Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Walking Dead: Episode 3 - Long Road Ahead

Long Road Ahead marks the third entry in Telltale's The Walking Dead series, continuing the story as Lee Everett and his band of survivors set out from the motel in search of safer lodgings. Compared to the previous episode, this one feels like its ambition is a little reeled in -- it's not as thrilling or exciting as Starved For Help, but it provides a satisfying experience that keeps the pace moving all the way through.

The story this time around seems pretty straightforward, but it manages to feature some of the most emotionally engaging sequences of the series thus far. A few moments were particularly shocking to me (much more so than the previous episode's twist with the St Johns), and others handled a somber, morose tone so well that they had me sincerely empathizing with the characters. As it turns out, I care a lot more about these people than I've cared for most other video game characters.

More of my review awaits after the jump.

The third of five episodes, this one serves primarily as a transitional period in moving the group from Macon, Georgia, to Savannah -- towards the coast. The group puts up with usual threats from bandits and zombies (including a possible traitor among themselves) as they realize the Travelier Motel is no longer a viable option for survival, so they take to the road. Relationships reach an ultimate climax as the group starts falling apart and their numbers begin rapidly dropping off. This episode marks the most dramatic change in the group's composition since Episode 1.

The Walking Dead: Episode 3 - Long Road Ahead

Despite the greater emphasis on character development, your decisions feel more streamlined than in either of the first two episodes. Previous decisions still impact how certain characters feel about you, but none of the decisions truly branch out this time, and virtually all of your previously branching decisions now converge to the same eventual conclusion. Consequently there's not much replay value. It's a little disheartening to see it evidenced so clearly in this episode that none of your decisions really matter in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn't make them any less engaging during the moment of action.

Perhaps the nicest thing about Episode 3 is that it makes a few attempts to implement more traditional gameplay and problem-solving. A minor problem I've had with the series thus far is that it tends to feel more like an interactive movie than a video game, when there's clearly potential for some more engaging gameplay elements. This is still largely true of this episode, but a handful of sequences have a more hands-on approach, and others more closely resemble a typical adventure game puzzle than anything in the previous episodes, so consider that at least a step in the right direction.

The Walking Dead: Episode 3 - Long Road Ahead

The series started out at a pretty high point with its first episode, A New Day, and climbed even higher with its second episode, Starved For Help. Long Road Ahead doesn't really continue that upward climb, but it doesn't mark a decline, either -- it just feels like a necessary lull between two major chapters in the story. In that sense, it's still a satisfying continuation in the story that, with a few twists and teasers at the end, promises some interesting development in the next episode.

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