[This is a review for season 3 episode 1 of “The Walking Dead: A New Frontier.” There will be SPOILERS]
Telltale Games returns to the brutal world of “The Walking Dead” with a new season designated “A New Frontier.” The first episode – “Ties That Bind” – successfully charts a new, yet familiar course.
Players take control of Javier Garcia – the new protagonist of this season. As his father Rafael Garcia lays dying in bed, Javier rushes home to be there. Traffic prevents him from making it in time. The rest of the Garcia household, minus his wife Kate, are upset with Javier for not being there for his father’s final moments. That, is until his papa comes back from the dead as a walker. To save David, his older brother, Javier is forced to kill his father.
Javier and David rush their mother to the hospital after she’s been bitten. The brothers split up, David taking off in one car with his mother while Javier takes the van with Kate, his nephew Gabriel and niece Mariana. Uncle Hector also joins the group and is seen worrying about the bite on his arm.
The game then skips a few weeks into the future. We still don’t know what has happened to David, Hector or their mother. Javier and company are living on the road, scavenging for food and supplies while also trying to stay ahead of a herd of walkers – or, as they refer to them, “muertos”.
It seems like Telltale Games have made improvements all round with this season, specifically in terms of the story and characters. This group is much more relatable and likable than the group from the cabin in season two, which helps to raise the stakes and the player’s sense of investment. Even though Clementine takes a backseat this season as a supporting character, she’s still as tough as ever. I also instantly found myself becoming wary about her fate this season, since the role she plays here is a lot like Lee in having to guide Javier Garcia through this monstrous landscape.
The biggest problem with the game comes during the climatic ending of the episode. A heavily armed group attacks our group of survivors. Although the main antagonist has yet to be revealed, it’s suggested that a rival group will chase down our cast of characters, especially since we’re also introduced to a colony of survivors that seem more like a group of resistance fighters from the “Terminator” franchise than anything else. The combination of lackluster villains, a forgettable cast of characters and its race-to-the-finish ending are what made the Michonne mini-series such a disappointment. However, up to this point, the first episode of “A New Frontier” is really a return to form for Telltale. If this season can provide a worthy antagonist and a powerful ending, then it may even rival the critically acclaimed first season.
Despite the cell shading aesthetic, the graphics have also significantly improved (e.g. less lines on the character’s faces) since the second season or even the recent Michonne mini-series. The lag in animation during the cut scenes is a minor gripe, although should be familiar to anyone who has played a Telltale Game in the past. It happened on two occasions here, which where more annoying than anything, but it should be noted that, thankfully, it did not impact the actual gameplay.
The game also gives players the option to load their previous saved games and choices. The ending I got in season two featured Jane, AJ and Clementine returning to Howe’s Hardware and turning a family of survivors away, and that ending was taken into account here when a flashback reveals the whereabouts and fate of certain characters. Given that there are still unanswered questions about characters introduced both this season and last, I imagine the game will feature a few more flashbacks in future episodes .
At first I was a little worried, but “The Walking Dead: The New Frontier” proves to be a perfect median for both new and returning players. Simply based on the length and quality of this first episode – not including part two aka episode two – you’re definitely going get your money’s worth. I highly recommend you to check this one out. You can grab yourself a copy now on PC, Console and iOS by CLICKING HERE.
Telltale Games provided us with a review copy for the PlayStation 4 game console.
The writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511