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The Walking Dead: Season 2.3 - In Harm's Way (PC) artwork

The Walking Dead: Season 2.3 - In Harm's Way (PC) review


"You will want to watch parts of In Harm’s Way through your fingers."



PREVIOUSLY, ON THE WALKING DEAD…


Since inheriting the lead character role from the previous season of Telltale’s episodic misery simulators, Clementine has been put through the emotional and physical wringer. Periodically, the games have let slip little slivers of joy as to further our suffering when the obligatory shit hits the fan. Thing is, you keep falling for it because you’re already invested in the cast, and the harm you know is coming their way is something you desperately want to avoid. Sometimes, you can. Sometimes, you can make the best of an awful situation, and slightly cushion the horrors that befall you. You can pick yourself up by thinking that you have some measure of control. That things could have been so much worse if you had not been able to steer the outcome a slightly different way. Maybe you could survive on those pinpricks of light amidst the gloom. Those days are gone.



Episode 3: In Harm’s Way imprisons your cast under the watchful eye of a madman then impresses upon you the drastic need to escape. You find most of the experience undertaken beneath armed guard, under heavy suspicion and with nowhere to go. Dialogue options you would normal feel free to enjoy are dissuaded by that angry guy over there with the assault rifle. Basic exploration is limited by ten feet steel fences and sentries on the roof. Options you started your adventure with in the very first episode to try and undercut foreign brutality by looking meek and acting like a scared little girl are exhausted -- they will no longer fly. Bill Carver thinks he has you sussed.

Carver, voiced by Michael Madsen with a mild case of Batman Voice™, stole the show last episode with the most nerve-racking scene Telltale have yet to come up with, and continues to shine on here. There’s more than a little of the main franchise’s dual takes on “The Governor” about him, in that when he talks about keeping the people under his care safe, he honestly sounds like he means it. Then he starts talking about Darwinism, and thinning out the weak from the herd for the sake of the many; then he insists on moments of flash violence carried out by the unwilling at gunpoint. But he’s never turned into the complete monster; he shows moments of almost sympathetic understanding, or lurking regret behind some of his actions. By my choice, after he told my Clem that she was more like him than anyone else, I told him I wished he had died while trying to take the group by force and steeled myself for unhinged retribution. He genuinely smiled, used the braveness of admitting such a blunt bubble of honestly to prove his point, then sent me away with a lot more to think about than I had bargained for.



I didn’t have a lot of time to reflect on this; Things escalate with amazing speed in In Harm’s Way.

There’s a point in the adventure when Clementine has the chance to respond to the group’s wishes of her undertaking a dangerous chore with weary resignation, asking “why is it always me?” that perfectly undercuts just how much her role has changed since the original season. There, she undertook even the slightest hint of danger only when all other avenues have been exhausted, but now, she’s the first -- and, often, only -- option explored. Obviously, some of this is, if you decide to peek behind the curtain, to ensure that the game is always centred where the action is, but Clem’s constant evolving into the most reliable member of the group is constantly at the forefront. Some of the others mean well, but always manage to screw it up when it matters; some of them are showing early signs of letting the bleak horror of the world they live in seep into their mind. Some of them are plain worthless. Despite being slightly older then Clementine, Sarah is a perfect example of the girl Clem could have been had you not worked so hard to prevent it -- she’s sheltered, naďve and coddled from reality by a father who truly believes he is doing the right thing to protect her. She gets people in trouble because she doesn’t understand how the world works now. She alienates others because they all know she’s going to get someone killed.



You can chose to try and nudge Sarah in the right direction, to lambaste her inadequacies, or to simply let her blunder along and suffer the consequences of her actions. You can kowtow under Carver’s oppressive reign, or spit defence at every opportunity and deal with the backlash. You can place trust in Bonnie, fresh from the last episode and seen previously in the 400 days DLC from the previous games (and be undoubtedly annoyed at the micro cameos the rest of that game’s cast exist within) or she can just be another one of the oppressors. You can try to make those pinpricks to spill some light amongst the gloom, or you can hunker down and prepare for the worst.

You will want to watch parts of In Harm’s Way through your fingers. It limits your freedom and forces you through atrocities that cannot be avoided or cleanly justified. They are things that need to happen, and you’ll just have to do them, but this does not make them easy, nor does it blunt the consequences that will follow. There will be gain, the group will move forward, but perhaps, in this instance, the cost is finally too high.


