Game Reviews

Walking Dead: Season 2 - A House Divided

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Walking Dead: Season 2 - A House Divided

The soul of the first season of The Walking Dead was the relationship between Lee and Clem. For obvious reasons, Lee wasn't eligible to appear in the second season, which presented Telltale with a problem.

After all, it's hard to worry about Clem's safety when you know that she can't really die, except in that transitory way that almost all video game characters can die. And without worrying about Clem, what's left to do?

As a response to that question, the first chapter of season 2 (All That Remains) was little more than a throat-clearing and a couple of vaguely illuminating hand gestures indicating roughly the direction the story was going to take.

Thankfully, chapter 2 (A House Divided) is a more full-blooded answer. The second season has arrived.

Getting told off by two towering grown-ups.

Clem - a world-weary 11-year-old - is still involved with the group she met in the previous chapter, and A House Divided sees her getting to know these characters, meeting a few more, getting drawn into a desperate long-running conflict, and even killing the odd zombie.

As ever in The Walking Dead, the bleak social environment comprises a complex network of interests, priorities, misgivings, secrets, and suspicions. Characters take you into their confidence, inviting you to sympathise with this faction or that, taking note of your responses - though this is all largely beneath the surface, manifested through whispered conferences and surreptitiously narrowed eyes.

Clem's role in this post-apocalyptic drama isn't certain, and her uncertainty is shaping up to be the thematic backbone of season 2. She's seen a lot, yes, but she's still young, and her new situation presents her with the opportunity to grow up or to cling onto childhood for a little while longer.

Many of the choices rest on this dilemma. Do you you say something assertive and try to steer events, or do you excuse yourself by choosing from the frequently offered passive responses that collectively amount to, "I don't know. I'm too little"?

Clem is occasionally excluded by the adults (at least one of whom is manifestly overprotective) from serious conversations. At one point in A House Divided you have to climb down a ladder while the rest of the characters argue in the hazy distance, and this cleverly directed moment encapsulates a certain aspect of the experience - you sometimes feel that the most important conversations are taking place elsewhere.

Throughout the chapter there's a recurring, Coen brothers-like motif whereby characters compare Clem to a picture of a little girl on the side of a tin of peaches, and this comparison seems to annoy her - though it may be that she simply doesn't understand how anybody could perceive her that way. Her subtly furrowed eyebrows leave the matter open to interpretation.

I refused the booze, because I am not ready for Clem to grow up.

Surviving early adolescence may not be as immediately compelling as the events of season one (surviving a car crash, escaping jail, and helping a little girl stay alive during a zombie apocalypse), but Telltale deserves credit for building a powerful interactive narrative around such a universal developmental experience.

A House Divided is a real improvement on All That Remains, with more meaningful interactions, richer characterisation, and a far stronger sense of theme. Season 2 now feels like a true sequel, depicting a new and distinct phase in Clem's life.

There are a missteps here and there. The interpersonal fallout of one choice in particular, over which table to sit at to eat a meal, rings false, and the plot - with its coincidences, pat resolutions, and shocking revelations - threatens to veer into soap opera territory at times, though it never quite crosses the line, and none of the missteps seriously detracts from the experience. This is still The Walking Dead, in all its horrible glory.

A House Divided is a meaty chapter. It establishes the identity of the series, sets some intriguing narrative cogs in motion, and contains just enough random shocking violence to leave you anxious, depressed, and eager to play the next one.

Walking Dead: Season 2 - A House Divided

A House Divided picks up the threads of the previous Walking Dead chapter and weaves them into a rich, satisfying, and suspenseful follow-up
Rob Hearn
Rob Hearn
Having obtained a distinguished education, Rob became Steel Media's managing editor, now he's no longer here though, following a departure in late December 2015.