WARNING: This review contains a few spoilers from episode 1 as well as this episode. You’ve been warned.
A House Divided follows up immediately after the events in Episode 1. You are thrust back into action as you struggle to find safety during the walker attack that All That Remains ends on. I chose to save Nick during the attack because I saw Pete was bitten and knew he was a goner. Having just written that, I realize how cold that sounds, but that’s what this world as done to me.
As usual, the person you save has survivor’s guilt and wished you picked the other guy. It’s the same old cliché that comes up in moments like these but A House Divided doesn’t overstay its welcome and become overly dramatic, or worse, annoying. Just the right about of self-loathing. This is normally a trope you see in television and film but the fact that it’s in a game is refreshing to say the least.
The game isn’t without its typical issues, of course. Occasional choppy frame-rate during the loading of new environments happen, with the most egregious moment happening during the bridge segment. It felt like the game’s camera was moving on train tracks the camera was so jittery during that opening. The biggest issue I had with the episode was the QTE on that bridge. For some reason when I nudged the stick left, it didn’t register as left. I might have moved the stick to the upper left but left nonetheless. The fact I had to redo this sequence three times just ruined the moment. It went from being a cool sequence to being a chore. I remember another awkward moment when a character gave a one word response and not even seeing the character’s mouth move. There aren’t too many technical issues and thankfully the game is engaging enough to make you overlook the small problems.
Michael Madsen’s debut in the game is probably the highlight of this episode. His character, Carver, is just perfect for his voice acting. His gruff, grisly, and gravelly voice commands attention. The best part with his character, so far, is his casual walk in to the cabin that Clementine is put in charge of. Carver and Clementine’s back and forth was so engaging that I was just mesmerized the whole time during their exchange. The whole encounter was super tense and gripping.
Simple moments become edge of your seat intense as Clementine eyes a knife laying out and Carver notices. He grabs it and ask where it should go. A pretty intense moment because at any point it feels like he would just lunge out toward Clem, but he just puts it away in a drawer. Out of the oven but still in the frying pan.
He does feel like a Governer-esque type of character. Cold, calm, calculative; but he doesn’t feel entirely like a monster. Sure he tortures people and manipulates with fear, but he seems to have a good reason for it. He fills Clementine’s head with the idea that her new group is more than they appear to be. Could be a tactic to cause a fissure in the group or he could be saying it to Clem’s benefit.
Everyone gets a little face time with Clem in this episode. Sarah wants a photo-shoot, Al lays around and asks for you to find food, and Rebekah opens up to Clem about who’s the baby-daddy. It helps you get to know the characters you’re with a bit more while the group is moving around. Everyone seems to have taken more of a liking to Clementine in this episode. Characters that resented her in the beginning begin to ask for forgiveness and start to trust more easily. You can choose live and let live or hold tightly to your grudge of hatred. One standout character interaction is with Clem and Luke. Their dynamic becomes similar to how Lee got along with Clementine, but it’s not so much father daughter but rather an older brother and younger sister dynamic.
Not everything is sunshine and rainbows. This is still The Walking Dead, after all. Hospitality is rewarded with hot lead during one short stand-off. Even nice gestures in this new world amount to nothingness. Showing that people who stick their neck and try to help others are punished for their naivety – even if it’s just an accident. A few moments like this occur, sadly, but it really helps give a sense of this grim world the characters are in.
A House Divided isn’t nearly as depressing as the previous episode. It’s more about fleshing out the new characters and setting change. The happiest moment of episode is meeting an old friend from Season 1. The last episode hints that you’ll meet someone during the “On the next episode…” sequence, but I had no clue it would be who it ended up being. I immediately got excited as soon as I saw the character’s colored subtitles appear as they spoke off-screen. Then I saw them. It was really nice and uplifting. I’m sure Telltale is building it all up just to make me real sad later on; but for now, WEEEE!
There is a little payoff for the choices made in the previous season. One of the characters from the 400 Days DLC appears in this episode. They were there as a result of myself playing as them during 400 Days. It’s not a huge nod to my game’s past, but it’s something. Choices you make for this episode seem like they’ll be pretty consequence heavy for the next few episodes. There are quite a bit of variables that come up so hopefully they will all make everyone’s endgame unique.
The Walking Dead: Season Two is slowly, very slowly, upping the ante as the season rolls on. There appears to be no clear end goal in sight, other than survival and heading north to the rumored “sanctuary.” That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the ride there, though. While not as powerful as the previous episode; getting to know the new characters is a nice change of pace. It gives you a reason to play and care about your choices. I got about 2 hours of play from this episode and only a quarter of the time did the episode drag a bit. While the episode isn’t bad, it just feels a bit forgettable and a way to fill in the gap of where the group is and where they want to be. There are a few standout moments, like Carver’s introduction, but the mundane parts around it spoil the bunch. It’s not the episodes fault, really. It has to stack up against the last episode as well as its previous award winning season - let’s hope Episode 3 picks up its feet and runs somewhere a little better.
This review of A House Divided was played on the Playstation 3 entertainment system. While this episode was free because I purchased the season pass – the Playstation itself wasn’t cheap. My wallet may have taken the hit years ago, the scars are still there. Are these wallet jokes even funny? You can let me know if the running gag is amusing or just talk games in the comments or on Twitter @whitechrishenry.