The Walking Dead was the game that kickstarted Telltale's new direction of episodic games that were heavy on story and light on traditional adventure. Whether you agree with the direction the company has headed in or not, there's no denying that they've modeled their current lineup after the successes of that first game. Now on its third season, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier launches its first two episodes for an extended opening, serving as a new way for players to jump into the series without prior knowledge.
You'll be spending most of the two episodes as a new character named Javier, a former professional baseball player that lost his job and faced a lifetime ban from the league due to gambling on himself. The first episode, Ties That Bind Part I, actually opens up at the very start of the outbreak with the rather dramatic revelation of Javier's family's first encounter with zombies. It ends with Javier's family becoming separated, with Javier left with his sister-in-law Kate, his niece Mariana, and his nephew Gabe. After jumping ahead a few years we see what's left of Javier's family trying to survive. They go through a tough set of scenarios, one that involves them meeting several people of various levels of trustworthiness. The big encounter comes in a gang called The New Frontier, a seemingly ruthless group of survivors who have been trying to control the nearby area. Javier has to make several choices in how to deal with them while keeping his family alive.
While Javier and his family are the focus, there's plenty of other characters involved. Of course, Clementine is back, and your choices made in the first two seasons does shape where she came from and how she'll act towards others. If you've played the first two games on a different platform and can't transfer over the saves, then you can take a quick questionnaire before the game to determine Clementine's starting position. You do also play as Clementine a few times, and these brief moments serve to show what's happened to her between seasons. Outside of Clem, there are a few new characters that reasonably make enough drama and are interesting enough that I enjoy having them around. Comic character Jesus also shows up (reminding players that the game still takes place in the same universe as the comics), and he's a welcome addition. Other characters like Tripp, Eleanor, and Conrad, all offer good enough drama, even if none of their characteristics are particularly unique.
You'll be interacting with these characters through dialogue choices and important decisions, which affects how they feel about you and what they'll say and do. Naturally, considering the world, this also will be the difference between who survives and who dies. The first two episodes provide plenty of good choices, not wasting too much time into getting moments I cared about. Some can be as simple as deciding if I wanted to go through with a plan during the night or in the morning, while others have me considering giving into some of the New Frontier's demands to save the life of a woman I didn't know or if I should just open fire on them. One late game choice seriously had me considering betraying Clementine for another character's safety.
When combat breaks out, and it does break out, you'll be dealing with it in quick time events. Taking cues from Batman: The Telltale Series, the level of choreography put into in these scenes is honestly impressive. One fight takes place in an area drowning in tear gas, a strange confusing mess where Javier wanders around blind and stumbles in and out of danger. Another cool scene sees the group fighting zombies in a gas station, Javier latching onto one's skull with a hammer while taking shots and others approaching in an alleyway. Each scene felt appropriately tense and I was excited about each new fight.
After playing through both episodes, I was also surprised to find no glitches, slowdown, or usual Telltale jank anywhere in them. I feel like this is a bit of a backhanded compliment at this point, and honestly, I really shouldn't have to write "good job not breaking this game this time", but when that's the norm for Telltale's series then I guess it's necessary. Hopefully, we can keep it out of the rest of the season.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier opens up strong, its first two episodes providing a fantastic opening that grabs that feeling of the first Walking Dead game back. I'm genuinely excited to see what will happen to the group next, and I just hope that Telltale can keep the momentum going and keep me entertained.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 1: Ties That Bind Part I and Episode 2: Ties That Bind Part II were reviewed on a PlayStation 4 using a copy provided by the developer. The game is also available on Xbox One, PC via Steam and GOG (Affiliate), iOS, and Android.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier opens up with two strong episodes that have me the most invested I've been in The Walking Dead since the first release. Hopefully fleshing out the characters a little more can push this season to be even more memorable.
- Interesting Plot
- Great Choices
- Fights Are Intense
- Stock Characters
- Situations Feel Familiar