It’s difficult to discern whether I’m becoming desensitized to the heart-breaking casualties occurring what feels like every few minutes or if the constantly deadly situations we find ourselves in just no longer merit that level of emotion. I mean, how many times can you be saddened by secondary characters’ deaths? It all just becomes ... numbing after a certain extent.
Such as it is with Episode 4 of Telltale Games’ “The Walking Dead: Season 2.” Death is never easy, and its presence is meant to cause a certain level of emotional pain. But when everyone is dying faster than new villains appear, you have to wonder: Is there even a point to it anymore? Or is just for shock value now? Are we meant to make friends only to lose them, only to leave heroine Clementine in even more pain? At this rate, she’ll be on her own before too long, stabbing everyone in her wake to prevent herself from becoming friends with them.
Without getting any more graphic (or story-spoiling), let it just be said your choices in this episode may result in an unusually large number of your group dying. Your decisions allow (or force, depending on how you look at it) Clementine to make some serious gruesome choices this time around. It’s tough enough having to manage the survival of a young girl during a violent zombie apocalypse without having to muddle through increasing morally challenging life-or-death decisions.
Let’s just say, “Amid the Ruins” is not a smooth ride.
The premise seeping through “Ruins’” veins stems around death and how we deal with it. The highest and loftiest ideal would have using that emotional pain to become better, stronger, wiser people. Sadly, that’s rarely the case here. Instead of finding those moments of defining strengths, characters — including Clementine — are increasingly becoming defined by death. As such, at least for me, my decision-making, which always has been influenced by the tenor of the game, seems to be all the more violent and desperate because of it.
While you can make the case that a person having to deal with so much loss would eventually become hardened by it, “Amid the Ruins” comes across more as thinning the herd rather than making an emotional point. Some of the deaths we deal with feels as though they have little meaning other than that they weren’t meant to make until the end. The way they die or disappear feels cheap by comparison of previous episodes.
But don’t you worry: The head count remains mostly the same, thanks to the random introduction of some new villains. Why they’re here (other than the clearly obvious motive if you decide to not play nice) is lost to me, and it’s unclear as to what they want to accomplish.
But for all my complaints about how characters are treated here, I will give credit to one in particular. In “Ruins,” we spend quite of bit of time with Jane, a survivor if there ever was one. It’s not hard to see why she and Clementine develop a friendship, even if it does become strained near the ending.
Throughout “Amid the Ruins,” the sense of Clementine’s destiny, the sense that her story is one of otherworldly endurance and capacity, struggles to keep up. It’s not so much that Clementine feels “less” so much as everything else comes across as so much overwhelmingly “more.” Our heroine is capable in so many more ways than the ragtag group she works to protect. But between all the adults constantly fighting and a world become larger than any one person can manage alone, it feels as though Clementine is breaking, little by little.
In the end, “The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 4 — Amid the Ruins” moves this heartbreaking story along, though the path is littered with the bodies of those we care about. Whether there’s a point to all this sadness and death is still unknown, but I’ve no doubt Telltale will deliver a stunning conclusion in the Episode 5 finale. Let’s just hope what we’ve learned up until now will be enough.
Editor’s note: This version of “The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 4 — Amid the Ruins” was reviewed on the PS3. It also is available on Xbox 360, PC, Mac and mobile devices for $4.99.
Three “Where did everyone go?” stars out of five.