Hot! The Walking Dead: Episode 3 – Long Road Ahead Review

With the release of the fourth episode of Telltale Games, The Walking Dead: The Game series last week, and on the heels of the excitement surrounding the Walking Dead season premiere,  I figured it was time to finally complete the third episode and tell you all about it.  At this point, I don’t need to go over the controls as gameplay remains the same.  Also, spoilers of the previous episodes are inevitable, so if you have yet to play those two, there’s absolutely no point in you reading further, so please go away.  That being said, the third episode is quite an emotional one, more so than previous episodes, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself lying about pulling out an errant nose hair when your girlfriend walks in on you concerned about your watery eyes.

Episode three begins sometime after the horrendous events at St. John’s Dairy.  No matter how you decided to play through those events, it remains a permanent shit stain not only in your mind, but in the minds of the characters in the game.  The group has returned to the relative safety of the Motor Inn, with the occasional trips back into town for supplies and rations.  Lily is a mess, holding a tenuous grip on her sanity, doubting both herself and others in the group.  Kenny seems to have taken a more objective view of their situation, willing to sacrifice a bit of his humanity in service to his family and the group’s survival.  Relations between Lily and Kenny have reached a near breaking point, and the group is on the precipice of schism that threatens the survival of the entire group.

While the group’s internal struggles eat away at their foundation, the existence of bandits and their wanton brutality remains an ever-present threat.  When evidence of betrayal by someone in the group precludes an attack by bandits on the Motor Inn, the group is forced into a hasty retreat, exacerbating the gravity of their situation and leading to events that will change the group forever.  Basically, what I’m saying is people will die, and if that comes as a surprise to you then expect your overly optimistic attitude about zombie apocalypses to die as well.  Eventually, the group stumbles across a seemingly abandoned train, and with it new faces and new challenges that will once again test their humanity.

Like in previous episodes, the decisions you’ve made in the past will carry over into the game.  How you dealt with Lily’s father, how you dealt with the St’ John’s brothers, etc. in episode two will affect how some of the characters interact with you in this episode.  However, the decision on whether you chose Carly or Doug in the first episode will have what I believe to be a significant impact on some of the available dialogue options in this particular episode, and ultimately the game’s characterization of Lee and his relationship with others in the group.  Simply put, Carly’s knowledge of Lee’s past becomes a factor, and being the only person left in the group fully aware of this, her presence or absence in this episode will dictate whether it’s brought up, making this episode more or less compelling as a result.

Having spent already two episodes with these characters, one can’t help but become attached despite personal opinions about each.  Sure, maybe you feel that Lily is an ungrateful, self-righteous bitch, that Kenny is a hypocrite, or that Duck is downright annoying, but you’re probably just projecting.  It is, however, these characterizations that help us identify with them and allow a semblance of empathy to manifest.  So, if we don’t care about any one particular person getting killed, we can at least understand and empathize with how that would affect the people in the story who do give a shit.  Even if our attachments to these characters lie on a subconscious level, there is one thing that can bring about that realization: loss.  Loss that is both physical and mental.  Loss not only of people but loss of those once clearly defined boundaries of right and wrong, good and bad.  It’s these moments that really make the game shine and remind you how fucked up their reality has become.

Decisions don’t come easy and you are once again given free rein to choose the type of Lee you’d like to portray.  I’ve grown fond of the Lee “I’ve” become, making it much harder when certain events negatively affect him and the characters he cares about.  His relationship with Clementine remains the most endearing, their bond strengthening with each successive encounter.  Kenny’s familial devotion and a certain, stark reality reach an impasse that will tear at your heartstrings.  I won’t lie, the moisture in my eyes reached a level typically reserved for movies like “Rudy” but that’s testament to the excellent writing and voice-acting that has come to define the series.

Once again, the ending does provide a new revelation, one that will have future implications for the group.  But the episode, like its predecessors, has a clear beginning, climax, and resolution, just like any good story, and doesn’t leave you with more questions than answers.  Keep in mind that some events are unavoidable as multiple playthroughs were fruitless in my attempt to change things, which serves as more evidence to my attachment to the characters and Telltale Games’ superb characterizations.  So far, with the exception of some slight glitches, this is best of the series, with a good mixture of action, tension and character development, and just enough draw to keep you pining for the next one.