The latest episode from the Walking Dead series isn’t as entertaining as the previous episode, but it does have what everyone has come to expect in this series. To many that is a good thing, and they will love every second of this episode. For others – like me – this episode feels like the tipping point for what has been the same old episode time and time again. I’m still a fan of The Walking dead, but Amid The Ruins is a perfect example of why I’m starting to lose interest.
Amid The Ruins starts immediately after In Harm’s Way ends and you are faced with the consequences for your last decision from the previous episode. The plan went horribly wrong and you need to escape the zombie horde you are surrounded by. Once doing so, the episode slows down action-wise. Amid The Ruins isn’t about heart pounding action, but the emotional turmoil on the group. This episode is about recovering from all the action and brutality of last episode—for the characters and the player.
You are dealing with all the characters after the fallout and some are far better off than others. You need to piece the group back together, or maybe you accept this group has run its course, and it may be time to start thinking about the future without them. This is the first episode this season that really pauses the story long enough to have all the underlining issues surface. Episode one Clementine was in trouble, episode two everyone was on the run, and episode three you needed to escape. Episode Four you aren’t running or searching for your next destination. You are in between those desperation episodes, and normally this is where the story gives you a much-needed break. Amid the Ruins does the opposite.
This downtime gives each character the time to think about what needs to happen next. This causes different opinions, which leads to arguments, which leads to confrontation, which leads to the group splitting, and everything spirals into chaos. The entropy of life is never more present than Amid the Ruins because no matter what anyone does – no matter their intentions – there is always a bad outcome. Even when one character thinks they are helping it could be causing disdain among the group for how they are acting. It’s all very problematic, and nothing you do seems to really help the situation.
Adding on the tough decisions to the already depressing episode only adds another 100 pounds of pressure that is already weighing on your chest. Split second decisions are required of you numerous times. Based off the options and outcomes they could arguably be some of the toughest dilemmas so far this season. I’m sure many people found them very heart-pounding and gut-wrenching, but for me I didn’t really have a problem making any decision in Amid The Ruins. I’m finding myself slowly being pulled out of the story. After so many bloody scenes, deaths, and random characters thrown at me one second only to be taken away the next. I have begun to find it all rather dull.
I have come to expect the grittiness, tenseness, and all around melancholy this game holds. In fact, an episode would be considered boring if there wasn’t any tough decisions or gruesome scenes that made you cringe. Conversation, wandering around, and picking up random items doesn’t do it anymore. People crave the ghastly and horrific gameplay that Telltale has become known for. So at what point does it have a diminishing return where those bloody axe blows don’t even make us flinch anymore?
After the pure brutality of the previous episode I was expecting great conversation and drama in this one. I didn’t want action, I had enough of it. Sadly, besides Kenny having a couple great moments, nothing else really satisfied me in Amid The Ruins. I’ve seen enough action and you cannot make a scene tense just by throwing a couple of zombies at it. When characters were trapped in a house, one character and Clementine took their sweet time getting to them. They practically had smiles on their faces. When something serious happened, it was brushed off so quickly I had no time to even think about it. The characters moved on so easily you question if anyone really cared about what transpired, and that makes me not care about what happened. Almost as if the game was telling you that scene didn’t matter anymore and to prepare yourself for the next (supposedly) emotionally draining scene.
That includes when a character is in a life or death situation. I didn’t feel the need to save anyone or feel remorse when I failed. The characters don’t have the same depth as the characters from season one. They’re either introduced too briefly before their demise, or they aren’t given a big enough roll until moments before something will happen to them. Not to mention they act strangely at times to force the story in a certain direction. A character will randomly snap at someone else for no good reason other than causing hostility in the group. Another character that is pretty smart the entire seasons suddenly messes up constantly, and the only explanation is to make a scene more dramatic. The story is losing its flow that it has become so well-known for. It feels like The Walking Dead isn’t a whole story anymore, but bits and pieces of tense moments that are forced together by flimsy segues.
