Review

The Walking Dead: Season Two Episode 2 - A House Divided Review

  • Game release: December 17, 2013
  • Reviewed:
  • PS3
  • PC
  • X360

Moppet ninjas and existential crises.

Clementine kicks ass. Episode two of the second season of Telltale Games' The Walking Dead adventure series may be about more than just this pint-size survivor of the zombie apocalypse impaling undead skulls and blasting away with a handgun. But the lasting image that I'm taking away from A House Divided is of the lovable moppet whirling around like a ballcap-wearing ninja who can clearly take care of herself better than any of the adults she encounters.

This isn't a problem for me. As much as Clem's action-hero moments strain believability a bit, her zombie-slaying skills are offset by how much this lonely little girl depends on the kindness of strangers, and by a reminder at the conclusion of just how vulnerable she still is. The result is a superb episode that balances action with a story that picks up the pace from the snoozy episode one and serves as both an intriguing foundation for the season to build upon and a satisfying one-off story in its own right.

From good pals to masticated corpses in less than a minute. Such is life for Clementine now that she's on her own.

Nevertheless, storytelling is still settling in for the long haul. Just like Clementine, we are still getting to know this new group of survivors that she hooked up with in episode one. There isn't any easy empathy for the plight of this group. Still, personalities are developed much more thoroughly here. Pregnant Rebecca is no longer a one-note misanthrope. Nick isn't just a teen rebelling against whatever you've got. Luke seems like he could become a reliable friend, or even something of a younger Lee substitute. Alvin and Carlos are no longer wallflowers. Only Sarah remains the same, and even her childlike attitude is expanded upon in a couple of scenes that make it clear she had problems long before the "hell is full, dead will walk the earth" stuff went down.

Even better, the situation is taking on a personality of its own, and a cloud of mystery and dread hovers in the background of everything. Fear of other people and always taking account of where you are and how much you can safely let your guard down with strangers have been major themes in the Walking Dead game series, but here, everything goes into overdrive. Clem is completely on her own, cut off from all of the support she had during the first season and even during the start of the last episode when she was still traveling with Christa. Her isolation is underlined even further when she meets what should be an old friend, only to find out that this former pal is no longer the same person that she knew. (Also, keep an eye out for the appearance of some other old acquaintances from the 400 Days episode released as a stand-alone installment last summer.)

With A House Divided, season two of The Walking Dead is up and shambling.

Clem is forced to constantly ask herself whom she can trust, if she can actually ever trust anyone in a world where a can of peaches is the difference between life and death. Fighting zombies is easy, even in the white-knuckle brawls highlighted here, such as the railroad bridge showdown and the climactic shootout at the ski lodge where Clem whips under a picnic table and spears a zombie like a fish. What's tough is dealing with other human beings. Dialogue choices get tougher and more pragmatic as the episode goes along. Most of the time it seems like the only sensible option involves telling someone an unflinching truth or taking a hard line that everyone is better off thinking of themselves first. Clem seems to be applying the harsh lesson that she learned from Sam in the first episode to everyone she encounters now, which turns the entire game into one long, absorbing existential crisis. I was almost expecting True Detective nihilist Rust Cohle to be waiting for Clem in the ski lodge, sitting at a picnic table with the world's last six-pack of Lone Star, ready to deliver a lecture about the pointlessness of it all.

You can't say that Clem's pessimistic approach is wrong, either. Something is wrong with this entire group. Bad things happen to everyone they encounter. And they are hiding something, especially when it comes to the mysterious Carver, who makes his first appearance here after being the subject of ominous discussions in the last episode. Thankfully, Carver debuts as a multifaceted villain. He seems motivated by a desire to bring the group to a safe settlement, yet bodies still mount by the end of the episode. Carver has no problem threatening to kill Clem to get what he wants. So he's still a bad guy, albeit a potentially sympathetic bad guy with tinges of a messiah complex reminiscent of a cross between Rev. Jim Jones and Negan, the megalomaniacal monster in the current Walking Dead comics.

Clementine is smart and tough...but she's also four feet tall and 11 years old, making her a perfect portable hostage for gun-toting madmen.

The bleakness is so overbearing, in fact, that A House Divided steps perilously close to monotony. Every kindness is rewarded with brutality. You just know that any act of generosity will soon be followed up with either a bullet to the head or a bite to the neck. The guy at the ski lodge is willing to give a box full of food to a stranger he just met? OK, just throw yourself off the mountain already, pal. This sort of thing has gotten so predictable that it wouldn't be a bad idea for the developers to pull back from the brink in future episodes before the series ventures into self-parody. Grim is one thing; slaughtering every guy who offers you a friendly smile along with some peaches and beans is something else entirely.

With A House Divided, season two of The Walking Dead is up and shambling. While the first episode was too perfunctory in how it set the stage and got everything into motion, you can now see both the story and the characters taking shape and evolving. This slow-burn approach should continue to pay dividends as the saga matures in future episodes.

