The Walking Dead EP10: What’s Not to Like?

By Shamus
on Dec 20, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

73 comments


Link (YouTube)

Okay, so we suspect something might be amiss at this farm. This suspicion is so strong that we’re willing to behave very suspiciously ourselves, to the point of committing acts that could provoke our hosts to violence. Then we sabotage the fence, which is keeping us safe from walkers. So we’re pissing off our hosts and lowering our defenses against zombies, right as night approaches. If the danger is so strong that we’re willing to risk all of this, then… why are we still here?

Because we’re hungry. Because Larry is a stupid dumb idiot and a horrible judge of character who wants to stay. Because Mark is here and we can’t ditch him.

This game does a really good job of riding that line between “this is a very risky thing to do” and “this is an obviously stupid course of action”. If you don’t go far enough as a writer, the story feels flat and boring. If you go too far then the audience rejects the whole thing as absurd. Right between those points is where you get dramatic tension.

I thought that cutting the power to the generator was a dumb thing to do, but it was plausibly dumb. I could believe that a group of people might behave this way if pushed into this situation. I did sort of resent having to do it myself, though.

In a TV show, you can have the main characters do things while the audience looks at them and says, “This won’t end well.” It’s much harder to do in a game, because the audience is being asked to perpetrate the act that they perceive to be foolish. I don’t claim that The Walking Dead never made any mistakes with this balancing act, but it’s still some really impressive work.

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  1. Thomas says:

    I like all the conversations here and how they all look, but this is probably the only part in the whole series where it was stupid enough to actually give me trouble to continue. Once you see the bloody rags I wanted to group everyone up, hold a gun and get it sorted. I did not want to leave Clem and Katja and Duck in the hands of these people whilst also doing something that would piss them off. And it seemed demanding to see what was in the barn would be safer and less offensive if they’re actually good people. I was still on the right side of the choice illusion so I spent a lot of time trying to find something I could do instead of doing all the stupid stuff

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I felt the same way. Once you open the door and figure out the major twist, there really is no reason to stay any longer. I guess you can say you want to check on Mark, but that rings hallow to me.

      • Thomas says:

        Heck you’ve still got three(point five) people who can hold a gun straight to their 2.5 people. If I wanted to check on Mark I would check on Mark. But with everyone behind me or kept in a safe place rather than spread around the farm.

        It get happening really. First with the wheelbarrow full of blood. Then when you open the room. Then when you go upstairs and can’t find Mark.

        On the other hand they didn’t get someone bitten with Zombies because you cut off the power. Which is just as well because I’d promised myself that if they did that then I was going to start disliking the game

      • Isy says:

        I repeatedly tried to check on Mark. The first time Lee gave up and fine, Katja had gone up with him. I tried after I came back and got blown off with some stupid excuse like “eh, trust me”. Lee refused to insist. I know we’re all making a big deal about not pissing off these people before dinner, but is insisting to see an injured friend really that likely to get us tossed out? Apparently my friend’s safety was less important than social graces.

        I was so mad I had to sabotage the generators. Does this not seem like the stupidest thing we could do?

        Also, Lee dropped all the screws of the barn door. That made my teeth grate. Do you know how easy it is to lose those?!

  2. It’s weird that Adam seems to realize you are curious about the back room, but doesn’t follow up on it. He stops you, but he gets distracted very quickly.

    Also, I really didn’t pick up on the “where is the meat coming from” vibe while playing, but I was very suspicious that they wouldn’t let me in the house or, more importantly, check on Mark.

  3. newdarkcloud says:

    I do think that this game handles tension very well. You KNOW the odds are in favor of the group and that it is likely that Lee and Clem will come out of it alright, but you still feel tense anyway. It sinks you in and I like that.

    • Hydralysk says:

      I think part of it is also the definition of ‘alright’, physically I agree with you, but I think the mental part is also an important factor in the tension. In fact Clementine mental wellbeing was one of the driving forces behind my decisions.

