The Walking Dead: Episode 3 review
Having just hit its intended August release window, the third episode of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead shuffled into gamers’ hands. Although we’ve seen a top notch storyline from the developer over the last two episodes, many were disappointed with the framerate and sound issues that were encountered in Episode 2. Has Episode 3 got what it takes to win back the hearts of players?
Follow the winding road
Episode 3: Long Road Ahead rejoins the survivors at the motel, where the camp is just about holding out. However, supplies are still running low. Lee and Kenny have to make the perilous trek into Macon for the meagre supplies left at the drugstore. On their return, Lily reveals that there is a traitor in the camp – somebody is stealing supplies. This discovery sets off a chain of events from which there is no return. As the episode title and in-game graphic suggests, the survivors finally leave the motel in the search for a new safe place, but the road ahead is far from smooth.
Prepare yourselves for a rollercoaster ride. If you thought that the decisions you had made so far were tough, then you’ll get a shock with this episode. Things get much crazier and Lee will find himself in many volatile and emotionally-charged situations. Without giving too much away, your opinions on your fellow survivors will change as it becomes apparent that not everybody can be trusted. You will find yourself becoming more suspicious of any newcomers. Your reactions will change too. Whereas I played the moral high ground in Episode 1 and Episode 2 to a certain extent, I now found myself doing what I needed to do for Lee and Clem to survive. If this meant breaking the rules then so be it. It is every man for themselves.
The one thing that is becoming more apparent though is that the story is heading in a single direction. Telltale has a story that they want to tell and none of the player decisions will affect the path that must be followed. Don’t get me wrong, your decisions will still affect the way that some of the characters react to you, but the episode will end the same way regardless of the decisions that you make. While this will upset some people, I feel that this is probably for the best and allows for a much more coherent storyline. This is the only episode of the three that I haven’t felt the need to replay because of a decision (or two) that I wasn’t happy with – I’ll stick it out and see where the game takes me.
Exploring your surroundings
While the tough decisions remain, Episode 3 allows for a lot more player exploration than experienced in the previous two episodes. In between the emotional cutscenes are chapters where the player can unwind with some casual puzzle solving. This is where the more traditional point-and-click element of the game kicks in. Players must collect items or look for clues in the surrounding environment and use them to progress further. The puzzles are far from challenging, but the change in pace is welcome and you feel in a better state of mind to be able to face the next tough situation.
The action sequences and quicktime events also reappear, but they are in far fewer numbers here. Unfortunately, these sequences need to have near-perfect timing if players are to succeed. In one particular zombie encounter, the zombies have to be picked off in a particular order with only one or two missed shots allowed, otherwise Lee will be attacked and players will have to restart from the last autosave. This makes these sequences seem a little out of sorts with the rest of the game, which allows more of a hit or miss approach to getting things right.
What about the issues from the last episode?
The two months that have passed since Episode 2 have seen Telltale working hard to improve on the technical issues and, to some extent, they have succeeded. The sound issues have gone. There is no stuttering and the lip syncing is as good as can be expected with cartoony graphics. As for the framerate issues, these are also much improved but they haven’t gone altogether. There is a little stuttering in the cutscenes, especially at the start of the game. This does get better as the episode progresses though, to the point where players will fail to notice anything as time goes on. However, I do recommend turning off console notifications as the first achievement unlock and all friend notifications have a habit of completely obscuring any conversation options that are on screen at the time.
The third episode continues the trend of 2-3 hour episodes, although this one seems longer due to the amount of opportunities that players have for puzzle solving. With the previous problems all but disappeared, the wait for the Episode 4 will be hard for some, especially if the montage of “what happens next” scenes at the end of the game is anything to go by. By my calculations, we’ll only have to wait until October. Bring it on.