Rating: 8/10

EmP's avatar
Staff review by Gary Hartley (May 15, 2014)

Gary Hartley arbitrarily arrives, leaves a review for a game no one has heard of, then retreats to his 17th century castle in rural England to feed whatever lives in the moat and complain about you.

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overdrive posted May 15, 2014:

Sweet review that makes this game look interesting and kinda gives me a bit of an interest in looking up this series of games.

Oh, but there's a typo in the VERY. FIRST. WORD. What would Clem think about that?*

*Well, probably not much. When trying to stay one step ahead of zombies, most people have better things to do than be grammar nazis.
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EmP posted May 15, 2014:

I was talking to DE yesterday about the difference between championing games and reviewing them well. In that case, it was because I was bullying him into playing Spec Ops: The Line, but I feel much the same with The Walking Dead. It's not a feel-good game you play to escape reality; it's not a time sink you do in-between of other things. It's something you experience and anyone with an interest in gaming should resign themselves right now to misery, and go play them anyway. At one point, I paused In Harm's Way and walked off to do something else because I knew what I would have to do next and point blank did not want to do it.

No one asked for that ramble.,... where was I...

Thanks for that catch! The typo was hidden by all the HTML gathered around it. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it. The Walking Dead rightfully exists on almost every current gaming medium that exists, so no one has any excuses but to break out the tissues and play it.
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Never3ndr posted May 15, 2014:

I only skimmed your review b/c I don't really want to have any spoilers, I plan to play season 2 when all the episodes have been released, glad to see you gave it an 8 though!

A bit off topic, have you played "The Wolf Among Us," also by TellTale Games? I'm interesting in playing that series.
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EmP posted May 15, 2014:

I've not. I didn't want to play two episodic release at the same time, and plan to go through that one upon full release.

I don't think I have it in me to wait until completion for Walking Dead, though
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Masters posted May 16, 2014:

Awesome review, dude. I finished the episode last night, and agree with you on everything, including the Spec Ops comparison.

By the way, you've got a missing word, I believe, in the first paragraph: You can pick yourself by thinking that you have some measure of control. Were you going for, pick yourself up?
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EmP posted May 16, 2014:

Thank you Marc, and thanks for the catch. I've tidied it away.
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Ben posted May 17, 2014:

I only skimmed it as well, because I intend to play season two later this year.

Quick question: How are your decisions from season one carried over? I played through season one on Xbox 360, but will probably play on PC this time around, and am wondering what I'll miss out on.
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EmP posted May 17, 2014:

Stop.... stop skimming my reviews!

S1 carry overs are mostly cosmetic that I've noticed thus for. FOR EXAMPLE Someone makes a innocent joke about having their arm cut off and, if you went down this road with Lee, Clem just glares at the person until they shut up. You'll miss a few cool throwback lines and moments like that, but I don't think much else is going to be missed.

If you've not played 400 days, maybe play that on PC first.
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Ben posted May 17, 2014:

Thanks! I never played 400 Days on the 360, so I'll likely grab that for PC.

Part of me is tempted to re-play all of season one, but I don't think I can justify the time I'd have to spend on it.
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EmP posted May 18, 2014:

You can use it an an excuse to choose Doug. No one ever chooses Doug.
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Masters posted May 20, 2014:

Who's Doug?
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EmP posted May 20, 2014:

Season 1, Episode 1. Doug was the option at the end undertaken by no one ever.
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Never3ndr posted May 20, 2014:

I mean you can choose between a badass chick with a gun that has already saved your life once...or a fatman who is wearing socks and sandals during the zombie apocalypse...the choice is clear. lol
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EmP posted May 21, 2014:

Slight Walking Dead Season One spoilers ahoy!

I always feel so bad for Doug. He made a cool Adventure Game Troupe reference minutes after meeting him, but even the game itself doesn’t want you to pick him. If you pick him, you completely lose the option to admit your past crimes to the group early on, and they unavoidably resent you for it later. And poor Doug’s still written out shortly after that.

As a cool note, the Carla/Doug Easter egg in 400 days is seemingly set to Doug by default.
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Masters posted June 09, 2014:

Did anyone pick the farmer's son over Duck? He's not the loser Doug is, but I can't imagine him getting many nods over a child.
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EmP posted June 09, 2014:

I picked Sean. And I'd do it again.
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Never3ndr posted June 15, 2014:

My very first playthrough of episode 1 I picked Sean...it seemed like he was a pretty decent guy and he would be easy to save with just a leg being stuck.

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