This is the 14th episode I have played in a Telltale game if we include The Wolf Among Us series. I now have come to expect certain elements from Telltale and in doing so the series has become very formulaic. When there is a door ajar, but it won’t budge, guess who is going to squeeze through that opening? Clementine. Is there a zombie on the other side? More than likely. Will that zombie actually do anything? Probably not. And if it does – let’s say – a character got bit that you could’ve prevented it. They were doomed anyway, and if not in this episode, then in another episode. I saved one character two episodes ago to only watch him barely speak last episode, and then die in this episode off-screen. If I was supposed to be invested or care about that character I certainly didn’t. Maybe I was starting to, but the second Telltale wrote them off as dead they didn’t bother developing them anymore so I didn’t miss them when they died.
This is the new problem I am discovering with the Telltale series and Amid the Ruins is a perfect example. By itself, everything is still there from the previous episodes, but only now it is a hollowed out version of itself, and not the meaty, fleshy game we have come to love. There are multiple instances in this episode where your decision will be the life or death of a character. That use to make a good episode, but now that feeling of uniqueness is drifting away. I can see these life-or-death decisions coming up. The Walking Dead is losing its shock value, and that was the main draw to this series.
The Walking Dead became well known for breaking the mold from traditional gaming. Having a game released episodically and only for 5 USD was something new. People flocked to the series when it was gritty and new with dramatic shock value. Now that every episode contains some grittiness or hard-hitting decision we are becoming use to it. The Walking Dead – a video game series that did something new and was successful – is falling into its own mold. Unless it finds a way to break free, I’m fearful that this series will become redundant in its bloody ways.
Even if I don’t care about a character that dies, I expect another character who had a deep relationship with them would, but Amid The Ruins doesn’t show that either. I claimed back in episode one that all the characters introduced were pretty obvious stereotypes and I was hoping as the season progressed they would become deeper. That hasn’t happened. Even a new character that is introduced isn’t developed enough yet for me to care, and now I wonder if they ever will be. The only character that I still have trouble deciding if I like or hate is Kenny, and that is a very, very good thing. Clementine is still wonderful of course. Every other character it is pretty obvious who they were created to be, and they haven’t yet broken away from that in any meaningful way.
After nine episodes from The Walking Dead, I haven’t seen anything that suggests they are taking the story in a new direction. Each episode you can assume a character will die and you will commit some horrific act. Not only that, but you can almost pinpoint at one time interval that will happen. Has it been twenty minutes since someone has been killed or badly beaten? You can expect a random zombie to pop up from nowhere for you to button mash away just to make sure they still have your attention.
That doesn’t make the series bad necessarily. Normally, the story will be enough to keep me invested, but nothing incredible happens in this episode that I didn’t expect or see coming from several episodes back. I don’t feel the same tension as I did in the first several episodes, and definitely not as much as I did in the first season. I’ve grown use to it, and I’m looking for something to reignite the spark. Unless some new change occurs that sets future episodes aside from the previous ones, this series is going to lose what makes it so appealing in the first place.
Amid the ruins is a fine episode on its own, but it is the long run that makes me worry. There were tense parts and some moments that I really wasn’t sure what the right answer was. That is what I have come to expect in a Telltale game, but as I said, that’s also the problem. I may not have known the right answer, but I shrugged off my decision knowing that the story would play out either way so I wouldn’t have to worry. When my decision killed a character, I really didn’t care since I never built a connection with them. I fully expect the final episode won’t pull any punches and I look forward to it. I also hope that the series understands it cannot use the same tricks over and over again expecting to get the same “wow” moments. The Walking Dead is still a great series, but it needs some change or it will become as common as every other zombie fiction out there.
This review is based of a review copy of the PC version of The Walking Dead Season 2: Episode 4 – Amid The Ruins developed and distributed by Telltale Games.
- Kenny Still A Great Character
- Tense Decision Making Moments
- Sets Up For A Strong Conclusion
- Diminishing Returns On Gore
- Dramatic Moments Feel Forced
- Characters Aren't Developed Enough This Late In The season