Spoilers for Episodes 1-3 ahead!
Going into Episode 4 of the Walking Dead, I had one thing dominating my mindset, and that is when will this series take any kind of step back? Up to this point, The Walking Dead has yet to let up one inch in its quest to deliver hard hitting emotional sequences and an innovative point and click adventure system. And with the next episode being the fifth and final episode, I expected more of a ramp up into an exciting final chapter than a decent whole heart breaking story, and I was correct. But in The Walking Dead, even a “slow ramp up” manages to be one of the most interesting and methodical experiences you can have on a console.
Episode 4, entitled Around Every Corner, picks up right where the third episode left off with your crew entering Savannah with the hopes of finding a boat. As you could guess, things don’t go perfectly in this quest and the crew is eventually detoured for a bit into an abandoned home. Once settled in, you and Kenny head out to find said boat and along the way the story begins to heat up as you find out about the existence of a nearby “town” that disallowed sick people, the elderly, and children.
The past episodes have all had some kind of emotional breakdown and eventual large scale decision, this episode seems to tone down on that a bit for a more gameplay focused episode that relies a bit too much on puzzle solving (figure out how to get around these zombies without killing them, etc.). It far from ruins the episode, mainly due to the existence of at least a few strong decisions but also because the point and click mechanics remain as tight as ever. Sliding the cursor around the screen to locate new objects to investigate never gets old and only encourages you to scan every inch of your environment.
One of the best things about this episode is the way they develop characters psyche’s even further, making it feel like every character is just a split second away from actually losing it. I think it’s due in part to the lack of people left in your journey but this time around Tell Tale had the chance to focus solely on individuals such as Kenny and give hints to how they’re dealing with all these issues that are starting to feel never ending. Digging into the mindsets behind these characters that you’ve been following throughout this journey really help you realize just how stressful and awful every minute of this has been for them. My question is, how the hell do these people expect to get along on a boat?
It’s truly fascinating how well Tell Tale can herald in a new character, and then have you caring about their actions only ten seconds after they’ve introduced themselves. They’ve truly perfected the art of establishing complex character arch’s and one of the main ways they have achieved that is always finding the perfect voice actors. The magnificent actors from previous episodes return with even better performances this time around but they’re challenged by some newcomers who manage to exude a bit of personality in every word they speak. I don’t know how they do it, but damn do they do it.
In the last episode, Tell Tale had the brilliant (?) idea to turn one tiny section of the game into a shooter, forcing you to aim at zombie’s heads through a scope and fire at them. It was poorly executed and just felt off, so you expect that would have disappeared from the newest episode. But due to a strict turnaround time, Tell Tale had to go with what they had, which was even more shooting. It doesn’t feel as terrible this time around, it’s at least competent, but it still comes off as out of place and awkward in this kind of experience.
Even with this being the least exciting episode thus far, I still couldn’t put the controller down throughout the two hour experience mainly due to the already rich connection I had with the characters, and taking part in developing them further this go around only helped things. Tell Tale continues to do what we expect of them; churn out quality content that no other adventure game developer can rival. You won’t find any Earth shattering story elements (at least not until the end) in Around Every Corner, but what you will find is another installment in the best adventure game series to date.
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