While some would argue that episodic games such as The Walking Dead should be rated as a whole series, I would tend to disagree. As with TV, there’s the potential for stand out episodes which raise the bar, if you’re paying enough attention to them individually. Although this episode of The Walking Dead Game might not hold a candle to something like Breaking Bad’s Ozymandias, it’s a great return to form after a shaky second season opener.
In this episode, A House Divided, you’ll get to know the characters you met midway through episode one a bit more, and you’ll learn to like some and loathe others. They’re not as good company as the majority of the first season gang, but each individual character is well developed in the two hours or so that this episode offers.
And then some brilliant and fresh characters are introduced, which doesn’t just get this episode’s plot line moving, but also the series’ arc. The villain in particular, Carver, appears early in the episode and steals the limelight with his performance, making you question everyone’s true motives.
The amount of characters present, and how only one or two of them feel underused, is a testament to the brilliant writing throughout. It’s tense, terrifying and proof that the zombies aren’t the focus here – they’re used a couple of times as obstacles, but as with the first season, it’s the relationships of the living and the tests of survival they must overcome that really elevate the situations and scenarios Clementine finds herself in. With all these characters wanting what’s best for themselves – except perhaps one – it makes you realise how individually lost you all are.
While the implementation of dialogue has let conversations between characters down in previous episodes, and in Telltale’s other games, there aren’t many beats missed here and character interactions often feel more natural than before, perhaps due to the tighter script.
Thankfully, choices also feel much more prominent than in the first episode, with callbacks to season one plot points alongside more important new decisions that you’ll only have a split second to make. While many things are left in the past and don’t have any real impact, it seems as though the new choices might make a bigger splash over the rest of the season.
Several extremely tense moments provide an episode that is just as packed with action as it is with emotion. It leads to stealth gameplay which feels much more refined and less shoehorned in -than the previous episode, with perhaps a few notes taken from The Last of Us. The action sequences also feel less scripted, even if there are a few necessary outcomes which act as anchors for the plot to hang onto.
The tone of this episode is noteworthy, as you feel constantly menaced or worried by something or other, even during times of happiness. This is backed up by the visual style, and while its not used as to the same effect as The Wolf Among Us, the murky brown tint of daytime and moody blue hues of night can be quite striking.
It’s unfortunate that they’re often paired with some extremely flat outdoor environments, despite the style within buildings and facial animations on characters themselves working well – aside from one dodgy looking beard. There are some visual glitches too, which seem to be all-too-common in this series.
A House Divided is a better episode than its predecessor. It’s well written, introduces some interesting plot threads, and because you get to know the characters better, you begin to care about them once again. There are also some tough choices to make, which feel as though they fit into the story more naturally than in the last outing.
Ultimately, it will be all about where the season goes as a whole, but A House Divided is one of those episodes which feels distinct enough on its own to be remembered.
Version reviewed: PC