Available On: PC, PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Interactive Adventure
Official Site: www.telltale.com/series/the-walking-dead-a-new-frontier/
Release Date: April 25, 2017
Where To Buy: Steam
For our review of Episodes 1 and 2, click here.
For our review of Episode 3, click here.
Hrm. That was a bit… underwhelming. Episode 4 of any Telltale game can sometimes get lost in the shuffle of getting things ready for an explosive finale, and Thicker than Water, the fourth episode of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, suffers a bit from that fate. It has its moments, and a few agonizing choices to make, but it does seem a bit like it was rushed out the door and the plot has some meandering moments to it.
One of the issues A New Frontier suffers from is a somewhat two-dimensional villain. Joan is a bit ridiculous and unbelievable as a criminal mastermind, and the game sort of railroads the characters’ reactions to her. The Walking Dead tends to tell you how scary Joan is, rather than show her actually being scary. This lack of development of the central villain tends to lessen the impact of fighting against her.
The relationship between Javi and the secondary characters of the story – Kate, David, Gabe, Clem, and many others – has been the heart of this season of The Walking Dead. There is some really great character development, but it is too few and far between. The blossoming crush between Gabe and Clem is really fun to watch, especially because it reminds me of just how awkward that stage of life can be (and that’s without death literally looming around every corner). Kate and Javi have some good moments too, but Kate is almost criminally underused in this episode, and a big moment for her is almost comical in how obvious it is.
That’s not to say that nothing works in Thicker than Water. There is still some great dialogue and a few really good choices to make that seem like they will have significant impact on both the story and the world of the game as a whole. The story is also still very much up in the air with just how happy or terrible it could turn out. Javi and his gang of miserable misfits each still seem like they could go either way as far as which side of the spectrum they wind up on.
One other great thing with how The Walking Dead: A New Frontier has handled its story is the way it has tied together elements from previous seasons. Watching Clementine interact with characters from previous seasons in her flashbacks has really helped make this seem like an organic world shaped by your decisions. Clem’s flashback in this episode seems to almost deliberately influence one of the “big decisions” you make, and I agonized over the decision because I knew what was at stake. It will be interesting to see just how Clem continues to grow if The Walking Dead series continues (and Telltale still decides to keep the heart of it around and alive).
Though the plot seems to meander a bit throughout, Thicker than Water seems like it may have been rushed out the door a bit. It still looks really good (by Telltale standards), and the voice acting is well done, but something sounds off with the sound. I restarted it multiple times, tried with and without headphones, and for the first hour or so, it sounded like every actor was standing a bit too far away from the microphone. In addition, I noticed a few different typos where the subtitles did not match up with what the characters were saying. They aren’t huge issues, but a bit more polish goes a long way to immersing the player into the story.
Overall, Thicker than Water is probably the weakest episode of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier to date. The way Telltale stories are laid out, however, makes a bit unfair to judge one part of the overall story against the rest. The game is still telling a compelling story, and there is a great deal of mystery still surrounding just how things are going to turn out. Javi and his crew have meaningful relationships, and it makes you genuinely care about these characters and hope things work out for them. Hopefully Episode 5 can deliver a satisfying conclusion to the story and help it finish out strong.
Also, maybe I’m not familiar with the two player variation enough, but I do not think Gabe actually knows how to play euchre.
- Gameplay: Telltale’s standard formula. Make decisions, have conversations, and agonize as you contemplate going back and choosing another option.
- Graphics: Looks very good for a Telltale game. Character detail is strong, and the environments are vibrant.
- Sound: Excellent voice acting, but there was some odd editing and it seemed a bit off at points.
- Presentation: Villain is a bit off, but the relationships and decisions still drive this story along.
- Solid voice acting
- Story is still engrossing
- Javier and his group have strong relationships
- A few predictable twists
- Strange audio issues and subtitle issues
- Story meanders a bit