The Walking Dead: Season 1 Episode 3: Long Road Ahead
First posted on 07 September 2012. Last updated on 01 April 2014.
|Lee teaches Clementine how to use a gun to defend herself.|
|The living can be just as treacherous as the undead.|
|Clementine is still as innocent as ever.|
|Lee meets other survivors on the road.|
|A train makes for a safe transport from the walkers.|
The Walking Dead: Season 1
The season is comprised of 5 seasonal episodes and 1 DLC episode:
- 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
- DLC Episode: 400 Days
A week has passed since the events of Starved for Help, and tensions are running at an all-time high among Lee and company who are holed up in the motel. They have scavenged for the last bit of food and supplies that they can find in the nearby town, even as the threat of armed bandits residing in the nearby woods grows stronger than ever. Worse yet, paranoia has infiltrated the band of survivors after Lily discovers that food and supplies have been suspiciously disappearing. The group is no longer united, wondering whether survival means staying in the relatively safe motel or wandering out in a newly repaired RV in an attempt to find safety at sea. Enemies take the form of reanimated walkers, trigger-happy bandits, and even comrades in arms, as secrets threaten to tear the group apart and threaten the lives of those who are involved.
Long Road Ahead is perhaps best classified as a transitional episode. While the first and second episodes serve to establish the threat of the reanimated dead on a large scale as well as settling the characters into the appropriate mentality for their long fight for survival, this third episode serves to get the characters where they need to be next. The safety of the motel—established in the first episode—is now gone, leaving Lee and company on the run and in a search for a new place to call home. The decision to travel to the coast and into the water is quickly made, yet the group is still travelling by the end of the episode, leaving the player with a sense of uncertainty and unease by the time the ending credits begin to roll. The lack of progress does not mean, however, that this episode is devoid of action. There are still plenty of walkers and bandits to fight off, but the focal point of the episode is on fully cementing the alliances that the player has chosen in both this episode and the previous episodes, in preparation for whatever horrors wait in the final acts.
This episode represents the beginning of a shift in storytelling that I have been hoping to see in the series and that I hope will continue—namely, significant portions of story that the player will not see once pointed down a certain path. In the previous episodes, the way the story adapts to a player's choice only consists of minor dialog change as well as the nonintrusive presence of an ancillary character whom the player is tasked to save. For example, in my first playthrough of the first episode, I saved the journalist Carley, who knew about Lee's criminal past but chose to remain silent in the front of the others in the group. This allowed me the opportunity in this episode to come clean to as many or as few individuals as I wanted, in an attempt to elevate or diminish Lee's standing in the group as I saw fit. By contrast, in my second playthrough of the first episode, I saved the passive-aggressive techie Doug, who had no knowledge of Lee's history. This different choice denied me the chance altogether to come clean in this episode, opting instead to let some other character inform the party of Lee's past, thereby sowing even more seeds of distrust among the group as well as setting up a lengthy argument with another character that I had not witnessed in my first playthrough. Such branching in the storyline gives me hope that my decisions are not ultimately superficial and that I may indeed be presented with very different endings after the curtain falls in the final episode.
This episode also has the dubious honor of including the most gripping moral dilemmas of the series to date. Previous episodes present decisions such as who to feed and who to leave hungry for the day or whether or not to lie to protect Lee's standing in the group. This episode instead forces the player with the option to condemn a traitorous ally to certain death, or later, to commit a mercy killing to spare another character psychological damage. Will Lee side with new allies or remain loyal to the fractured group that has nevertheless helped him survive over the last several months? Despite the increasingly bleak story, this episode is arguably the funniest—if such a description is justified in such a maudlin scenario—installment so far. Both Clementine and Duck have somehow still managed to maintain at least some of their childhood innocence, taunting each other as children frequently do. Even in midst of a dire situation of trying to weed out a traitor in the group, Duck's insistence on playing Robin to Lee's Batman truly stirs up a few laughs. For a few moments, these lighthearted moments give the characters (and the player) a glimpse of hope that perhaps surviving the apocalypse of the walking dead is not an insurmountable challenge.
The game is not without a few problems. Aside from minor technical (graphic and audio) glitches—once again little more than an annoyance—this episode has seen fit to introduce a new shooting mechanic that is poorly implemented in practice. Rather than the normal hotspot clicking that allows the player to kill the walkers, there are now a few manual shooting scenes that consist of staring down a scope, aiming the reticule, and pulling the trigger. The hit detection is iffy at best, and the detour adds little to the tension provided by the Quick Time Event mechanic that is already used in the game. While I applaud the developer for attempting to keep the gameplay fresh, this added mechanic is jarring and simply not needed. Instead, the tension needs to come from the situation at hand, rather than a frantic race against the clock, wondering if the game has decided that my shot has connected with the target.
In all, The Walking Dead Episode 3: Long Road Ahead continues with the solid storytelling that has made the previous episodes so enjoyable to play. As ever with this series, the faults in the game are minor and do not detract from the gaming experience. Overall, this is a solid installment in what is increasingly becoming Telltale Games' best episodic series to date.