I’ve come to the realization that I’m not sure which I find myself more anxious to see, the release of the latest comic issue of The Walking Dead or the latest episode from the game put out by TellTale Games. The Walking Dead Episode 3: Long Road Ahead comes to gamers everywhere at the perfect time, when the summer game doldrums were just about too much to bear. Thankfully, the wait for this one was a lot more manageable and it yet again delivered a stellar performance.
In Long Road Ahead, we rejoin the protagonist Lee and his wayward motley crew of survivors in their dire need to stay alive during the zombie apocalypse. The same model as seen in the previous two episodes makes a comeback with cel-shaded graphics, point and click adventure scheme and a compelling story. This time, however, the shift in story seemed to go from shocking and disturbing, as it was in the previous episode, to outline just how desparate people can get when faced with no way out. The real punch for the story is the amount of human emotion TellTale is able to weave into the characters no matter which decisions you make.
While Episode 2 proved to be a bit predictable, the latest installment had a couple of major story developments that honestly startled me and had me audibly yelling expletives at the screen. One scene in particular hit me so hard that I chose a harsh plot decision that I believe I wouldn’t have, had the event not happened the way it did. Without giving anything away, let’s just say that one character’s actions made my “goodie-two-shoes” Lee character decide to leave the offending character to die… with no remorse. The crew pulls no punches this time around as characters you’re used to seeing develop take a drastic turn and make the idea of survival a lot less likely. Personally, I felt the story told this time around was by far the most well thought out and masterly delivered of the bunch. It’s a shame that telling our readers any of it will spoil major surprises that come from playing it. I will say this; the ending of this episode launched a story nugget that adds a new sense of mystery and dread to the group. I honestly cant wait to see how it plays out in the upcoming Episode 4.
As I mentioned earlier, graphically the game is unchanged. It still flows smoothly and looks fantastic with the cel-shaded environments and characters. I did notice a couple of oddly placed environmental objects such as flowers that appeared in areas where they shouldn’t have been growing, but overall the look and feel of the game was unaffected. I did feel this time, however, that a few of the scenes weren’t framed as well as they could have been as some of the interactions with the game world were a bit difficult to discern. One scene in particular I was supposed to interact with a circuit board and a couple of times walked out the door to its left instead. They were all very minor, but its worth noting that this is the first episode where I’ve had issues like that.
At the onset of this game during Epsiode 1, I’d wondered how the point and click style of gameplay would hold up after so much time and it does hold up well. TellTale does a good job of allowing discovery without adding too much frustration in just randomly clicking things to figure out what to do. There aren’t many areas where you wont have some idea of what you need to do, whereas other point and click adventures often leave the gamer wildly clicking around to find anything that might advance the story. This game, yet again, guides you along well enough to figure it out without the need to include large arrows to allow you to follow. There is still some trial and error, but its not nearly as frustrating as some other games in this genre can be.
I have said it before and I will say it again. If you haven’t picked up The Walking Dead yet, you’re doing yourself a massive injustice. Each episode is short, albeit Episode 3 took me 3 hours for my first playthrough as opposed to the previous episodes only taking 2, but the amount of fun that can be had and the enjoyment gleaned from following the characters around make this a must have game. With most retailers offering this game at under $25, I feel this game is priced appropriately, if not a bit too low given the quality, so there really is no excuse not to own it.