A House Divided picks up mere seconds after the previous episode ended and continues the wacky adventures of Clementine and her new group of acquaintances trying to survive the zombie apocalypse. Despite warnings from others that things were heading for the silly, I found myself enjoying this a hell of a lot more than I did the previous episode. It has a deliberately slower pace, only throwing in the occasional bit of action with some Walkers to keep the momentum going. It’s a slow burn, building up tension to the final ten minutes when everything goes to shit. This approach suits the series a lot more than the style of constant shocks seen in the previous episode because this is what the comic does: it goes quiet, it has characters try to deal with mundane problems, then when the reader begins to get comfortable, something bad happens, and it’s all the more shocking because you got comfortable.
As the title of the episode suggests, divisions within the group develop and new characters being added to the mix don’t help matters any. At one point, the game makes you choose which group of people you are going to sit down to dinner with, but really this is just a literalisation of the many fractures beginning to take for within the whole group. I, as a player, am also getting better acquainted with them and am forming my own opinions of them. I find myself getting more and more fond of Luke, the the leader of the group who’s trying to do the right thing for everyone. My sympathies lay with Nick until he shot and killed a man who was posing us no harm. He’s clearly a loose cannon, not to be trusted and his actions seem to have long term consequences. Similarly, getting to know Sarah, the other child of the group, put me on edge. Something about her doesn’t sit right with me at all, like a problem is bubbling away beneath the surface that is going to cause problems further down the road.
Then there’s Kenny.
I had a strong reaction to his coming back into the game and by strong I mean negative. I sided with him on everything in season one, with the exception of one incident early in the game. I agreed with him in arguments, I sided with him when it came to decision making. I killed his soon-to-be-a-zombie son so that he wouldn’t have to. It broke my heart, but I did it. I did it for him. And when we got to the final chapter and I needed his help…he turned his back on me. And all because I didn’t take his side on one stupid thing near the beginning of the game. When the game tells you, ‘Kenny will remember this,’ it’s really not joking. I was taken aback by just how much emotion got stirred up inside of me when he returned to the game. When the option to give him a hug flashed up, I really wanted there to also be an option to punch him in the balls.
A few things have stood out at me as I get further into the game. Firstly, having an eleven year old as the main playable character means the actions and requests of the adults is a bit odd. It’s typical in these types of games to do favours for other people to either win their trust or to explore your surroundings. That worked fine in the first game as you were an adult looking after a child. Here in season two, you are the child. It means a lot of adults will ask an eleven year old to go check out the nearby shack or explore an unknown area with them. While Clementine is no normal eleven year old and has adapted well to surviving in this kind of environment, it’s still a little odd to see.
Secondly, the limit set on how much time I have to choose what I want Clementine to say is far too short. Silence is one option, but there were many times when she didn’t say a word because I was still reading what the other options were. In episode one, I didn’t forgive Nick, not because I didn’t want to but because by the time I realised that was an option, the scene was already continuing without me. I much prefered Life is Strange’s style of giving the player the time they need to be sure they’re making the choice they want to make..
But overall I did enjoy this. I’m developing feelings for the new characters, whether that means loving or loathing them and want to continue seeing where their stories go. My actions during the closing minutes of this chapter means there isn’t quite as many of them as there was at the beginning, so it’ll be interesting to see how they react to me for here on out.
Next Episode: Episode Three