      For instance, later in ep 2 when Larry’s face gets bashed in by Kenny, Clementine completely freaks out and you have to try and soothe her while she’s clearly getting more and more scared.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        Indeed. I also like how the game really makes you feel the mental toll and weigh of your decisions. Look back to the part where you have 4 foodstuffs to feed 10 hungry people. That decision has no impact on where the story goes, but the way they framed it makes it a painful choice.

  4. Amnestic says:

    I find it kinda weak that you couldn’t ask Non-Creepy-Brother about the woman a bit more. You say “So this woman in the woods seemed to know your brother”, you get the reply “Yeah, he talks more than he should”.

    And that’s it. That’s the conversation. It *really* needed a follow up there. Even if it was a weak follow-up, it needed something, it ends far too abruptly even from just a conversation pacing standpoint, nevermind the content.

  5. TMTVL says:

    Yeah, I figured out they were cannibals like three videos ago, even though I’ve never played this game. My reasoning was: the cows got sick, it’s probably the zombification. No way deer and elk and whatever aren’t getting infected.

    Yet they have meat (otherwise they wouldn’t be so fit, running a dairy), so they must have a different source. Still, what Josh said about the bear trap, that makes sense, though that could just as easily implicate the bandits.

    • Thomas says:

      You can go longer as a pure vegetarian before getting unhealthy, in fact if you subsist of vegetable + dairy I’m pretty sure thats a fully nutritious diet

    • Hydralysk says:

      Actually regarding the cow’s sickness, Katjaa says something along the lines of “It’ll have it’s calf sometime soon” implying that the odd behaviour was simply because the cow was pregnant.

      Though really that begs the question of how a dairy farmer wouldn’t be able to notice that…

      • Abnaxis says:

        That bugged me too, but I gave the game the benefit of assuming there was some complication in the pregnancy Katjaa helped with. Like, they knew it was pregnant but had trouble because it was an abnormal pregnancy.

        Of course, this is just me making stuff up for it…

      • Steve C says:

        Especially since the dairy farmer would have been the one to arrange for the cow to become pregnant in the first place. Like Abnaxis, I made excuses too.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Yeah. I called the cannibal twist well before it happened. I think the episode was designed to make you figure out the twist early. They didn’t really bother trying to hide it at all.

    • Steve C says:

      Immediately after Jolee and the start of this Spoiler Warning is when the game started to break down for me. This is when the game started forcing me to take actions I didn’t want to take. I didn’t want to go into the locked room. I really didn’t want to sabotage the generator. I really did want to see Mark too. But that wasn’t nearly as frustrating as being forced to do something you didn’t want to.

      I knew something wrong was up at the farm. Were they the bandit leaders? Did they have walkers in the barn? etc. I considered cannibalism early (then repeatedly later) but discounted it as a possibility every time. They have food. What they are lacking is manpower to help defend them. Trading food for a larger more secure group makes sense. Cannibalism is too illogical for a group of farmers with crops, a cow and spare muffins. Doubly so when the whole zombie thing started 3 months ago.

      Seriously think about the timeline. All the stores closed 3 months ago. I don’t horde but I personally have a few weeks of food on hand just from normal canned goods and non-perishables. (A single small bag of rice lasts for weeks, more if you stretch it.) A farm is going to have more food than me on hand, especially one that still has electricity and therefore refrigeration. Plus whatever animals they had before they lost them. Who is going to resort to cannibalism after 3 months not because they have to but because they miss meat? Sure they are hunting regular animals and trapping a few of them but that’s not enough meat.

      Now of those people, who’s going to commit cold blooded murder in order to eat people? And of those people who’s going to want to eat meat of anything that gets up after it’s dead and tries to eat you? And of yet those people who’s going to cut parts off living people and eat those while they beg and plead not to be eaten? Apparently not one but all three of the St Johns. The only reason they seem to eat people is so “they don’t go to waste.”

      …And I don’t buy it. I lost my suspension of disbelief in the St Johns kitchen and I never got it back. Although it wasn’t until Ep 3 that the game completely fell apart for me.

