Trust is hard won in the world of The Walking Dead.
The second episode sees our bunch of survivors three months on and struggling with dwindling food supplies. The arrival of a couple of farmers promising enough for everyone seems like a dream come true, but as we know, trust is hard won.
The concept of trust is core to TWD:SFH as you try to work alongside these new survivors with their own interests and agendas. Without Telltale’s craftsmanship for their characters and scenarios such a concept could easily fall flat, and a lesser game would probably have some kind of trust meter that runs up the side of the screen, but here it’s all in your own mind as you struggle with the difficult life and death choices thrown at you. These choices are hard, harder than Mass Effect hard. While most games ask you to choose between right and wrong TWD:SFH asks you to choose between morality and survival, and no decision is popular with everyone. TWD:SFH, as with Episode One, relies less on zombie carnage and more on this interaction between survivors. A masterclass in suspense, Telltale keeps your allegiances in an area greyer than an undead face, and it isn’t clear where the chips fall until the closing minutes.
Telltale sucks you in to the story with characterisation and voice acting that remains A-grade, and it’s a testament to the set up of the first game inasmuch as you feel compelled to implicitly trust the members of your own group and be wary around the newcomers. Any fan of the comic or TV show can predict that things never end well in TWD, but with a journey as compelling as this, who wants it to end at all? Unfortunately it does end, and in a solid 3 hours TWD:SFH crams in a densely plotted tale of hope and survival to rival a full length release. Although the game is mainly plot driven, that isn’t to say that the action is any less competent. The action is quick and tense and more reliant on reactions than skill, probably somewhat like a real surprise attack from the undead.
Your choices from the first episode are well carried over and, if these choices and relationships continue to deepen as they appear to have done from only the first two episodes, we could ultimately see some very different stories turned out from one player to another. I would strongly recommend to anyone who plays the game multiple times to man up and keep their first save as their real playthrough for subsequent episodes. Make your choices and live with them.
The only downside is some minor technical issues, usually a massive pause when a key choice is made. This can cause some dialogue to be stilted or the screen to freeze on occasion, but like I said for Episode One, it’s £3.99, and that forgives a lot, least of all a few minor glitches.
TWD:SFH clears the bar set by its predecessor in story, scares and atmosphere, as well as looking set to beat Heavy Rain and Mass Effect at their own game in terms of player agency and the long term repercussions of choices.
Telltale has already proved that they’re the boss of episodic content, but here we can see a refinement of the formula. Short, punchy, dense and leaving you wanting more, it’s classic matinee cliffhanger presentation, but with more swearing and zombies. With no sign of declining quality, TWD as a series could well be Telltale’s masterpiece, and with point & click on a decline, could prove to be as important as it is excellent.
Being late (pun intended) hasn’t stopped Telltale reanimating the series, and leaving us ravenous for the next bite.
Get infected with the official trailer here.