Telltale’s The Walking Dead Episode 5: I didn’t cry. Does that make me a monster?

I already know the answer to that.

Gaming means many things to many people.  Sometimes it means many things to a single person.  I think after playing and enjoying The Walking Dead as much as I have, I can safely discard the notion that I don’t care about stories in games, as that’s all there is to The Walking Dead, and it’s quite easily my game of the year.

* * * * *

Where to begin, where to begin.  It feels like an eternity ago when I started the journey through these games, not five months.  I hadn’t considered it until now, but in some ways, this helped the impact of the game.  It helped the time skip between episode one and episode two, and to a lesser extent, episode two and episode three not feel the least bit awkward, as time did pass between the episodes (although episode two was out when I started playing).  It also delivered the game in chunks that felt like they were meant to be played through in one sitting, which at two to three hours is a bit long for some, but just right for me.  Finally, it made each episode release seem like its own event, and by the time episode four ended in a cliffhanger, the excitement around episode five went through the roof.

Episode five begins with an agonizing choice right off the bat that I was able to make easily.  Ever the people pleaser, I had no trouble choosing to let them cut off my arm in order to not have everyone give me dirty looks all game.  This is where being aware that you’re playing a game is to the game’s detriment.  I knew it would have almost no effect on the actual game, and as I watched Lee struggle with one arm, I could imagine that his struggles with an arm would be attributed to the spreading zombie virus.  Besides, given the tone of this game and where things were obviously headed, it was an easy choice to lose the arm.  If you’re not playing The Walking Dead to be knocked down then beaten, you’re not playing the game with the right mentality.

I ended episode four with the entire group with me, although it seems even if you go alone, everyone shows up anyway, except Ben, who you can let die, who I specifically didn’t let die because I wanted to give him a chance to redeem himself.  While he sort of gets his moment when he finally stands up to Kenny, that’s about all the pay off you get with him, as he dies shortly after, and Kenny inexplicably (due to guilt, I guess?) goes down with him.

After this, there is a choice between who to send across a shaky bridge first, which was another moment where you can agonize over and try to think out logically before realizing the game will screw you over regardless, so it doesn’t matter what choice you make.

The reveal of the antagonist is a bit underwhelming, leading to the classic scene where two people sit down and the bad guy explains everything you were wondering about.  I think you’re supposed to look back and regret your decisions, but this lacked impact on me, given that I made the “right” choice in most circumstances.

My favorite moment in the game came when I was fighting the stranger, was choking him in a button mash segment, and I chose to stop strangling him by not mashing the A button anymore.  This was a choice I made on my own, not as presented by the game, but I decided I didn’t want to kill the guy in front of Clementine.  After this happened and I ended up at disadvantage, mashing instead to not die, Clementine picked up the gun on the floor and shot him right in the head.  While this was probably interpreted by the game as me failing the button prompt, it was actually a choice I made, and I’m glad it resulted in something other than a game over screen, as many other event failures have done.

The ending was predictable, as the game had long established that everything good is only there to be taken away, and everything sucks.  Given the shit storm a game would have to deal with killing a child (or animals), it was obvious that Lee was going to have to die or turn even before he was bitten at the end of episode four.

And just in case the ending wasn’t enough of a bummer, Telltale decided it couldn’t leave us with any remote feeling of closure by adding a post-credit cutscene that ends in cliffhanger as one last “fuck you” to the player.

The wait for season two will be excruciating.

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