The Good
More of a self-contained, satisfying story than the first episode of season two
Introduces a promising new villain that could rank with the Governor and Negan in the Walking Dead franchise's rogues' gallery
Absorbing plot that turns into one long existential crisis
The Bad
Unrelenting brutality swerves too close to self-parody
8
Great
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About the Author

Brett Todd bashed zombie skulls and felt really, really sorry for Clementine while taking the two hours needed to play through this episode of The Walking Dead.

Discussion

64 comments
RobGrizz
RobGrizz

This review makes a great point about the kindness/brutality thing. They're really pushing it.

DiverseGamer
DiverseGamer

What a cheap reason to knock off two points. I mean, really?

SnakeWesker
SnakeWesker

Really looking forward to playing this series as one big game once they are all out. I'm sure decisions I made last summer in 400 Days mattered in this episode..I just don't remember them.

dnpmonk25
dnpmonk25

This was such a treat to the player who played ALL the episodes. Old friends make an appearance. 400 days decisions now affect this season. This is beyond better then I ever thought! If you didn't play everything in the series (season 1 - 400 days ) DO IT!! I want to play the whole thing over again and see the results. Replay value is off the charts!

Thesuperstar2k
Thesuperstar2k

Completed the second episode  and this episode was great. Was feeling a little rusty at the beginning with the choices I will make because I don't remember a tiny bit the choices I made from the first episode. I also don't remember some interactions I chose to other people, but now I get what to do a little bit. Nice stuff including the comeback that now it made me pay attention to the story. 


8/10

Stu-pendous
Stu-pendous

There is a hell of a lot to enjoy about the second episode, but for me the most distinctive feature is Clementine herself. She loans a provocative and potentially rewarding character examination to the player's experience.

ringringabel
ringringabel

just finished this episode, and I've gotta say it's the best one I've played out of both seasons. The story just had me on the edge of my seat the whole time, gonna have to check out 400 days while I wait for the next episode, it's good that at least some developers out there care about a decent narrative.

001011000101101
001011000101101

I still think it's silly to talk about individual episodes working or not working as a standalone stories. 

feared4power
feared4power

Unrelenting brutality swerves too close to self-parody

what

GOGOHeadray
GOGOHeadray

I'm hoping that the holidays was the primary reason that we had to wait so long between TWD episodes. I would like for these games to go back to the bi-monthly release dates.

hadlee73
hadlee73

I guess these types of adventure games are selling so well that Telltale are moving away from the traditional point and click puzzle-based formula and just concentrating on cinematic quick-timers. At least that's the way it seems to me anyway.

godfather830
godfather830

I'll buy it after all the episodes are released. And it goes on sale. Every time you buy these episodic games early on, you're getting screwed. Never again.

guardianofhonor
guardianofhonor

At this point zombie games are just cliche, "yawn" moving on now

samus_my_life
samus_my_life

i'm really glad for having the season pass for second season lolz :) 

cgobeil
cgobeil

I was hoping for something "nice" for this series but I'm sad that it's going the way of the bad guys... the inhumanity!

Ultra_Taco
Ultra_Taco

"Unrelenting brutality swerves too close to self-parody"


What?

mruizinho
mruizinho

I cant imagine adding a score of the original Walking Dead, if i didnt play the whole game.

If i played the original episode by episode i probably add given an 8 while for me its an obvious 10, about this game i will wait until we have all episodes and hope someone review it as a whole.

rickphoenixxx
rickphoenixxx

Clementine is garbage as a main protagonist, hell she was useless as a supporting character even. The decision to kill off Lee was horrible, as he was the only likeable character in the whole last game!  The game boasts that it lets you make "choices" that affect the story going forward, but that's bullshit since all the predetermined things happen anyway. Why was I even given a choice to cut off Lee's arm if he was just going to die anyway at the end? That would be like Rick cutting off Herschells' leg at the prison on the tv show, and then him dying a few hours later it makes no sense! How these "games" get such good scores I have no idea, just read the comics or watch the show it's just as interactive an experience.

Pierce_Sparrow
Pierce_Sparrow

Just finished it and, man, Telltale really knows how to toy with you. What a great episode. A little too short in my opinion, but what little there is sure packs a punch. And the new antagonist is a great character. I love the developments with Clem and how she can become the character you turn her into. She's becoming pretty badass. Overall, the new season is shaping up to be fantastic. Not sure it will surpass the first yet, but I sure hope so. I want this series to get better and better.


gajbutler
gajbutler

So this "game" with no actual gameplay gets an 8, but South Park gets called out for being Shallow and that has far more depth to it than this. I mean what that shit developer Telltale have made is an adventure game without any puzzles or freedom of exploration, you might as well be watching the TV show.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@feared4power  

Well, this particular episode seems a hell lot gorier, but then, has there been intestines in earlier episodes, including Season 1's?

pip3dream
pip3dream

@hadlee73  Coming from a veteran of point and click adventure games:  I think this is an appropriate move.  Point and Click games are a product of their time and were a response to how to handle scenarios on the given technology back in the day.  You couldn't really do much with really detailed graphical games besides having a static scene that had maybe 1 or 2 moving parts.  With the current technology it makes sense that these games have evolved more from a static comic (which is what you could think of the old adventure games) to an animated that has a mixture of all these things.  i think its a really great evolution too, i found myself thoroughly engaged.  did you?

pip3dream
pip3dream

@godfather830  im getting screwed?  I paid 19 bucks for the game.  5 episodes at like 2+ hours each?? This seems like a fantastic deal in gaming.

t1striker
t1striker

@guardianofhonor  

Good thing this isn't like most zombie games, and shows that people are much more dangerous than Zombies. The walking dead is about the characters, and not the zombies.

ziproy
ziproy

@guardianofhonor  So in your mind, you are not going to play a good game because there are already so many bad games released?? Doesn't sound like a very healthy way to think to me

t1striker
t1striker

@samus_my_life  

I didn't think it was possible, but from the first 2 episodes I'm starting to think it's going to top the 1st season, and possibly the comics.

