The Walking Dead Episode 2: Starved for Help
First posted on 14 September 2012. Last updated on 30 November 2012.
The Walking Dead: The Game
The season is comprised of 5 episodes:
- Episode 1: A New Day
- Episode 2: Starved for Help
- Episode 3: Long Road Ahead
- Episode 4: Around Every Corner
- Episode 5: No Time Left
The first episode of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead was released to both fan and critical acclaim. Naturally, the pressure was on the developer to deliver a bigger and better next installment for the series. Having now played the second episode, I am pleased to say that Telltale Games has once again delivered above and beyond my expectations for this licensed franchise.
A few months have passed since the events of the previous episode. Lee, Clementine, and the rest of the group are barricaded within the walls of the local motel, slowly starving to death as rations become more and more meager. Tensions are running high among the odd band of survivors—old and new members alike. Just when all hope seems lost, a couple of strangers from a nearby dairy farm arrive, offering better protection from the zombies as well as all the food they want—as long as Lee and company are willing to help to defend the farm against the forest bandits that are surrounding the farm. With such threats as murderous bandits and flesh craving zombies encroaching from outside, surely being barricaded inside the dairy farm is a safer bet, no matter how strangely the owners are acting?
As the episode's title somewhat implies, making choices on how Lee behaves is much more difficult in this installment than the previous installment. In the game's prologue, you are almost immediately given the daunting decision of whether to permanently mutilate a man in order to save his life. You then have to decide who gets to eat from the group's insubstantial rations for the day. The concepts of making timed decisions and moral choices are back. While they are not as clear cut as in the previous game, whatever decision you make still does not seem to have much of a lasting effect outside of the current episode—though that having been said, it is starting to become evident that your decision will have a heavy effect by later episodes. (As an experiment, I played the game twice, making opposite choices in each play. While the same story essentially played out through both times, it seemed as though my choices had served to split up the band of survivors and to determine my place in the group.) I can only hope that making such decision will greatly alter the way that the final episodes will play out.
The current episode shares many of the same nitpicky technical glitches that have plagued the previous episode. There are slight audio stuttering and momentary graphics freezing. Fortunately, these issues do not inhibit the overall excellent experience delivered by the game, and they are to be considered a minor annoyance at best. The game itself can be completed within 2-3 hours, depending on your experience. As before, gameplay relies more on navigating dialogue trees and searching the environment rather than inventory based puzzles. The result is a tight, smooth flowing thriller of a narrative that continues to present characters that you cannot help but empathize with and care about.
The Walking Dead is by far the darkest series from Telltale Games. A New Day tells a story that is extremely grim. Yet, Starved for Help manages to exceed that in spades. The story is dark, disturbing, and even sick at times. While it certainly has its moments of gore, the real horror comes from the realization of how humans can behave in the most desperate of situations. As a horror fan, I already have had my suspicions about the episode's ending early on in the game. Despite the fact that my suspicions ultimately turn out to be correct, there are still instances in the episode that have managed to "get" me—always a mark of a good thriller, with tight writing and directing.
My greatest praise for the game lies solely in that Telltale Games has successfully proven that this series is not just about a group of people killing zombies. While I am certain that the game can easily incorporate a few sequences of both killing and escaping from zombies, interspersed with conversations between Lee and company, the fact that the developer has consciously chosen to all but ignore the obvious zombie epidemic makes this episode much more interesting to experience. Although there are a few instances of impending zombies, they serve more to reinforce the severity of the situation rather than serve as a major plot point and can be easily have been left out. Instead, the developer has wisely decided to focus on how people treat each other during life threatening situations and how differently people may act during what is, in effect, the apocalypse. With The Walking Dead Episode 2: Starved for Help, Telltale Games has dealt a deep insight into various psychologies of humanity—whether you care to acknowledge them or not—leaving you with more of a lasting impact than other adaptations of this fiction subgenre—and that is certainly saying a lot.