In a world where your ties and relationships are all you have while the world burns around you, what do you do when those ties start to unravel? Telltale Games attempts to show us just what happens in the form of The Walking Dead Episode 3: Long Road Ahead. As the story unfolds farther, Telltale’s ability to weave a compelling and provoking story as well as breathe new life into the point-and-click adventure genre continues to shine brightly. While Telltale still seems hell bent on not correcting some of the tiny glitches that were identified in the previous two episodes of their The Walking Dead series, they also continue to cover those splotches up with an engrossing story and complimentary gameplay.
What we get this time around is a continuation of the path the series has been going down. Your choices are getting more important and more impactful, emotions are running higher, the story is getting darker, the suspense is building, and the action is heating up. On the other hand, the puzzles are all but disappearing as they were in the last episode, leaving simple fetch-like segments and extremely obvious “puzzles” (Need to get through that door? The window is open. Let’s go through it. Need to cut through metal? Here’s a torch, etc.). While the lack of puzzles don’t exactly make the game less appealing, it is a little sad to not have to wrack your brain at any point for a solution. Granted, it does move the suspense and the thrills along much faster.
The action heats up in this episode more so than in the past as well, and quite early on as you are thrown into a shoot out where everyone’s safety depends on your ability to take out the invaders, be them human or undead. Surprisingly, the controls aren’t terrible. This is definitely not a game that should rely too heavily on its shooting mechanics, but it helps to change up the gameplay a bit and adds some tense action that we haven’t seen in the series until now.
The game kicks off much like Episode 2: Starved for Help by tossing you directly into conflict. You open with Kenny and Lee searching a deserted street for supplies and conversing about the events of the last episode. The conversation quickly turns sour and it is clear that tenuous alliances are being questioned and betrayals are being suspected. As in Starved for Help, humans and their so called humanity seem to be the main “antagonists” you’ll be facing, and this time is no different, but Telltale does a great job of hammering this home without it being too obvious. Relationships are the main focus: Lee and Clementine’s relationship, Kenny and his family, Lee and Kenny, and so on, and how those ties are affected when put through the wringer in this world of sorrow and tragedy. Some may be strong enough to make it, while some won’t.
Along with the conflict, the difficult choices start piling up on you right at the start. Do you let someone get eaten alive and distract the zombies or do you pull the trigger, put them out of their misery and call all attention to yourself? Chances are, no matter what you choose, you will piss someone off and this method of choice certainly doesn’t get any easier.
Your choices certainly become more immediately impactful, but also remain far reaching. Who to accuse and who to support will obviously immediately breed hostility and friendship, and more action oriented choices, such as resorting to fisticuffs to solve your problem will have instantaneous results. This makes your choices and their consequences more believable, but also more difficult to make.
Where Long Road Ahead truly shines, though, is in the emotional impact your choices will have on you. Truthfully, some of these decisions and sequences are intense, and will leave their mark on you as a gamer. It seems that Telltale has truly succeeded in giving us decisions we truly care about and are affected by emotionally. And for once, some of the outcomes to your decisions will catch you completely off guard.
As I mentioned, Telltale seems to be ignoring some of the more negative aspects of their game, albeit, small aspects. The character animations are still a bit odd at times with characters’ bodies doing weird things as they interact with other. Don’t be surprised when conversing with someone and the camera focuses on their hip instead of their face, or a guitar is, for some reason or another, sticking through their leg. You may also notice scenery or even characters pop in from time to time a little behind everything else. While these tiny glitches don’t pull anything away from your experience, it would be nice to not have to see these odd things amongst all the great comic book style artistry and well written script.
This episode presents you with some of the most difficult decisions you will make in video games, period. Starved for Help showed us that the undead aren’t the only enemy, nor the most dangerous one. Long Road Ahead continues this, with the Walkers still being something of a danger in the background, but people and emotions, paranoia and deception being the true enemies, and showing the player that perhaps strength doesn’t always lie in numbers.
Glitches aside, The Walking Dead Episode 3: Long Road Ahead continues to show that Telltale’s The Walking Dead is a true testament to storytelling in video games and how well done it can be. Not only that, but it shows that Telltale isn’t afraid to mix up the formula a bit and let us take a bit more control of our fate, guns blazing and all.