SoNin360
SoNin360

@Ultra_Taco  I think that's concerning his complaint that there are almost always ridiculous consequences for anyone who does something nice in the game, though that's a weird way to word it I guess.

SoNin360
SoNin360

@mruizinho  I agree, it's hard to rate individual episodes because you're only getting a chunk of the game. That's like playing the first portion of a game for a few hours and rating/reviewing it.

pip3dream
pip3dream

@rickphoenixxx Dude, just no.  Clementine is fantastic as a protagonist.  I wasn't as sold on her in episode 1, but in this episode it did the trick.  I really lost myself in her character and found myself imagining the choices I would make as an 11 year old girl yet with the knowledge i have now and i found it incredibly rewarding.

jadaski1
jadaski1

@rickphoenixxx  Clementines awesomeness is universally recognized amongst anyone with a pulse!  You lost all credibility with that first sentence.

pip3dream
pip3dream

@gajbutler  Are we still doing the "game" in quotes thing?  Didn't we already beat this thing into the ground.  It's a game.  You play it on the computer.  You use a controller, and hit a button, a thing happens, watch a thing, hit a button.  move a chatracter, and you keep doing it. because its fun. its a game. games are fun.

yearssomuch
yearssomuch

@gajbutler Well, comparing an RPG to a point-and-click adventure was your first mistake. They're not even remotely the same type of game. Not to mention Telltale Games are far more highly regarded than a mediocre developer like Obsidian. 

MooncalfReviews
MooncalfReviews

@gajbutler  Some games don't aspire to be mere "games". Interactive fiction is greater than simply attempting to overcome a gaming challenge via a series of action sequences.

bluefox755
bluefox755

@gajbutler  The difference is, people know what they're getting with TWD, it's not claiming to be a game with deep gameplay mechanics. South Park has fantastic writing, but the gameplay mechanics, while fun, aren't exactly deep, which might be a problem for some people expecting a RPG.

hadlee73
hadlee73

@pip3dream @hadlee73  Don't get me wrong I like them a lot, but I do miss some of the puzzle-based gameplay we used to get in games like Sam & Max and Back to the Future. Thankfully there are still some indie studios and Jane Jensen trying to keep those alive.

godfather830
godfather830

@pip3dream @godfather830 The episodes take forever to come out. It's far smarter to wait till they're all available and buy them at a discount.


Telltale takes forever to make them. Often, by the time a new one comes out, I will have forgotten some of the details from the previous ones.


In the case of A Wolf Among Us, the game went on sale even before the second episode was released. Early buyers always pay more, but they especially get screwed by Telltale.

rickphoenixxx
rickphoenixxx

@yearssomuch @gajbutlerTelltale "Interactive Media" you mean to say. And highly regarded? Not without having a hot license like The Walking Dead they wouldn't have been even on the map. Obsidian is not bad, Kotor 2 was good. The difference between The Walking Dead games and Kotor 2 is that I may actually want to replay the latter.

rickphoenixxx
rickphoenixxx

@Zombies101 @gajbutlerSouth Park is one of the longest running social commentary shows there ever was, and boasts some of the funniest writing ever. 17 years on tv for SouthPark versus a relatively new franchise in the Walking Dead it's not even a contest for depth. G.B. is right, this is a game with no actual gameplay and doesn't deserve a higher score than an actual GAME like SP Stick of Truth.

Gelugon_baat
Gelugon_baat

@hadlee73  

You could have provided a simpler answer by saying that you are of the old-school sort. :P

pip3dream
pip3dream

@godfather830 @pip3dream  Oh you have no argument from me about the episodic release - i dont like it at all.  i dont have your great patience to wait for them to all be released before i play them though.  I didn't find out about TWD season 1 until all of the episodes had been released, and i much enjoyed that play through since i could consume it exactly at my own pace.

The Walking Dead: Season Two - A Telltale Games Series More Info

  • First Released
    • iPhone/iPod
    • Macintosh
    • + 6 more
    • PC
    • PlayStation 3
    • PlayStation 4
    • PlayStation Vita
    • Xbox 360
    • Xbox One
    The Walking Dead: Season Two - A Telltale Games Series consists of five episodes and will continue the story of Clementine, a young girl orphaned at the outset of the undead apocalypse, now left to her own devices to seek safety and survive in a world gone mad.
    8.4
    Average User RatingOut of 327 User Ratings
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    Developed by:
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    Telltale Games, Avanquest Software
    Genres:
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    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
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