Friday, October 12, 2012

The Walking Dead: Long Road Ahead Review

The third episode of The Walking Dead carries on from the excellent second episode and holds it's own, continuing the excellent quality of one of Telltale's best series to date.

Long Road Ahead continues shortly after the second episode, at a time when the supply runs are coming up empty. The tensions continue to build as the group continues to splinter on what direction would be best for safety.

You are once again dropped right into the action after the story summary. Kenny and Lee are making a supply run, and his attitude towards you is altered based on your actions in previous episodes. That's what's great about this series. While there have been no big story-altering choices since episode one, the minor choices continue to affect the people around you in their behaviour towards you.

Of course, there are new choices to be made in this episode, and other than the choices which affect personality, none of the choices in this episode or the one before it have paid off yet. However, it does seem that they are building up towards something big in upcoming episodes. The surprise revelation in episode two is followed up by another surprise revelation in this episode. It will be interesting to see where the story leads as the season begins to wind down.

Telltale has answered requests for having more areas to explore in this episode. Even the home base has been expanded, giving more freedom of exploration. That said, there are some invisible walls. However, they are no-where near as prevalent as those in Back to the Future: The Game, and can be easily overlooked as, story-wise, each border is one that Lee wouldn't want to cross as in these instances he is always on his own or only with Clementine.

The new areas are interesting, and they bring in new characters. The new characters are voiced well. However, they aren't developed much in this episode, presumably to be further explored in future episodes. The returning characters are once again voiced superbly, showing a broad range of emotion that would be expected as their lives continue to crumble before their eyes. The animation of the character's expressions is shown to a great degree here. The emotion is shown through both the character's expressions, and their body language. Telltale has really stepped up in the graphics department for this whole season, and it greatly benefits the game. The music also continues to work well. It's not a sweeping soundtrack with memorable melodies, but considering it's source material, it shouldn't be. It continues to fit the atmosphere perfectly.

The adventure game puzzles haven't improved over the previous episodes. There continue to be few of them, and some of those puzzles are still optional. These puzzles are also still are in the casual category in terms of difficulty. However, the game does improve itself on the action side. The action in the previous games was limited to moving Lee away from danger and performing button pressing quick time events to get out of danger. However, in this episode, there is a section that allows for direct control of the weapon. It plays like a mini-game, but like Telltale's Sam & Max driving mini-games, it is implemented well, and fits into the story perfectly.

The place where this season shines the most, the story, continues to shine here. The storyline continues to stay within the spirit of The Walking Dead franchise, and brings great character moments that would be at home in the comics or the television show. Without spoiling too much, I can say that this story has the biggest effect on the group of the entire season this far. Tensions are raw, the outsiders bring in more tension, and those tensions lead to big consequences.

The Walking Dead continues to improve with each episode, and Long Road Ahead is no exception. It may be adventure-puzzle light, but the rest of the game makes up for it. The action is improved here with a section that has direct controls. However, it is set up like a mini-game that should be familiar to those who have played Telltale's Sam & Max: Season Two. The consequences of your choices are still not far-reaching, but it does seem like Telltale is building them up for future episodes. That said, what is there now is still great. The characters respond to you based on your previous actions, and you will continue to make choices that will affect your game. The best part of this episode, however, is the story. It's really hard-hitting stuff, and is the best of the season so far. The voice acting and animation help to convey the emotion of the story, and the music sets the mood well. As with the other two episodes of The Walking Dead, this is one of the best games that Telltale has ever made.

Final Verdict:
4½ out of 5

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