Review: The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 3 – In Harm's Way (2014)
In Harm's Way is one of the most brutal gaming experiences ever, pushing you to your breaking limit.
Throughout In Harm’s Way I never thought that it could get any darker and by the time the credits started to roll I started to think about just how unforgiving, brash and evil I could be and realised Clem and Carver are no different. Episode 3 changes people and shows just how horrible us as players can be even if we don’t like to admit it.
Where as with previous episodes I would be quite happy to just go back and replay the episode to find out what happened if I chose a different path. But this time I would rather not know. Call me a scaredy-cator just plain chicken but I don’t think the events of episode 3 could have turned out any less brutal if I tried. In Harm’s Way pushes you as the player and every character to their breaking point both mentally and physically and I feel a lot of that is down to Michael Madsen as the evil Bill Carver.
Each character gets their turn in the limelight with each character having memorable moments, some brutal and some just plain evil and sadistic but that’s what makes The Walking Dead unique. It’s also praise to the guys at Telltale and Robert Kirkman for making characters that can seem sweet and innocent on first glance but underneath they’re all brutal and evil monsters when they need to be. The least of which being Clem who can still be innocent or sadistic and evil depending on what path you want to take her down. Personally I went down the sadistic route because thats just how far Carver had pushed me by the end of the episode.
In Harm’s Way is the darkest and bleakest episode of the series that we have ever seen where every move and dialogue choice you make could mean the death of another character or mean you as Clem suffer brutally. I say this because from the very beginning I knew we were in for a bad time as Carver smacked me across the face to the ground for just staring at him. As I said for the previous review the game is very much like the show, each season has a threat and this episode turns that on its head. The threat is not only other human beings, it’s yourself as well as characters are pushed to their very limits.
Carver is the symbol of fear, death and distress and it showed from start to finish and it made me terrified to have any interaction with him. Carver felt like a ticking time bomb to the point where when I finally had to have a one on one conversation with him I started to just agree with him I like I was a naughty school kid sent to the head teacher. He gave off this persona of power and suffering and that made me scared to get on the wrong side of him because while I wanted to see him dead, I didn’t want to anger him and cause harm to my friends.
Characters such as Carver in games are meant to test you and make you think differently about how you are going to approach a situation. It turned me from sweet kid friend to everybody into dark and twisted little killer. Where as with most sociopaths in games your immediate feeling is just kill them as they’re crazy and they deserve to die, Carver twists you to the core and makes you feel scared, angry and makes you panic about your next sentence. Will I say something that will kill my friends or is it going to save everyone? At the start of the episode my main goal was that I wanted: Carver dead. But I quickly realised that its not as simple as that and killing him was a secondary objective making sure my friends survived was more important.
I came to care and be more protective about characters such as Sarah more then I had in previous episodes and whilst before I would be nice to her and protect her as best I could, this time around I became quite horrible to her teaching her what it is to man up and that if she doesn’t then she might as well be dead. But every time I did do this to her I just felt bad for acting that way with her because she was just as scared as everyone else and a lot of my actions come down to Carver and the way he makes you feel.
The reason this episode works so brilliantly is because it focuses on people, sideline action sequences, and gameplay because your meant to feel empathy and throughout the 2 and half hours of play I just felt so bad for acting the way I did with certain characters. Whilst the gameplay had been put on the back burner this time around it doesn’t make it any less brilliant. It felt like I was watching an episode of the TV show.
This is praise to the writing and dialogue in the episode which makes you change your view on how you should approach certain situations, sometimes being evil is the only way to approach certain situations. Telltale haven’t sugarcoated Clementine or tried to make you feel like she’s going to survive and as the credits rolled I immediately felt scared for her because no one is certain to survive in this game. But the only thing that was in front of my mind now is making sure that my people survive because more then I ever did with Lees group in season 1 I feel very attached and protective over this group .
Episode 3 of The Walking Dead did something that I have never seen done better in a game before it made them feel human, I felt I saw and knew each character in and out and know just what makes them tick, something that some games don’t manage to do in a 10-12 hour game. This game made me realise that none of the group are any different to Carver and we will do anything to survive and keep everyone safe. Whilst not everyone made it and we had some tragic deaths which weren’t always my fault I couldn’t help but blame myself because if I had chosen a different dialogue choice then maybe I could have saved them. But then again I might have just caused myself and the rest of the group more harm.
I can’t stop thinking about my choices in this episode and whether I could have saved more people but I would rather not go back to find out because some of the events in this episode were just to traumatic to put myself through again. My first immediate thought during the credits was whether I did the right thing. I tried to save everyone and I did the best I could but maybe if I had just put myself first I would have saved more of them. But then again I could have just killed everyone in the process.
From now on the threat of survival for me and my friends is the only thing in my mind and it makes me excited to dive back in to Episode 4. It just can’t come round quick enough.