Please note that since each episode of The Walking Dead: Season 2 features the same graphics engine and control setup, those elements will not be repeated in our reviews for the final four episodes. To read our thoughts on that, refer to our review of All That Remains.
When last we left Clementine and company, they were trying to use a herd of walkers as cover to escape from the despotic Carver with, shall we say, “limited” success. Things pick up in the heat of their getaway, and the game immediately thrusts more unpleasant decisions on you. Forget black and white or even the traditional shades of gray cliché, your choices throughout Amid The Ruins are, at best, shades of very, VERY dark gray. Even by Walking Dead standards, it’s harsh.
Despite being secure in the knowledge that Clementine is going to make it through the herd, the opening moments are tremendously tense as you try to keep touch with the group, balancing the desire to help others with the need to survive. It’s considerably better than the similar scene with Lee outside the hotel late in Season 1, and it feels like you’re more actively involved with who’s moving forward and who’s checking out here than ever before.
Of course, what makes these decisions difficult is the relationships you form with an ever-evolving cast of characters, and newcomer Jane definitely takes center stage here by taking Clementine under her wing and teaching some new tricks to help long-term survival. It’s a testament to the writing that you can go from ambivalence to wanting her to become a central part of the group in just a couple of hours, but that’s always been the strongest aspect of Telltale’s Walking Dead series, and it continues to shine here.
Without traversing too deeply into spoiler territory, Amid The Ruins focuses on two plotlines: getting the scattered group back together and delivering Rebecca‘s baby. Both have moments of exhilaration and despair, and in traditional Walking Dead style, every tender moment is quickly counterbalanced (and then some) by unfortunate events. In that way, the series has become something akin to Game of Thrones where the usual rules of good triumphing over evil simply don’t apply.
What makes both series special, though, is not that they buck tradition, but rather than they suck you in into thinking that this time it’s gonna be different. This time Oberyn is going to get revenge. This time the survivors are going to find someplace they can hole up, have this baby and regroup. And each time it all goes awry it stings a little more. Yet, when the credits rolled with the series’ best cliffhanger to date, I could still feel that sliver of optimism that next time it really will be different.
Telltale Games continues to push the envelope in Episode 4, Amid The Ruins, heaping more and more emotional and psychological baggage on Clementine, whose journey from helpless little girl into world-hardened leader is one of the best and most engaging in gaming. I can’t wait for the finale, and while traditional logic says they’d never kill off Clementine, how can anyone that’s played the first nine possibly rule it out?