s journey.

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Jason Patrick is a freelance writer for MONG. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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