      • Danath says:

        I have a couple issues with this… since suspension of disbelief would require something being fake. Cannibals can and do exist, and not everything is based on pragmatic decisions that “we’ll only resort to this at the last possible moment.” like a normal person would. They see it as an okay solution to the lack of meat problem. You CAN actually choose not to go into the locked room, so there’s that option as well.

        They obviously weren’t the bandit leaders, and while they lack manpower, they seem to have more guns than the bandits do.

        And again, you’re assuming they are “resorting” to cannibalism as a kind of last measure. It’s quite clear that they are brought up to believe it’s an okay thing and not just a last resort. The fact that they have other food on hand doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t resort to cannibalism, especially on those they feel have a “risk” of dieing anyways. After all… the meat will spoil if they die.

        The idea their decisions aren’t always based entirely on logic or pragmatism is established WELL ahead of time anyways, just with them gathering fuel for the fence, clearly an untenable solution.

        Naturally you don’t NEED Meat to survive, especially for just 3 months. Also I don’t think the people were begging and pleading, and were probably drugged and knocked out when the bits were being cut off.

        Also the sons are mama’s boys who have the same views as the mother. Not a huge shock there.

        I mean the game doesn’t do everything perfect, but these seem to be reaching for reasons to dislike it to me using faulty logic of the kind kind “I wouldn’t do it therefore nobody else will do it.”

        • Steve C says:

          It’s more than projecting what I would and would not do. And yes I know cannibalism happens. But breaking suspension of disbelief doesn’t require something to be fake. It just needs to be unbelievable given the circumstances. I do not believe that the St Johns would (aka random dairy farmers from rural Georgia) given their circumstances both good and bad. They didn’t need to cannibalize, they wanted to. Given the number of US families engaging in a bit of cannibalism to broaden their diet… I just can’t buy it. I was still emotionally invested in the story though.That didn’t end until mid ep3.

          I tried not to sabotage the generator, or unscrew the lock. It was the only way the story would advance for me. If there was a way to not do those things I didn’t find it. And I’m pretty sure Mark was pleading not to be eaten when he dragged himself down the stairs.

    • Slothful says:

      It doesn’t make sense to me that the infection would kill off all the animals because:

      1. It doesn’t do that to humans, it just zombifies them when they’re dead
      2. The walking dead goes with the modern “viral infection” version of zombies rather than the “magical voodoo curse” kind, and viruses only rarely infect other species.
      3. If the infection kills all animals, then considering how all of humanity is infected by this point, that has extremely far-reaching implications. If that’s the case, then zombies should be just a footnote on the story of “oh my god, all the animals in the world are dead”
      4. I’m pretty sure that there were birds doing fine at some point earlier in the game.

  6. Naota says:

    Contrast this balancing act of planned character foolishness with the TV series to really see how much better the games handle it. It honestly feels like the series’ characters deliberately do the one thing that puts everyone in the most danger, at the least opportune time, every time an opportunity presents itself.

    Learn something new? Don’t say anything yet.

    Is it an irrelevant personal or private affair that will only sew dissent and hatred amongst the group if shared? Tell your buds. Everyone will hear it within the hour.

    Is it something that’s obviously dangerous to everyone? Keep it a secret until it’s too late, then blab that you knew all along once you’re sure this knowledge won’t help anyone.

    After a while the “people are irrational” excuse just wears itself thin when you’re up against Walking Dead levels of stupidity. Sure people can be irrational, but they’re also quite adept at calling out the stupid when they see it in others, and fighting against their impulses themselves. Neither of these things happen in the TV series.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      I wonder how much of this is due to the fact that Telltale knew that the player would be an active participant in the world and thus be able to call people out on their stupidity.

      As people here keep saying, games are unique from other media because players are active participants, not active observers. This means that they shouldn’t be forced to do something obviously stupid. It’s even worse if the character you control is making things harder for you due to their rampant jackassery and stupidity.

      Lee is a great protagonist in that it doesn’t feel like he’s an idiot.

