Telltale’s second episode of ‘The Walking Dead’ begins by immediately reminding you that the world you’re reentering is one of dread and difficult choices. Beginning three months after the conclusion of A New Day, the established camp has fallen on hard times. Tension has arisen between the survivors, safety is still a concern, and more importantly the group is running dangerously low on food. Lives hang in the balance, and the choices are yours to deal with (for better or worse).
A small thing sometime goes a long way. In Episode Two: Starved for Help the characters all are clothed differently than they were in the previous entry. Not many games pay attention to that kind of thing, and while I suppose it helps to reinforce the passage of time, it really helped the characters feel more alive. This trend is continues throughout the episode with little details, which helps build you up before the floor drops out beneath you, and boy does it drop.
The first episode showcased some disturbing situations, and choices, but episode two approaches it all in completely different ways. This time around the focus is much more on how humanity can be tested during the zombie apocalypse, which is very true to the Walking Dead name. At it’s core it’s not a story about zombies, but instead how people deal with each other in order to survive. It can bring out the worst in some people, as seen multiple times throughout this episode.
Starved for Help has a fairly different tone than the A New Day, in that the pressure has shifted from finding shelter, to finding food. Along with this, the tension shifts much more to the survivors, which proved to be fascinating. Zombies are ancillary characters really. Dealing with disputes in a short amount of allotted time is still incredibly stressful, especially with more riding on each choice the further into the series you get. You quickly find that you really can’t please everyone. I can feel large conflicts growing that I know I’ll have to resolve in future episodes, which I find myself thinking about even when I’m not playing.
It’s a welcome form of dread, that is definitely a slow burn this time around when compared to the explosive start of the series. Though by doing it this way, the payoff is even greater. The pacing is masterful, saving the true horror for the third act, while providing enough threads to pull on until then. It also shows that survivors can somehow often be more frightening than the undead.
I spoke with a few other people who have been playing as well (making different choices than I did), and it’s interesting to see how things change. I’m sure it will continue to segment in subsequent episodes. It will be interesting to see how the remaining three episodes will divide up the focus between the horrors of humanity versus the walkers. Knowing that virtually no character is safe, and that I’ll have to make split-section decisions that could dramatically change the landscape of my story makes me tired just thinking about it. I can’t wait.