Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 4: Amid the Ruins review

    I got spoiled for Amid the Ruins by the internet. It was my own damn fault, really, and the spoilers were so bad that I decided to put off playing the game for three whole months. I'm over my feelings, however, so I'm going to continue my review.

    Amid the Ruins picks up immediately after the events of In Harm's Way. Our heroes are fleeing from Howe's Hardware (a converted Lowes stand-in), covered in Walker-guts, with a herd of zombies descending upon it. Their plan of escape has already hit a few snags as Kenny's new wife Sarita gets bitten in the process, Carlos is mistaken for a zombie and shot, plus Sarah runs away screaming after her father is killed.

    The idea that there could actually be a video game bleaker and more tragic than the original Walking Dead video game surprises me but this episode confirms Season 2 is it. Amid the Ruins takes the already dark and tragic storyline to new lows. Without spoiling, quite a few sympathetic characters die in this episode no matter what Clementine does.

Poor Kenny. Poor, poor Kenny. Poor Sarita too.
    Much of the episode is based around the group fleeing to an old Civil War memorial which is neither filled with supplies or capable of providing adequate shelter to the survivors. It is, unfortunately, all they've got since events have utterly screwed them over. Rebecca is about ready to have her baby and Kenny is traumatized by the events back at Howe's Hardware. This includes losing an eye and what happened with his wife.

    The character of Jane gets a lot of focus this episode and we get a sense of who she is, which is good because she seems like an interesting character. We get a general idea of how traumatizing living on your own can be as well as why it might appeal to some individuals. As the Simon and Garfunkle song goes, "A rock feels no pain and an island never cries."

    Unfortunately, this episode is hampered by the fact all of Clementine's actions feel pointless. Clementine can go to extreme lengths to try to save endangered characters but nothing she does will make the slightest bit of difference. This episode is squarely on the rails and while you can choose how you're going to fail, you can't choose to succeed. I found this to be disingenuous.

No, you don't get to fire it. A pity.
    The series has always been pretty linear but this episode is one of the few times it becomes frustrating. The game feels like it's punishing you for attempting to save certain characters and there's even a lengthy lecture by Jane about how you "just can't save some people." I found this to be annoying.

    Despite this, there's several gut-wrenching and emotional moments spread throughout the episode. For those players who are fond of Kenny, as I am, this is the episode which will be the most heartbreaking for him since Episode 3 of the first season. He's truly teetering on the edge and I'm worried the game won't give me the option to save him. I was a fan of the Sarah character and her plotline during all this really moved me.

Our heroes never catch a break.
     I'll miss some of the characters killed in Amid the Ruins and I'm a little disturbed the storyline seems to be setting up Clementine for a "Lone Survivor" ending. Given she's already survived the destruction of one group already, this is problematic. In order for you to care about survivors, they have to survive.

    In conclusion, this is a really good episode but the the rail-road tracks for your decision are much-much visible than in previous episode. I'm getting a little sick of it to be honest and the lack of freedom is hampering my enjoyment. The storytelling is still top-notch, though, and I hope we'll continue to see it until the end.



  1. Sounds like you need some Borderlands:Pre-Sequel to wash away the grim darkness. Though it does do a little bit of a retcon.

    1. I confess, I'm torn between playing Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel or the original Borderlands first! It's such a tough call.

    2. The first Borderlands game is still a good game but not much of a story and the characters are a little unbalanced. Still has the humor though.

      The Pre-Sequel is pretty funny, even funnier if you happen to know a bit of Australian slang.

    3. I'll make that a point then. Now it's up to Pre-Sequel or Shadows of Mordor then. Hehe.