A New Day, the first episode of Telltale Games‘ episodic series based on the popular graphic novel series, The Walking Dead, was a delightful surprise. Offering a great revamp of traditional adventure game mechanics and delivering an involved and intense story, the game showed a lot of promise for the rest of the series. Now, the second episode, Starved For Help, is out, and the finished product is nothing short of great. Continuing to offer an engaging plot and cast of characters, along with a dynamic choice-based dialogue system, it may have trumped the already-excellent first episode.
Three months have passed since the end of the first episode. As the zombie outbreak continues, main character Lee Everett is holding up the fort with his companions at a barricaded motel. Tensions are rising, as some survivors want to venture outside of the barricade, and food rations are running low. By a stroke of luck, two brothers show up asking for gas. They live at a nearby dairy farm that they’ve fortified with a generator-powered electric fence to prevent a zombie attack, and offer shelter to Lee’s group. While many are eager to jump at the opportunity for a safer shelter and more food, Lee and some others are more cautious, and are determined to find out if the family has anything to hide.
I dare not go into any of the plot twists that appear after this point, because finding them out on my own was one of the highlights of this episodic experience. There are numerous tense bits and action scenes before the last act, but things build to a horrifying and gripping climax. While the episode’s big twist becomes easy to guess at a certain point, the reveal still carries a major impact, and there are more surprises and tough decisions to come afterwards.
Starved For Help is surprisingly light on zombie confrontations compared to the previous episode. Instead, the focus is heavily on conversation and interaction between Lee, the survivors, and the farmers, helping to develop the cast further and show the rising tensions among those who disagree about survival methods. While horror fanatics might not be enthralled by the thought of a zombie game without many zombies, they will still likely be sucked in by how interesting things continue to get as the episode progresses.
The gameplay mechanic of giving Lee heavy choices to make with consequences for every side returns, with even more opportunities to shape the level of trust and compassion between characters, along with some major and very tough moral quandries that I dare not spoil. The writing here is top-notch, the voice acing is delivered well, and you will end up feeling more involved in the story than almost any other game out there. Add in some ramifications that carry over from your decisions in the first episode, which you must play before starting this one, and you have a very smart mechanic that should continue to enhance the overall experience as the series continues.
As great as this game is, the technical issues from the first episode have not been addressed at all. Dialogue sometimes stutters, character models sometimes twitch oddly or walk through each other, and most cuts to different shots during cutscenes momentarily pause in-between. For a series where a smooth experience of the story is so crucial, this is a bad thing to drop the ball on. Additionally, it would have been nice if Telltale had included a button to make Lee run, especially considering how much larger some of the environments are in this episode compared to the first one.
Despite these issues, The Walking Dead: Episode 2 – Starved For Help still gets a very high recommendation. Telltale may be on a roll with this series, and hopefully things will only get better as the next three episodes are rolled out. The Walking Dead has been a fantastic thing to experience so far, and if things can stay this good for the remainder of the series, we may be dealing with a modern day point and click classic.