Telltale’s The Walking Dead ‘Amid the Ruins’ – making the wrong decisions has never felt so good

Just as a quick warning, there could be one or two unobvious spoilers from the previous episode. So if you’re planning on waiting for the second season to be released on disc, I’d suggest that you might not want to read on!

We’re drawing close to the finale of Telltale’s second season of their Walking Dead game, and that really saddens me. The second season has been a real rollercoaster… though rollercoasters usually have highs, and this season has been predominantly dominated by lows. Playing as Clementine, I’ve lost beloved characters to walkers, the elements, other survivors or just general stupidity. I’ve seen my favourite characters crack, break and shatter under the weight of the zombie apocalypse and, as Clementine, I’ve been mainly helpless to it all. Clementine is in the centre of a fractured group and it’s becoming increasingly difficult to decide who best to put my faith in. In the last episode, I felt that there were very few decisions that affected my standing in the group. But, ‘Amid the Ruins’ is the perfect title for this episode, as it sums up the status of Clementine within this broken group of survivors. As Clementine, you are quite literally in the centre of a decaying group; you are amid the ruins of a set of lives that have been pulled apart, piece by piece.

The brokenness of this group hasn’t been overly apparent for a while, and I think that’s down to the fact that they’ve always had an enemy to focus their efforts towards. In the first few episodes, the simple questions were easy to answer. Why are they hungry? It was Carver’s fault, he drove them away from a safe community. Why are they tired? It was Carver’s fault, he was constantly chasing them, haunting even their nightmares. Why do they not feel safe? Again, it was down to Carver in his unrelenting pursuit of the group. Now, however, that enemy is gone and all they’ve been left with is themselves. Now that the characters no longer have an enemy to focus on, you can start to see the cracks in the group. In this episode, there are one or two characters that are on the verge, precariously perched on the breaking point. Your choices in the episode will really dictate how the other characters see you, more so than ever before, but they will also have a profound affect on how the episode will develop. Most of all, however, these split second decisions had a huge influence on me, as a person. I was shocked by the decisions that I made to ensure the safety of myself as Clementine and those that I had grown fond of within the group. These pivotal decisions led me to ask myself, “if push came to shove, would I really choose that option?” and I can’t help but think that I would. I’m not sure what that says about me, because I was far from proud of the decisions that I made.

Amid the Ruins begins exactly where we left off in the previous episode, quite literally in the middle of a shit storm. Escaping is no mean feat, but once you’re out the episode starts to slow down a little and what you’re faced with is an onslaught of small but tough decisions. These decisions slowly pile up, and it isn’t until the final ten minutes of the episode that you will fully realise the gravity of what you had previously done. In episode 3, the line between good and bad was merely a smudge. Now, in episode 4, there is no good or bad; there is only survival. The decisions that you make will be based on the survival of yourself as Clementine, the survival of your friends within the group and the overall safety of the venerable characters, like Sarah and Rebecca. All of these factors are constantly floating around in the back of your mind, and every choice seems to have some sort of implication, whether immediate or later on in the episode. I think that this is the first time, in this season at least, that I’ve truly regretted my decisions. It’s probably because the episode is a little ‘off the boil’ when compared to the other three, which isn’t a bad thing at all. Telltale seem to manage their seasons incredibly well, mixing all out action and intense gameplay in one episode and then offsetting it with a slower episode that lets you see the full force of your decisions. Episode 3 shot by, as each decision was building up to a pre-determined outcome; your escape. Episode 4, however, lets you stew in your decisions, giving you plenty of opportunities to think about the choice that you just made and stew over what could have been. It gives you a much better sense of what surviving in a zombie apocalypse would actually be like. It torments you now and then with your bad decisions, and you can start to understand how the other characters around you are beginning to break – probably under the weight of their own bad choices.

One of my favourite quotes from the episode came from Mike, a relatively new addition to the group wonderfully voiced by Dan White but a character that I’ve very quickly grown to love. Whilst attempting to hunt a feral raccoon for dinner, and after the raccoon managed to escape becoming raccoon stew, Mike says, in an exasperated tone, “how did I get to a place where I’m so sad about not eating a raccoon”. Whilst the quote added a little bit of humour to an otherwise upsetting episode, it also encapsulated the general mood of the episode. It poses the question, ‘how did the survivors get to their current frames of mind?’. We know about some of them, but others have still kept us in the dark. For example, why does it feel like Luke is constantly hiding something? Why does Bonnie seem so broken? (if you’ve played 400 days, you’ll probably already know). Why is Jane so distant, but loveable nonetheless? I constantly found myself questioning peoples’ motives in ‘Amid the Ruins’, and it’s mostly because I don’t know their backstory, so I don’t have a reason to forgive their oddness. But, just in like real life, sometimes we don’t really know people; and that’s what this episode is all about. I’m not saying that you’re going to get to know the characters, but the events that unravel will really help you to understand their previous actions, or their reasons for being so ruined.