Long Road Ahead is the third installment in what is probably Telltale’s best game yet. I didn’t believe I’d be saying this, after the so-so Back to the Future and poor Jurassic Park games they churned out last year, but The Walking Dead really is killing it in every episode (pardon the pun). If you have a PC (which is the only way to get the game in Australia), and you can stomach a morally-tumultuous tale, then I’d highly recommend picking up a season pass. However, if you want to know how the season is going so far, then let me fill you in on Episode 3.
After last episode saw Lee’s group steal a whole heap of supplies from an unattended car, the survivors have been able to last a little longer holed up in their abandoned motel. The debate over whether to stay or leave to find somewhere safer is dividing the group, and to make matters worse, it seems someone is stealing supplies and bartering with the local bandits (funnily, former employees of a nearby mega-mart).
I don’t want to spoil any more than that basic set-up, but I will say that there are several pretty affecting and unexpected deaths in this episode, along with some tough moral choices. There have been some really awful decisions Lee has had to make in the last couple of episodes, but there is one moment in particular in Long Road Ahead that will really test you. There aren’t many games out there that are as gut-wrenching as this certain scene, and it’s really not for the faint of heart.
On top of all the heavy decisions at play, the other big system in The Walking Dead controls how characters in the game remember your choices and react accordingly. Often in previous episodes, a reminder will appear on screen that “This character will remember that.” It’s a system that adds a tension to the gameplay, as your actions have a feeling of permanency about them. However, whether this actually affects anything is another matter altogether. This episode, there doesn’t seem to be a lot that is changed by your past decisions. In fact, one moment in Long Road Ahead specifically subverts this system, giving the impression that the game is instead actually trying to cleverly avoid presenting multiple storyline paths. I don’t know how feasible it would be to make a monthly episodic game with truly branching storylines, so the fact it’s fairly well covered up makes it more forgivable.
There’s not a lot of action this time around, either. While there are a couple of moments where you’re required to shoot at enemies or put your fist through the face of a zombie, it’s just that – only a couple of moments. The rest of the events do feel a bit like padding and filler, as the series sets up the next big location. A face-off with a horde of thousands of zombies forms this episode’s climax, but it really isn’t as threatening as it sounds.
This isn’t a particularly difficult episode, at least in terms of its gameplay. The puzzles are almost spelled out for you – one which involves starting up a complicated piece of machinery comes with a set of instructions that basically tells you exactly what to do. The focus of Long Road Ahead seems squarely on the drama, which is fine, but does mean the gameplay loses out a bit.
The voice-work continues to impress, as does the graphical presentation of The Walking Dead. If it weren’t for the comic-styled graphics, you could be mistaken for thinking that you’re watching an episode of the TV series – but then again, that styling is what makes the game look so attractive.
Long Road Ahead would have felt a lot like mid-season filler if it weren’t for some of the big, tragic decisions that occur in this episode. It speaks volumes about the work that the writers and directors of this series have done so far that I feel so attached to these characters, and invested in what happens to them. Halfway through the series, I can definitely say I recommend picking this up, although the wait for the final two episodes is going to kill me. Pardon the pun.