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: March 28, 2017
Where To Buy: Steam
For our review of episodes 1 and 2, click here.
It’s been a few months since the first two episodes of Telltale’s The Walking Dead released simultaneously. Last week’s trailer gave us an idea of what to expect, and the series continues to fire on all cylinders. The decision to put the focus of this third season on Javier (Javi) Garcia and his surrogate family continues to pay off, as the story of this game is much tighter than that of the second seasons. The vast majority of the characters are interesting and have interesting motivations (barring the somewhat cartoonish villains), and the game does well in making it impossible to please every character due to their differing goals.
Clementine remains the emotional center of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, but Javier and his interactions with the various characters in and around Richmond form the bulk of the story. It continues to utilize flashbacks in a positive way, and it truly lets you shape Javi to be the type of person you want him to be, rather than a slightly different version of the character the game developers wanted him to be.
Episode 3: Above The Law brings together some of the better aspects that the show and comics have used over the years: a fortified settlement with dubious morality, frightening villains who are possibly a little more right than you would like to admit, and some serious no-win situations. On top of that, Episode 3 brings forth a very interesting moral conundrum: should you side with your real family (who you never really liked in the first place) or your adopted one?
The twist that Javi still has close family out there puts a whole new wrinkle into your decision-making and makes the flashbacks from the first two episodes even more important. Early on, the game taught you not to place trust in certain people, but then turns around and forces you to work with those people, and even gives you the option to try trusting them again. It leads to a level of uncertainty that makes every dialogue choice seem significant, and I found myself choosing silence in this episode of The Walking Dead more than I have in any other Telltale adventure.
The introduction of David as an ambiguous good guy/bad guy is also a very smart design choice. One of the central themes of both the TV show and comic versions of The Walking Dead is how this apocalyptic scenario gives people a new chance at life – a chance to reinvent themselves. Obviously, the first two episodes set up David as an abusive, hot-headed jerk, so the player is inclined to not trust him. It plays on your base inclinations, and the inclinations of others (Kate wants nothing to do with a David reunion), to set up a scenario where you never know what the “correct” choice is. In turn, this allows players to create their true version of Javi; you are more likely to pick the answer that fits your version of the narrative than the strategically correct one. This factors significantly into why the choices in this game feel so impactful.
Telltale’s new and improved engine is still doing really well by this series. There are still some hiccups and there is only so much it can do, but The Walking Dead: A New Frontier easily looks better than any other Telltale game we’ve seen. As usual, the voice acting is spot on, and the mix of action scenes and dialogue scenes is just right. Thankfully, Above the Law has none of the “wander through this open area and click on stuff” sections that can annoyingly pad out the length of some episodes.
Overall, Above the Law, and The Walking Dead: A New Frontier in general, seem to be trending in the right direction. There are plenty of twists and turns, the characters are all believable and interesting, and I’m still not sure who I can trust or how the story is going to turn out. Hardened, badass Clementine is still a blast to work with, and Javi is a fun protagonist to play as and help shape as the story progresses. This season seems like it avoiding some of the problems that plagued the second season of this series, and it appears to be headed towards an explosive finish.
- Gameplay: Choices feel impactful and like they are actually helping to shape the characters.
- Graphics: Probably Telltale’s best-looking game to date. Still some odd quirks, but the detail is sharp.
- Sound: Excellent voice acting.
- Presentation: A good balance of The Walking Dead‘s formula: little moments of hope in an ocean of despair.
- Javier is a great protagonist
- Choices feel significant
- Interesting twists and turns
- Great voice acting
- Nothing terribly new
- Villains are a bit cartoonish