I agree that Episode 4 seems to be the strongest. It’s got a strong theme, interesting choices, quite a few tense scenes, and the gameplay feels a little more polished. They even mess around with some very mild shooting. We’ve shed the adventure game mechanics of the earlier episodes and the characters have more going on than pointless bickering.
The cast is stronger now that Larry and Lily have been replaced with less crazy people. Larry and Lily were really great for making DRAMA, but it was cheap, stupid, frustrating drama that never led anywhere and always left me feeling angry. The moment where you have to get Clem out of the jail cell was far more emotionally rewarding and rang more true than any of our arguments with Lar & Lil’. And that fight featured lazy-writer ninja zombies. I hated them, but they weren’t villains. They were a chore to be around, but having them die didn’t feel like an accomplishment or a victory. It was just more wasted life.
Maybe I’m just mistaking my antipathy for the show for an improvement in design, but now that we’ve moved on from “surrounded by assholes” to “working with reasonable people who don’t always agree”, I find the world and the story much more interesting. I care about Omid and Christa, and I’m invested in seeing them survive.
Kenny is more interesting now that he’s lost his family. As the only guy who still had a family, he was the richest man in the apocalypse. Now that he lost it all in a single day, his personality quirks are a lot more tolerable. He’s driven. He’s got a plan. It’s not a good one, but it’s all he has left.
I don’t know if it’s fair to say that every episode is objectively better than the last, but I do see an overall improvement as we progress.
At least, until we get to episode 5. Then all bets are off.
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