The second season of Telltale's The Walking Dead is already nearing its end and things are looking increasingly grim for Clementine and the others. This season marked a huge departure from the previous set of episodes, both in terms of main cast and playable character, though things haven't become any easier as a result. Before continuing, we must warn you that the following review will feature spoilers for the episodes leading up to the latest release, though we will shy away from revealing any key plot points from “Amid the Ruins.” You have been warned.
The fourth episode of the season begins immediately where “In Harm's Way” left off, with the group of survivors still making their escape from Carver's camp. Players were faced with a difficult decision during the closing moments of the previous episode, the consequences of which may be enough to drive Kenny over the edge. The death of Carlos at the hands of the rooftop shooters is also enough to make Sarah run into the oncoming zombie horde.
“Amid the Ruins” takes the season into a new direction, as the previous episode saw the conclusion of the Carver storyline. The fallout of what transpired in Carver's camp continues to take its toll on the group, though the departure from the established arc, which Telltale had been setting up since the “400 Days” DLC, gives this episode a sense of being directionless. The looming danger that had been presented in the previous episodes has instead been replaced by a quieter take on survival that focuses on inter-character relationships. We were left wondering why Telltale chose to kill off their main villain so quickly when so much time and energy had been spent establishing his character. Sure, “Amid the Ruins” keeps the group in plenty of danger, but it does little to replace Carver, who had a legitimately frightening presence ever since his first scene with Clementine.
We also had a hard time warming up to a couple of the group's new members. Both Mike and Jane are decent characters with strong personalities and some interesting character development, though we couldn't help but feel that they were all too familiar. Mike looks and sounds a lot like Lee, though this episode does a good job establishing his personality, which is a bit more like the humorous Omid than last year's main character. Jane, on the other hand, is basically Molly from last season, but with shorter hair and a different choice of weaponry. Her backstory even shares a few elements with Molly's, making us wonder if that character was originally slated to return but had to be re-written for whatever reason. Even though Jane is a strong, level-headed character (who is perfectly suited for pairing up with the incredibly mature Clementine), the fact that she felt so familiar never ceased to be a little distracting.
The deaths featured in this episode felt a bit more hollow than we had seen previously, as if Telltale had wanted to quickly dispatch of certain characters because they didn't fit in with their vision for the season finale. One character in particular, who had played a large role in the season thus far, was killed offscreen with very little fanfare. This franchise has become known for mercilessly killing off its main characters, but we had a hard time becoming emotionally attached to these scenes this time around.
As we stated earlier, “Amid the Ruins” focuses mainly on character relations. While this isn't a bad thing, it means the episode does little to build upon the momentum generated by the previous three episodes. The events of the season have continued to shape Clementine into a wise and capable young woman, something that isn't fully realized within this piece. “Amd the Ruins” also doesn't make it clear where the season is going, or whether the new dangers presented this time around will in any way relate to the Carver storyline that had previously been the focal point of the season. Overall, “Amid the Ruins” features some great moments and a decent story, though it is incredibly weak for a penultimate chapter in what had previously been an incredibly strong season. We'd even go as far as to say that this is the weakest episode in the series since season one's “Starved for Help.”
We look forward to seeing where Telltale will take the season next and whether the finale can live up to the incredible closing episode we had last year. The Walking Dead "Amid the Ruins" is now available for PC, PS3, Xbox 360 and iOS.
+ There are some great character moments and decisions this time around
+ Various storylines come to a head this episode
- With Carver gone, this episode feels a bit directionless
- The season loses all of its momentum with this installment