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: December 20, 2016
Where To Buy: Steam
It’s been almost a year since Telltale visited the universe of The Walking Dead (and even then it was with the Michonne mini-series). It has been around three years since we last heard from Clementine, the series protagonist, who last appeared in the second season. Well, Clementine is back in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier and the simultaneous release of the first two episodes makes for a great one-two punch that looks like it will be a setup for another great Telltale series.
Telltale games follow a similar pattern: players make dialogue choices that impact the story and how characters act towards you, players explore environments and collect items, and players occasionally have to make a “big decision” that seems like it dramatically alters the story (even though every player basically winds up in the same place). The key balancing act that determines whether a Telltale game will be successful lies in whether or not they can make these dialogue options and decisions seem impactful and story-altering. The Walking Dead: A New Frontier definitely succeeds so far on this front: not only do the decisions you make in-game seem impactful, but decisions you’ve made in previous seasons seem like they have shaped the character of Clementine significantly. Even if you haven’t played any older seasons, there is a quick generation process (basically a questionnaire of major events from previous games) that can help you shape the story before you begin.
Clementine’s personality is important because, in general, the player is not making her decisions. The central protagonist of A New Frontier is a man named Javier (or just Javi, as most people refer to him) who is trying to hold his family together. The story weaves some interesting flashbacks into the mix, showing Javi’s interactions with his family right as the zombie outbreak was getting started, while the main action of the story takes place many years after. The flashbacks are some of the most interesting aspects of this newest season of The Walking Dead: decisions you make in the past about how you interact with Javi’s family have definite repercussions in the present day, and it really goes a long way to helping you create the type of Javi you want to play as.
Javi is a great main character, and the supporting cast is, for the most part, pretty interesting. Javi has essentially put himself in charge of his abusive brother David’s family: David’s rough-around-the-edges wife Kate, his surly teenage son Gabe, and his sweet daughter Mariana. Of course, more characters (including Clementine) begin to assert themselves into the narrative, and of course, things go south pretty quickly for Javi and his surrogate family. Some moments are very well done (including the cliffhangers of both episodes), but a few situations may appear a bit tired to fans of The Walking Dead. “Wow, this fortified township seems like it could be a perfect place to settle down!” Guess how well that goes?
One thing that struck me about A New Frontier was how well directed it is. The first episode in particular is extremely cinematic – the flashback scenes to Javi’s life at the start of the outbreak are the perfect zombie story examples of dramatic irony. As an audience, we know how bad everything is about to get, but the characters are completely oblivious to all these signs playing out in front of them. Clementine gets some of her backstory filled in as well, but it is obvious that Telltale is still holding their cards close to the chest with some of the bigger reveals that are sure to come.
I did not notice the typical Telltale issues that have plagued many of their games. The graphics look about as good as the engine can get. Telltale typically fares better when it adapts something like Wolf Among Us or The Walking Dead (which started as comics) or Borderlands (which already has cartoonish, cel-shaded graphics) as opposed to going for the realistic look as they did with Game of Thrones. There were no glitches or bad sound bugs that I noticed, and there was really only one of those boring “wander around and pad the episode time” sections that Telltale has been (mostly) weeding out of their more recent releases.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier seems like a setup for a very strong series. The writing and direction are very tight, the voice acting is on point, and the decisions the player has to make feel impactful and important. It is good to see the Clementine you created in past seasons fleshed out and making decisions, and the new characters are, thus far, much stronger than what the second season brought us. There are a few slow sections, and one character is extremely annoying, but it feels like the third season of The Walking Dead is headed in the right direction.
- Gameplay: Mostly dialogue options and decision moments. Feels impactful.
- Graphics: Looks very good. Still definitely Telltale’s aging engine.
- Sound: Voice acting is very strong.
- Presentation: Flashbacks help fully flesh out the story.
- Mostly likeable new characters
- Decisions feel important
- Clementine is fascinating
- Voice acting is great
- A few tired story ideas and sections
- Gabriel is seriously annoying