Zombies Aren’t Always the Most Dangerous Enemy
Clementine and her new group of survivors have been captured. The maniacal Carver has them within their grasp and he’s looking for blood and there will be blood. Just how much will be split in the middle episode of Season two of The Walking Dead?
Leaving the audience wanting more is usually has pleasant connotations given to works that leave the receiving party salivating for more content and as soon as possible. They want to know more lore, have more time with a particular character, maybe see more gags from a certain comic relief, but eventually are satisfied with what they were given in the first place. When it comes to the “In Harm’s Way,” The Walking Dead’s third episode this season however, the phrase can be taken in the opposite direction. Though it still provides much of what is expected of a Telltale game, it also leaves much to be desired.
“In Harm’s Way” returns us to the story of the now captured Clementine. Though she was reunited with Kenny in the last episode, her safety was short lived as the dirty past of Clementine’s new group continues to catch up with them. Carver, whose menacing presence was greatly personified thanks to the great voice-work done by Michael Madsen in the last episode, comes into main focus here. Unpredictable and hell-bent on repaying those who’ transgressed against him, Carver is a spectacular villain that owns nearly every moment he’s on screen.
Oh, the Intrigue
There isn’t a lot of zombie slaying this time around because of course with this series the emphasis is on the character interactions rather than how high you can get your undead body count. For those of who played the stand-alone 400 Days story, the payoff finally comes into play here. Depending on who you got to come with you to the settlement, certain characters will make cameo appearances throughout this episode, some with larger parts to play than others, which is a shame. With so much invested in those characters from playing as them, the fact that they largely don’t play a major role in the overarching plot feels a bit cheap.
But gore fans don’t be deterred; there is some to be found here. Depending on your choices, not everyone you have come to know will make it out of this situation whole.
Prisoner to Narrative
This episode takes a lot more control out of the player’s hands this time around. Though much of the exploration generally given to Walking Dead players is usually centered on the conversations, the lack of environmental exploration this time around was even more clear than in past iterations. The player is left to watch scenes occur in front of an often helpless Clementine, rather than acting on many engagements happening throughout.
The common expectation to do menial tasks such as loading a bullet clip or clipping dead limbs off of a plant, most often met with a groan in any other episode is done for the player here. Instead, the player is left to watch the next cutscene play out, waiting for their turn to interact. This lack of engagement exacerbates the fast pace of this episode as well, making it feel like you’re watching a short interactive movie, rather than playing a game with choice.
The voiceover in this episode mostly kept up the high quality expected of a Telltale Game, though some of the voice matching tended to be a bit jarring. This was the first game from this production where I felt taken aback by the lack of subtle mouth movements in the character models. Additionally, some of the voices ended up coming off as a little samey, making differentiating certain characters a bit tough. Considering the time between releases for these episodes, remembering certain key voices takes some time initially. More compounding is the inclusion of comedian Kumail Nanjiani, who voices the character Reggie. People familiar with his voice immediately recognize his distinct voice and it will take some out of the experience.
Three Down, Two to Go
Overall, this episode ends up feeling like a bridge to get to the latter portion of this season, moving Clementine’s group from one perilous situation to the next. The situation is orchestrated so that the danger put upon here is dire, but that feeling of desperation and terror just doesn’t seemed to be conveyed over the audience. By taking so much away from the player in this episode, “In Harm’s Way” stumbles into the safety of episode four. This episode will not turn players off of this season, but it’s definitely a valley after “A House Divided.” With the next episode entitled “Amid the Ruins,” Telltale will definitely need to leave the audience wanting for more, this time in a good way.