    • Steve C says:

      I really thought this is what was being set up at the St Johns… inner group drama. Specifically that Kenny was going to accuse the St Johns of atrocities and Lee would be caught between him and Lilly/Larry. The St Johns would force you to leave and you’d have to pick going away in shame or trying to stay by force or stealing their supplies as you left, etc etc. All the while the farm is overrun because you turned off the defenses. Does your paranoia and fear force you to become the monster that you fear? But I was wrong. The writers hacked out an illogical cannibalism sub plot instead.

      And since nobody has mentioned it yet… how come Andy never called you out on sabotaging the generator? Slipped or broken belts don’t magically disappear out of a closed space.

  7. Spammy says:

    The one cow thing didn’t raise my suspicions because I’d figured they’d slaughtered cows or other animals and kept the meat somewhere on the farm. The house is really built up so maybe they had a refrigerated basement or had salted the meat or some method of preservation. And when you got the doors open I didn’t immediately suspect anything there because… well, it’s their slaughter room. I’d assumed we were eating beef tonight, we were shown people hunting at the start of the episode, you have to clean your kills somewhere. And they’d locked it because the kids would be in the barn.

    I wish Lee would have picked up on the bear traps in the locked room.

    • Steve C says:

      The slaughter room did raise alarm bells for me because it’s not a slaughter room even though a slaughter took place. A slaughter room is clean. It’s not covered in old blood and rusty tools because it’s got to be sanitary or people will get horribly sick. I immediately thought “these people are pretending to be the St Johns because farmers and hunters (cannibals or not) would never do this.”

  8. Piflik says:

    The animations are definitely keyframed. They feel a bit floaty and mechanic, missing weight, which is a common problem with keyframed animation.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    But thats the thing,Larry hates your guts from the start,and loves these guys without any real reason as well.And yet kenny who does say a racist thing,still supports you(if you are nice to him that is).So who is really the racist?The one that says racist things,but doesnt act on them,or the one who doesnt say them,but acts on them?

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The electric fence is perfect at what it is supposed to do:Create a false sense of security,and lure unsuspecting victims with a pretense of needing fuel for the generator.

  11. Astor says:

    I feel what you’ve written here: I actually didn’t want to go through with this! I mean, I did believe there was something in the barn (though the game plays with your expectations if you had read the comic or watched the tv show), and the St. Johns seemed creepy enough, but I didn’t feel it was worth it.

    If the devs felt there should be a puzzle and didn’t give us the option to say “you know what Kenny, let’s go eat, we’ll figure this out later.”, then it would have been nice to have two alternate puzzles, two mutually exclusive courses of action. On the other hand, yeah, we are playing Lee and he’s a full character with distinct motivations and yadda yadda.

  12. Dasick says:

    It’s much harder to do in a game, because the audience is being asked to perpetrate the act that they perceive to be foolish.

    There’s an entire school of game design philosophy that wants to make games like this, by making a system where *all* choices are ambiguous, meaningful decisions. The idea is, the system encourages, nay, requires you to keep making risky moves for payoffs, but when you fail it is because of something you did or something you didn’t account for, so you can learn from it and try again, being forced to make similar, but different decisions.

    I actually sent you an e-mail with a link Shamus, but you haven’t responded yet.

  13. Nytzschy says:

    “Farm books. Cook books. Nothing out of the ordinary. To Serve Man, good old Julia Child.”

  14. Grampy_Bone says:

    Yeah, I actually spent a lot of time looking for any other option to distract the guy other than disabling the fence, because I figured it would cause a zombie attack. This was before I realized how little control and choice you really have in the game, but it was agonizing at the time.

  15. Spammy says:

    OH. I nearly forgot, but at this episode I had my real, “Wow have I been sucked into the writing of this game” moment.

    At this point I knew something was up with the dairy, but I didn’t know what yet, I didn’t immediately jump to cannibalism. I got to the forbidden locked door and that conversation, and was looking for something to unlock it with. I pop open the toolbox, see the multi-tool, and just freeze.

    That screwdriver would make it easy to pop the lock off of the forbidden door. On the other hand… We hadn’t eaten yet and I hadn’t picked up on the twist. What if I took the multitool and one of the brothers saw me and they kicked the group out? Did I really want to do this now? Couldn’t this wait until after dinner, since we’re all starving?

