Anyone who played the first two outstanding episodes in Telltale Games' five-part The Walking Dead series can't help but feel their stomachs flutter going into Long Road Ahead. All of the excruciating decisions about who lives and who dies staying one step ahead of dead folks who see you as a Happy Meal have laid the groundwork for even more unsettling moments here. This time, the moral dilemmas hit closer to home than ever before, causing strife that may just break apart the group of survivors that come together in the first two episodes.
The story breaks away from the earlier links to the Walking Dead graphic novels for the first time and, for the first time, fans of the comics can enjoy a sense of freedom and escape comparisons between the game and what creator Robert Kirkman continues to relay to us each month in harsh black and white. It's rewarding to see the game standing on its own as a new saga in the Walking Dead universe with few if any remaining ties to Rick Grimes and pals.
Long Road Ahead also changes up the gameplay seen in the first two episodes. This is more of a straightforward adventure. While you still take on zombies with button-pushing challenges and engage in a fair bit of timed shooting and melee scraps, there is a newfound emphasis on solving puzzles by exploring the landscape and collecting items. There isn't anything brain-busting here, though. Most of the puzzles involve little more than wandering around small areas looking for the one piece of equipment needed to bypass an obstacle.
The added puzzles and dialogue choices make Episode 3 feel more like a traditional adventure game than an interactive graphic novel.
With Long Road Ahead, The Walking Dead has passed the midway point of its series of five episodes with every indication that the game will keep getting better right through to its inevitably depressing and unsettling conclusion. The emotional weight of your choices-made even heavier now that we are three episodes into the game and have established relationships with the characters-makes it a tough game.