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After such a long break between episodes – and episode 3 being such a masterpiece for the guys over at Telltale – I admit I went into Amid The Ruins with quite a bit of hesitation. But as soon as those titles rolled up and that chilling scream played I was brought straight back in and felt like I had never left.
What Telltale have never had trouble with is making The Walking Dead feel tense and that sometimes death might be the best option. Death and survival were the main focus points of this episode and that choice of which was the better option was always at the front of my mind. As I made these heart-wrenching choices I wondered if maybe it would just be easier for Clem and me to just end it all now and stop the suffering before it went on any longer.
In the 2 hour episode I was treated to breaking up of the group, heart breaking loses and a happy beautiful moment quickly tarnished as this world claimed another victim. Amid The Ruins is spent 80% of the time with Jane, a lone wolf that helps Clem escape and get back to the group but along the way teaches her lessons that she won’t soon forget. As I spoke to Jane more I quickly grew to love her character and it felt like Lee and Clementine from season 1 but this time I was seeing everything from Clem’s point of view.
Whether it was escaping a herd of walkers or saving our friends from being trapped in a mobile home I saw that she was no different from Clem. Jane teaches survival by herself and when worse comes to worse being by yourself is the best option because you’re less likely to die and the burden of loss is no longer with you. While the rest of the group scramble for little hope there is left I was continuously looked upon to make tough heart breaking decisions. It made me remember that Clem is only an eleven-year-old girl but she has seen so much that the group rely on her to be the rock of the group to keep us together. So as a much-loved member of the group mourned their loss I tried my hardest to get them to see reason that we all needed to be there for each other if we’re ever going to make it through this.
Amid The Ruins didn’t progress the plot by much until the last few minutes of the episode but it didn’t bother me because at no point did I feel it had to. The Walking Dead is a series that can get away with being slow and not progressing the plot at a quick pace. Character progression always takes centre stage so whilst the plot might not seem to be moving, the characters are constantly changing with every little decision and dialogue choice. Every choice mattered in the penultimate episode of the season as the group started to crack I had to be there to hold them together. Whilst some may call this a weaker episode for the series and a step back I would disagree. It manages to make a dire situation seem hopeful with a bitter sweet scene that shows the high point of the series. Taking a step back on gameplay and focusing on story and character progression was a step in the right direction for a series that’s been rocky and hit and miss so far this season.
Gameplay unlike previous episodes takes a step back and steps away from the action routes it had taken in previous episodes. Taking a step back is never a bad thing for a Telltale game and I feel that it works for Amid The Ruins as it gives you time to breath and think more carefully about the decisions and how they will affect the group and you. It’s something that I hope they slowly start to stick to and find that line between gameplay and storytelling.
But gameplay when its present is done to a fine point – quick and precise as every button click has to be on point if you want to survive the next wave of walkers. Jane gives you some helpful tips on how to deal with the approaching walkers and it changes up the gameplay and makes you feel much more able to take down a full sized human being. It makes everything flow much better, quicker and it just lets the pace never slow down like I’ve felt it has done in the past, which has affected the episodes badly.
Music is something that I haven’t ever taken the time to listen to in The Walking Dead but it just fit so perfectly in this episode. From start to finish everything just fit and found a sweet spot as situations got heated. The whole episode felt very atmospheric and like the group were in their own little bubble where nothing affected them as bad stuff happened around them. The music and soundtrack of the episode all builds up to the finale of the episode as the screen goes to back and we are greeted with a beautiful song sung by Anadel. As the word played out and the music plays it just lets you reflect on everything that’s happened and realise just how far you have come since season 1.
Overall Amid The Ruins is a step in the right direction for The Walking Dead. It all comes together to make an emotional thrill ride that left me grieving for the character we lost and the ones we are about to lose. I have never fell in love and fell out of love with a game more than The Walking Dead but this episode showed me just why it was good that I stuck around.