    I was afraid of the consequences of taking the multitool. I didn’t want a character to get angry at me.

    In an adventure game, I worried about the consequences of kleptomaniac tendencies.

    So I’ll give that to The Walking Dead, the writing is good enough to the point where I honestly did not want to act like an adventure game protagonist.

    • Indy says:

      Unfortunately, they don’t quite step away from adventure-game protagonist in this game. I would have loved a hostile reaction against a kleptomaniac who doesn’t grasp that every action the character takes is rewarded. (Even if there are punishing answers in dialogue, I really would have loved punishing some interactions with things.)

      • Dasick says:

        This. Clever sleigh of hand is still clever sleigh of hand. And since this is an adventure puzzle, every interaction is an exception to the rules, so it gets prohibitively expensive to create interactions.

        Personally I prefer systems where the rules of the elements create a myriad of new situations every time I play. In fact, I would argue that those kinds of systems are the only ones flexible enough to handle real innovation and decision making (as opposed to Half-Life brand of ‘this was the only real route’)

  16. Indy says:

    On an unrelated note, I love the achievement titles this game has. At shooting Jolene, we get “Thank you for shopping at Save Lots!”. The end of the upcoming conflict scene has “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” (No really, just take a guess.) And coming up later this week we have “Too Much Salt Will Kill You” and “You Fight Like a Dairy Farmer”. How appropriate. You fight like a cow. I love these titles, either because of the utter dissonance of having a joke to break the tension or because they’re so on the nose about the situation.

    • Wedge says:

      What really bothered me about the generator, is that the way you sabotage it it’s BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS that it was sabotaged–Lee leaves the generator turned off, leaves the lid open which required removing a screw to get off, and takes the belt with him. Even a cursory glance would suggest that the generator was deliberately sabotaged. It’s particularly annoying because it would have been easy to cover his tracks: leave the belt unattached inside the generator, so it looks like it fell off, screw the lid back on and turn the generator back on.

      Maybe I’m just being nit-picky because I found Ep2 to be very weak. I figured out the “twist” in the preview at the end of Ep1, so all the build up to it felt tedious. By the time I got to the “open the barn door” puzzle, it was so blindingly obvious that I was actually hoping that the writers were pulling a bait & switch and that whatever was back there was completely innocuous.

      Edit: whoops, meant for this to be a standalone comment, not a response to this post.

      • ehlijen says:

        Not sure how much time Lee would have to accomplish that, though. Surely Andy would notice something wrong when the generator gets turned off, not when it’s turned back on but without a belt.

        • Thomas says:

          You get some time probably. Or maybe he should have just found a better plan (like pointing a gun at Andy and asking him to open the door. There was a wheelbarrow in ones of the stalls with a bunch of bloodstained human clothes. That is suspicion enough)

          It was probably because I didn’t want to turn off the generator, but it bugged me how bad the sabotage was too. Andy says ‘oh the belt must have slipped’, then where did the belt go? And with Lee standing there, clutching something with his back slightly turned to the generator ‘oh look. that looks broken. Immediately after I was asking you about your door’…

          • anaphysik says:

            One thing that I do like though is how Andy immediately jumps to Danny having done something to fuck up the generator. Given Andy’s earlier comments about not touching it & Danny’s disparaging comments about Andy that you can eavesdrop on when he’s sitting in the rain, I think there’s a very high chance that Andy berates Danny a lot for screwing things up.

            (Hm, might be possible that he sends Danny with Lee to get the bandits *because* he wouldn’t /really/ mind if Danny got killed :/ )

    • Adam says:

      I know, right? I think my favorite of the two eps I’ve beaten so far is “Hey, Bud” in EP1. I just crumpled when I read that.

  17. lethal_guitar says:

    Completely unrelated, but has anyone seen this:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=zqmgV3bHA8g

    It’s a trailer for a fan-made Deus Ex: Human Revolution live action movie –
    and it looks pretty promising to me :)

  18. rrgg says:

    Maybe I just missed something but what’s the timeline on this again?

    It seems a bit odd that Herschels would go from dairy farmers to running a complex “murder and eat people” operation within just a couple of months.

