When The Walking Dead: Season Two kicked off back in December with All That Remains, returning players received the treat of controlling the further adventures of former side character Clementine in a zombie-infested America. Now, her story continues in the follow-up episode, A House Divided, and the result is one of the best instalments in an already-great series.
Picking up immediately after the difficult choice that Clem had to make at the end of the first episode, A House Divided starts off with her dealing with the ramifications and spends just the right amount of time focusing on that before switching over to the main conflict. It’s not long though until trouble rears its head when a suspicious stranger named Carver temporarily forces his way into the house while Clem and fellow child survivor Sarah are alone. When the other survivors find out, not only do we get the hint that they know a lot more about this stranger than we and Clementine do, but that it’s also time to relocate.
After some time walking a local trail, along with an unfortunate incident that I’ll leave players to discover for themselves, Clem and this season’s new group of survivors find a temporary hangout that seems ideal. This being The Walking Dead, though, obviously things can’t stay this way for very long before trouble occurs, be it in the form of the undead walkers or something even worse.
There’s so much I would love to discuss about this episode, particularly something midway through that should please fans of the first season, but I must insist to anyone interested that you go in knowing as little about it as possible. If you do, you’ll experience relief, terror, joy, shock, and no matter what decisions you make with dialog and story beats, plenty of tension. The last act in particular, which kicks off with a discovery that I can only describe as something I would never, ever want to find out myself, rockets up the suspense to levels that I didn’t think were possible, and the effective music, character animation and voice acting only enhances the impact.
Doing a little poking around after my initial play-through revealed that A House Divided offers a wide range of possibilities in both where certain story points can go, as well as who will walk away from the numerous conflicts this time around. I got pretty lucky in terms of who I was able to save, but be warned that you will suffer some tragedies no matter what you do.
Music and voice acting continue to be excellent, with special mention going to everyone involved in the creation of Carver, be it the writers, animators, or the vocal performance by veteran actor Michael Madsen. Even though he doesn’t get enough screen time to be fully fleshed out here, his actions still leave an undeniable impact and act as definitive proof that he has no intentions of going easy on anyone. It’s great to finally have a constant on-screen villain in The Walking Dead after the first season was a bit hesitant to take that approach, and I look forward to seeing where future episodes take the character.
The length of the game is relatively comparable to the slightly underwhelming two-to-three hour first episode, but it feels so jam-packed with compelling content that I can be a little more forgiving. Again, it’s worth noting that the episode draws to a close right when things reach their peak, but unlike last time, where I felt a bit gypped by the sudden cutoff, the only thought running through my head was how much I wanted Episode 3 in my possession.
Controls and gameplay remain unchanged for the most part, with a heavier reliance on reaction-based action sequences against walkers this time around. A conflict on a precariously decaying bridge is probably the highlight in that regard, though the last portion is obviously no slouch either. Some players may be disappointed that direct control of Clementine is a rare occurrence compared to last time, but with the plot and decision-making being as engaging as they are, I found it easy to forgive.
As far as the series’ trademark technical issues go, this time around I unfortunately found things a little sloppier than All That Remains. Character motions often seemed more twitchy and jittery, especially during walks, and there was a weird occurrence where Clem seemed to instantly teleport several feet during one of the few parts where I had complete control over her movement. As with previous episodes of The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, it’s far from a deal-breaker, but considering how great everything else is, it’s a shame that these issues must persist.
If I haven’t made it clear yet, much like how the second episode of the first season kicked off the series’ elevation from very good to something truly special, A House Divided makes the same accomplishment for The Walking Dead: Season Two. My fear of Telltale delivering a disappointing follow-up has now almost completely dissipated, and if the preview of Episode 3 at the end is any indication, we’re going to be treated to a very interesting setup that is sure to contain some fascinating character interactions. I, for one, cannot wait.
This review is based on the PlayStation 3 version of the game, which we were provided with.
With constant rising tension culminating in a spectacular last act, A House Divided finds itself a place among The Walking Dead's high points.