This review will be shorter than others since I've heaped enough praise on The Walking Dead with its first two episodes. I'll say again what I said the first two times: Telltale has created a series of wrenching, emotional decisions in the middle of a collection of not-too-hard puzzles in a visually-impressive adaptation of the Robert Kirkman comic series (with some nods to the TV show).
Really, we're just talking details this time around, as the latest episode, "Long Road Ahead" tears at your guts with three abrupt, horrible deaths (and one possibly off-screen) as increasingly, Lee and Clementine's group begins to shrink and lose hope. And that's actually the most remarkable thing about this episode: how utterly, completely feeling lost and without hope you'll feel after the events of Telltale's latest.
After the events with the cannibal clan last episode and dwindling supplies at the motel, tensions in the group are starting come to a head at the start of "Long Road Ahead." As Lee, you actually start back near the now ruined site of his family's drugstore as you and Keith scrounge for provisions. Now here's where Telltale does great work: after a simple environmental puzzle (none of the puzzles this time around will challenge even the most casual players all that much), your first real choice for the episode is a terrible one. I won't spoil the choice I made, but I think that it was the merciful one.
Back at the motel, Lily's an emotional wreck and running a little paranoid, convinced that someone in the group has been pilfering supplies, while Carley wants Lee to tell the group about his past (because there might not be a perfect moment to tell everyone, she reasons, but there could be plenty worse ones). All this before the episode briefly explodes with a burst of violence (and a clunky shooting sequence) that ends with the (surviving) group diminished and looking for a way out of Macon.
I felt gut punched when one character bought it, the moment was so unexpected that I was still reeling from it when another character was revealed to be on their way out. These were characters that I liked and even the person responsible for one of the deaths thought they were doing the right thing. And along the way, Lee is in the middle of it all, forced to make worse and more painful decisions. For those of you who play this episode, what did you decide to do in the woods? I did it myself, but I don't think it actually offer the character standing with me any relief.
To keep the episode from getting too maudlin, we're introduced to three new characters, although at least two of them look like they'll be new friction points heading into the next episode. Let me be on the record as saying I already hate the chatty Omid. I'm actually glad Telltale has these little breaks between installments, because it'll be good to have some distance from the group for a while.
The Walking Dead: Episode 3 - Long Road Ahead is available now on PC/Mac, PS3, and the 360 from Telltale.
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