The Walking Dead Episode 3: Long Road Ahead | Review
Long Road Ahead is a gut-wrenching experience that I won't soon forget.
In Episode 1: A New Day, Telltale introduced gamers to a well-rounded cast of survivors and laid the groundwork for some difficult choices later on. In Episode 2: Starved for Help, players were exposed to how terrible human beings could be when pushed far enough and forced to make impossible choices. Episode 3: Long Road Ahead somehow manages to raise the stakes.
The Walking Dead can be defined as an ‘adventure game’, but I almost feel like mentioning the gameplay here would be a disservice. It works just fine; the environmental puzzles never quite reach the high of the motor inn from the first episode but manage to be entertaining all the same, and the action scenes are still harrowing. There’s nothing I could really say against it, but it’s certainly not what you’re going to remember when you’re looking back on the title.
Talking about what you will remember, though, is almost impossible, because that requires the explicit use of spoilers. I think it’s safe to say that deaths happen and characters are put through the ringer; this is a Walking Dead product after all. The ‘interactive’ part of this interactive story is a bit weaker than Starved for Help, but Telltale still makes you do more than most games these days. It may be just a click of the mouse, but it’s something you’re doing. Lee (the player) is the agent of change in the story, which gives everything you do more weight.
Nobody is safe in Long Road Ahead. If you got attached to any of the characters, get ready to have your heart broken. Even if they survive, you learn things about your fellow survivors that make you re-evaluate how you’ll be treating them for the rest of the game. Telltale has done a wonderful job of making characters that reacted in understandable ways to the zombie apocalypse, even if you don’t always agree with their decisions.
If after reading that paragraph you’re worried about running out of main characters, don’t worry. The new characters are interesting and fun, sometimes moreso than the previous batch of survivors. A few of the characters you’ll meet in Episode 3 include a laid-back homeless train hopper and a couple that grew on me very quickly. Everyone who joins the cast brings something new to the table, and I hope they stick around.
The previous comments, for the record, don’t apply to Clementine. Kudos has to be given to Telltale for creating the first child in a game that I not only liked but also actively wanted to protect. The bond between her and Lee is one of the most realistic portrayals of a father/daughter relationship I’ve ever seen in a game. And with the release of Long Road Ahead, Clem is not only likable; she’s also becoming useful. There’s real, tangible character development going on here, and I’m really excited to see where it goes.
It’s not all doom and gloom, though. On the rare occasions when the story takes a step back from all the horror to focus on the interpersonal relationships, there’s some really witty writing to be found delivered by the game’s absolutely stellar cast of voice actors. There’s a bit where you have the opportunity to high-five Duck, and the game rewards you with a message that you absolutely have to see for yourself.
The Walking Dead Episode 3: Long Road Ahead is the latest entry in a series that is the best example of interactive storytelling I’ve seen all year, possibly the best I’ve ever seen period. The work Telltale put into making their characters likable yet complex paid off in spades, and the environmental puzzles are very well done. You simply won’t find a game like it anywhere in mainstream circles, and I cannot recommend it (and its predecessors) enough.
(Note: Long Road Ahead was played on the reviewer’s one year old MacBook Pro through Steam and ran perfectly fine on the highest settings)