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PC/Mac Game Review: The Walking Dead – Episode 2: “Starved for Help”

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The Walking Dead - Episode 2Three months have passed since the events of the first episode in The Walking Dead game, and the world is still filled with suffering. After the initial shock of the zombie invasion, Lee Everett and his group of survivors are faced with the challenges of survival from the “walkers” as well as survival against natural causes. They have watched the society and infrastructure that they took for granted crumble before their eyes. Some are ready to accept this change and make the best of it, but others are trying their best to hold onto the past.

The events of “Starved for Help” start with Lee–the protagonist of the series–and a new character, Mark, stalking through the woods on a hunting expedition. The theme of hunger is clearly established in these first few moments and is carried throughout the course of the episode. The hunger is the survivors’ primary motivation, and it is the crux of many “difficult decisions” that Lee must make (or that the player must make for him).  They are (SPOILER ALERT):

  • Waste a bullet and risk the noise of shooting at a bird for food?
  • Which of the 10 hungry mouths should you feed with only four pieces of food?
  • Leave the relative safety of the motor inn to see if the claims of a stranger are true?
  • Listen to Clementine or your gut?

Making a decision about food is much more complicated in the zombie apocalypse.

Power struggles between the survivors make the decision-making even more complex. After leaving the pharmacy in Episode One, Lilly has become the de facto leader of the group, but Kenny doesn’t agree with her decisions and thinks that he should be the leader. The choices you make as Lee reflect to each (and to the group) whose side you’re on.

In the second episode of The Walking Dead game, the effects of these choices start to show At the beginning of each episode, a warning displays on the screen:

This game series adapts to the choices you make. The story is tailored by how you play.

In my review of Episode One: “A New Day” – I predicted that future episodes would have to show the fruition of this decision-based gameplay. This is exactly what happens in Episode Two. With the increasing tension in the power struggle between Lilly and Kenny, choices you made towards them and theirs family (Larry and Duck, respectively) correspond to how they treat Lee in this episode, and the dialogue in this episode implies that decisions made now will have an even bigger effect on the events in future episodes.

“Starved for Help” continues to put an emphasis on character interactions and the effects of Lee’s decisions on character development, not the action. In the first episode, there are only a few decisions that can make a difference to the events of the story, and rather than creating two divergent story paths, each choice is just one side or the other of a detour – either decision resulting in essentially the same result.

In two instances, Everett has to choose whom he would attempt to save in a sudden zombie attack. In only one case does Everett’s decision actually change the outcome of who survives. However, the decisions you make have a large effect on the way the other characters interact with Everett. This style of decision-based gameplay is continued in “Starved for Help” as the effects of decisions in Episode One come to bear, decisions made in Episode Two sometimes have an immediate effect and other times there are indications of how the future might be affected. But there’s no telling if the implied result will ever come to pass. Picking one side over the other might completely backfire in future episodes.

At the end of the day, “Starved for Help” maintains the standard for graphics and sound set by Episode One, but it takes the emotional intensity of character interaction to a whole new level. The Walking Dead keeps getting better and better.

The Walking Dead is rated M (Mature) by the ESRB for Strong Language, Blood and Gore, Intense Violence. This game can also be found on: Xbox 360 and PS3.

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About Stephen Lee

In addition to being an awesome web developer, Stephen Lee, aka SLee, is also a video game junkie and intermittent blogger. Click here to find out how he plays so many games.