What They Say:
When family is all you have left… How far will you go to protect it?
After society was ripped apart by undead hands, pockets of civilization emerge from the chaos. But at what cost? Can the living be trusted on this new frontier?
As Javier, a young man determined to find the family taken from him, you meet a young girl who has experienced her own unimaginable loss. Her name is Clementine, and your fates are bound together in a story where every choice you make could be your last.
The previous Telltale’s The Walking Dead seasons contained impressive voice talent across the entire cast and I was surprised to find that it’s even better than ever before in A New Frontier. The cast is mostly brand new, each member well-acted and voiced. Interestingly enough, Clementine, despite being basically the only familiar character, brings something new herself to the table. While it is the same voice actress, Melissa Hutchison opted for a deeper, more mature and older take on the fan favorite. On the music side, A New Frontier’s soundtrack gets the job done but never does anything to stand out or particularly enhance the experience.
Telltale’s signature, endearing cel-shaded artstyle is back once again and improved. The decision to drop the previous generation of platforms (360, PS3) that made them so beloved for this season pays off greatly. On PS4, the characters and environments are much more detailed and alive, with sharp outlines and far less bugs and screen-tearing encountered than seasons 1 and 2. A New Frontier feels like a major improvement on the comic look that Telltale is known for.
Content: (warning as parts of this section may contain very light spoilers for previous seasons)
The Walking Dead Season 3: A New Frontier utilizes an interesting mix of present day and flashbacks throughout the first 2 episodes to convey the story of Clementine and the new playable character, Javier. Right off the bat, the story starts with a focus on Javi and a slight montage of his life leading up to where the story currently is. The flashback is quick and efficient, not wasting any time in introducing him and his family. Though it is a ways into the first episode before we see our old friend Clem, Javi is a compelling enough protagonist to carry the story on his own, which is a testament to the writer’s talent considering we’ve been blessed with such beloved protagonists already like Clem herself and Lee. His unending devotion to his family is something that transcends how you play him and immediately cemented him as one of my favorite characters in the whole series by the end of the short 2 episodes.
The only disappointing thing about the protagonists is the usage of Clem. Knowing from the trailers that there would be two protagonists, I assumed that it would either be a choice we’d make from the beginning of the episode or a constant switch between the two at set intervals (a la Telltale’s Game of Thrones). However, the actual outcome is far less engaging. Clem is present in the story, but as of right now, controlling her is relegated strictly to the very few flashbacks of what’s happened to her in recent years. These flashbacks aren’t necessarily bad or even out of place, but it is disappointing only being able to react to her actions in the present as Javi. The only positive to come from this is that Clem acts based on either a predetermined version of her for newcomers or through a quick recreation at the beginning of the choices you made throughout the first 2 seasons. Because of this, I would (surprisingly) recommend A New Frontier to someone unfamiliar with the Telltale series or overall franchise.
If you’ve played a Telltale game before, then you already know the general gameplay cycle. Mostly consisting of lengthy cutscenes, you continuously pick conversation choices that range from peaceful to outright hostile or simply nothing at all. The Walking Dead Season 3 still does have options that are shortened and even misleading versions of what the character will actually say, but I felt that it’s improved a lot to the point where I could quickly glance at each option and accurately get a feel at what will be said. Beyond that, there a few major choices sprinkled throughout both episodes that make your playthrough really change and be compared with other players’ decisions after the credits roll in Telltale’s signature style.
The improvements don’t stop with the decision aspect, as it seems that Telltale has realized that the more adventure-like, fully-controllable sections of the game needed some serious work. Those moments always created a sense of disconnect for me in other games and it was nice to have the two times they occurred in the entirety of episodes 1 and 2 feel less frustrating and obtrusive. The more graphically impressive, almost Fallout-esque locales and less stereotypical cast gave me the desire to want to explore and connect with the places and people I encountered without these sections overstaying its welcome.
The quicktime events also seem to be toned down, making the first 2 episodes of A New Frontier truly feel like an interactive movie. Unique shaky camera sections, cool angles, and more all came together to create the most cinematic Telltale experience yet. This was a huge positive for me, as I always felt that Telltale should just drop the gimmicky nonsense and focus solely on what they do best: crafting a story built on relationships with unforgettable characters, and it seems that they finally agree. The story here, while feeling like a prologue to the real deal, moves fast and with purpose. It didn’t suffer from pandering like season 1 did at its beginning, instead paced well from moment to moment. This did make episodes 1 and 2 much shorter in length, however, but still greatly left me wanting for more. Without spoiling much, both episode 1 and 2 end on major cliffhangers built up from the rest of the story, especially episode 2’s intriguing ending. That ending, in particular, has me interested for what’s next for Clem, Javi, and their group.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier has me daily thinking about when episode 3 will release due to the great foundation built in episodes 1 and 2. The improved graphics, less gimmicky gameplay, well-rounded new characters (Javi!), and of course our old friend Clem come together to create the strongest opening for any Telltale series to date. Action-packed and fast, there isn’t a wasted moment found here. Despite feeling mostly like an introduction, I can’t help but be excited for what’s to come next.
Released By: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
MSRP: $4.99 (per episode), $24.99 (Season Pass), $29.99 (physical, coming soon)
Release Date: 12/20/2016: Ep 1 and 2. 3-5: TBA
Platforms: Android, iOS, PC, Mac, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One
This review was done with a review copy of the game provided by Telltale Games. We are grateful for their support.