Warning: There will be mild spoilers…not that I want to spoil anything.
It’s been quite a journey for Telltale, and for Lee’s little group. Two episodes to go, and the story has reached what I can only assume is the point of no return, the instance when all actions will inevitably have the most drastic of consequences and when all hope seems to be fading quickly. You might think that this summary feels a bit heavy, and a bit unnecessarily depressing. Oh, just you wait until what’s to come.
Episode 3 of the ongoing Walking Dead series takes place a week after Starved for Help, with the group continuing to survive by scrounging and taking drastic actions. Last episode’s dramatic events certainly haven’t helped any, as tensions are higher than ever before in our band of survivors, and Lee is pushed further and further into a position of choice. Through extenuating circumstances and brutal continuation of various plot threads, the motel residence that the survivors have claimed quickly turns into a glorified grave, forcing a hasty escape in search of a true safe haven.
As is par for the course, the story here is extremely well-written and well-paced, resonating well with the player and getting across that everything you’ve done so far – speaking particularly to those who have played Episodes 1 and 2 prior to this – cannot be undone. Without going too much into details, saying your past and present actions have clear consequences is the understatement of the century; you are going to feel immense emotional turmoil, but it plays out as a good tragedy should – everything feels almost predictable, but nothing seems inevitable until it’s too late.
All of the praise given to past episodes concerning its gameplay should be multiplied, as it delves into some action tropes at various points to truly hammer in the intensity and hopelessness of the various situations that Lee is forced to partake in. There’s also the typical adventure gameplay that Telltale has mastered, but it’s used to great effect here – there’s mystery and intrigue in the motel, there’s some puzzles that need solving later on, and there is at least one moment of sheer intense fear that will put your resolve to the test. Saying there’s a delicate balance between action and tension may be cliched, but it’s absolutely true.
The same consistent complaints of occasional glitches in the visuals and sound, as well as the length of the episode itself, seem to be irrelevant at this point. Telltale knows how to utilize The Walking Dead’s unique art design to its fullest, and it really shows here. In addition, the episode feels longer than the previous two without losing its depth – in fact, giving this experience more time to simmer allows strong emotional bonds to form.
What else can really be said at this point? Lee and Clementine’s voice actors bring the strength of the writing to life, whether they’re talking casually and using cute nicknames or discussing the nature of survival, as well as standing out as unique, interesting and incredibly likeable characters. The rest of the cast brings their A-games when it comes to performing, but it’s the core duo that seals the deal.
At this point, I can’t say that anyone playing this episode should go back and play the previous episodes just to understand the importance of this one, because chances are you’ve already made your way through the other instalments to this episode’s intriguing conclusion (which I will eventually take the time to look over in finer detail). The verdict is that Long Road Ahead continues Telltale’s gold streak and it would be foolish to ignore such an essential experience.