If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from playing The Walking Dead it’s that I’m fairly certain I would do very, very poorly in a zombie infested apocalypse. I just can’t imagine myself murdering someone while Clemy, (it’s what I call Clementine, don’t judge me) is watching. I constantly feel compelled to try and save what sense of morality and hope that she clings onto in a world filled with terror. Needless to say, I’d probably get us all killed.
Yet, this is exactly why The Walking Dead is so much fun. It isn’t fast paced. It isn’t needlessly gory, but instead it creates an experience that allows you to explore the human condition in one of its most fragile states, desperation.
This is the entire premise of Episode 2 “Starved For Help”, and it executes it to damn near perfection.
Three months after the events of the first episode, the group is quite literally starving for help. The game begins with Lee having a conversation with a brand new character, Mark, as they venture into the wilderness surrounding the Motel to hunt.
While it’s easy to feel lost, the game does a great job of filling in the gaps through the well-crafted dialogue. The conversation reveals that Lee and the others found Mark barricaded in safety, with enough food for the entire group. With this information in hand it’s easy to see that his inclusion wasn’t necessarily let’s help everyone, but more of a let’s help ourselves type situation.
As with nearly any event in The Walking Dead their hunting trip goes horribly wrong. Lee faces an extremely brutal choice to be made that really does a great job of making you feel like the weight of the decision. I made my choice and winded up bringing back more survivors. This is where tensions run high. The strain on the group takes a heavy toll, as rations are now being divided out. Many see the new additions to the group as simply more mouths to feed, and with rations limiting you to feeding 4 out of the 10 survivors, you truly feel the added pressure. Having to choose who needs to eat, and who needs to starve a little longer, is a heavy decision to bear that is surprisingly more difficult than it would appear until you actually make the call.
Yet, my innermost paternal instincts had me saying, “Here Clemy, have this apple. Shut up Larry, I don’t care if you’re hungry.”
After Clemy was fed, I tip-toed away from feeding Duck…who names their kid Duck anyways? I hope the writers throw in a scene where someone has to call out to Duck to…duck, and lets all see how great of a name it is then. I’m looking at you Kenny.
Once the tough decisions are made, two survivors show up offering to trade gas for food. Lee and a small group follow the man, Andrew St. John, to his family’s dairy farm. What they find is a dairy farm that with any luck is a beacon of hope in a sea of death. However, in the world of The Walking Dead, nothing is ever what it seems.
This is definitely one of those times.
Starved For Help can feel slow at times for fans that are looking for a full-blown zombie slaughtering title, and if that’s you, be sure to look elsewhere. The events of the game are all an enormous build up to a disturbing conclusion. The game snatches up themes from the comic, and does an excellent job of conveying the dangers within the world. No one is safe, ever. This world is a much deadlier place to live in. Not because of the Walkers, but the survivors in it. We definitely get our “taste” of that in Starved For Help.
Playing through The Walking Dead is like writing your own issue of Kirman’s excellent comic series. It’s impressive that Telltale has captured the essence of the series so well. However, the game is weighed down slightly by animation issues, sound drop-out, and laggy transitions between scenes. Luckily, these won’t significantly hurt your experience, but they do prevent the game from fully immersing you into the story and world. With any luck Telltale can hammer out these issues before the next issue launches.
The Walking Dead continues to excel at presenting the danger that comes from living in a world filled with Walkers. You never know what will be waiting around the corner. The weight of decisions that can increase tension, or the split-second decisions where a person’s life is in your hands create a tension that isn’t found in many games. You feel that for a short-while you are living in the terrifying world of The Walking Dead, and it’s a great experience to have from the safety of your air conditioning and sofa.
Starved For Help relays the sense of desperation facing the survivors with well-tuned writing, difficult choices, and an array of conflict. Telltale Games continues to capture the essence of the comics, and the instinct that continues to drive humanity in times of hopelessness, survival.
The Walking Dead is available now for download on Xbox 360, and will be available on PS3 and PC this Friday.