    • zerotkatama says:

      This isn’t the same farm as Herschel’s.

      • Kavonde says:

        Still, the point remains; it’s only been about three months since the outbreak. They’ve clearly been doing this for awhile. They had to experiment to figure out that the meat goes bad if the source dies. They also say they’ve had other visitors to the farm, many of which were no doubt eaten as well. Even assuming they were running out of food by the end of the first month, the timeline of their transition from “Well, I guess we have to eat Bob” to good ol’-fashioned home-style human BBQ is a bit odd.

        • ehlijen says:

          I wouldn’t be suprised if they had dabbled in cannibalism well before the apocalypse. And while they may have had food for a while, they also needed to pay protection meat to a sizable bandit clan. That might have upped the worry of starving a fair bit.

  19. anaphysik says:

    Hilariously, I also had the same ‘keeping walkers in the barn’-idea that Shamus did. I mean, yeah, I kinda also suspected c-c-can-cannibalism could be the reveal, but I don’t have *that* much experience with the trope so it wasn’t as blindingly obvious.

    (E4/5 spoilers) That was also my thought regarding the man on the walkie-talkie; that he was perhaps a crazed relative of Clem’s who had kept her zombified parents locked up in a room or somesuch :/

  20. Slothful says:

    I knew that they were cannibals right from the beginning. As soon as they got across the impression that they were pretty well-off, but gosh darn it, there’s something suspicious about them that’s going to force your merry band to move onward, of course it’s going to be cannibalism.

    Why? Because post-apocalyptic stories love to pull cannibalism as a twist. It’s a cheap and easy way to play up the whole “after a catastrophe, people lose their humanity and become mere beasts in human form” angle. It’s DEEP and lets writers shallowly philosophize about morality. It’s SCARY and puts you on edge because anyone could secretly be a man-eating abomination, no matter how nice they seem.

    The worst part is how cannibalism is always portrayed like it’s a perfectly viable and reasonable option aside from the fact that it’s a horrible atrocity. Never mind the fact that this dairy farm should’ve had way more cattle that they could’ve milked or eaten than just one in a tiny barn, never mind how they’ve got all these lush fields of grain that they could be harvesting with any people they find, in addition to the goddamn silo in the background that should carry them through any tough times. Never mind how these people could obviously go more than a day or two without eating and they wouldn’t be too much worse for wear. Nope, they just decided that they were going to eat people every day, and they are happily obliged by others’ willingness to stick around in the area to be hunted down and slaughtered like a goddamned herd of bison.

    I just want them all to die, have their barn burnt down, and none of this ever spoken of again.

    • Dasick says:

      Hehe, I agree with you about the cannibalism shtick. Whatever meat you are eating, there needs to be lots of it (gee, there are always guests coming in just in time for dinner! How CONVENIENT) and that meat needs to be well fed – and since we’re talking about humans, whatever your meat is eating, you could be eating that, and it would be more efficient.

      Would a societal breakdown allow free reign to rapists, serial killers, cannibals (that eat humans because it’s fun to do), child molesters, sociopaths and just plain selfish jerks? Sure, for a while. Would some people have to do ‘atrocious’ things to survive? Sure. But it won’t turn normal people into monsters. I mean, world war II was hell, and many soldiers had to do things to survive, but when was the last time you heard of a war vet going on a rampage, or developing a taste for human flesh?

      • anaphysik says:

        I can certainly see people engaging in cannibalism as a symbol of dominance, somewhat similar to how (E4 spoilers) Crawford became known as the major power in Savannah in part through the implied usage of ‘useless’ people as part of their body/walker barricade. But to use it for sustenance (as the St Johns do), rather than subjugation? Nope. Just nope. *Especially* not with only the 3 of them left.

        (Of course, any sort of major cultural shift (which could make any of those essentially mainstream instead of the taboos/crimes that they’re considered as in our current culture) would take at least a couple hundred years. (This actually bothers me somewhat in Fallout lore/games, because it always seems like *not enough* has changed culturally since the bombs dropped :/))

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