Platforms PC (version played), PS4, XBO, Droid, iOS
Developer Telltale Games
Publisher Telltale Games
Release Date December 20, 2016 – TBA 2017

Review code provided

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier might be one of the most familiar sequels I’ve played in recent times. It brings everything you’ve come to expect from the first two seasons of the series, making precious few changes to the formula along the way. While this familiarity is something that Telltale Games is explicitly aiming for, it means that A New Frontier brings along the bad with the good.

walkingdeadnewfrontier6.jpg

That’s not to say that everything in A New Frontier is as you remember it. For starters we’re introduced to a brand new protagonist; Javi Garcia. It’s been some time since the events of season two, which means that the post-apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead is as familiar to its characters as its players. The game spends its opening chapters setting up Javi and a few supporting characters.

We get to see what was going on with Javi and his family on the day zombies rose up and starting munching people, then we get to see where he’s at now. While I appreciate the effort Telltale put into getting me to care about these new characters, I couldn’t help but feel at arms length from them. Much like in season two, A New Frontier tries to cram too much into too small a space, giving us brief moments of characterisation before throwing us in at the deep end because zombies and bad guys and stuff.

walkingdeadnewfrontier5.jpg

That’s not to say I didn’t like the new characters in A New Frontier (aside from Clementine, they’re all new characters). But when it’s pretty obvious that they’re going to start dropping like flies, it becomes hard to actually invest in them. There’s not a lot of time to get to know them either. In the first season of The Walking Dead there were vast sections of gameplay where you could chat with the cast, get to know them and empathise with them.

A New Frontier feels like it’s in too much of a hurry to get to the zombies and murdering. Characters barely have a chance to make an impact before they start getting bumped off. Choices barely seem like they make much of a difference to anything, although I’m willing to see the entire series play out before I make a final judgement in that regard. It doesn’t help that these opening episodes are probably the shortest in Telltale history. I cleared both in a little over 2 and a half hours.

walkingdeadnewfrontier3.jpg

It’s a much more streamlined game, which comes at the price of being incredibly linear. Gone are the puzzles of season one (as light as they were) and gone are the opportunities to really explore or interact with other characters. There are a couple of moments where you’ll be able to freely walk around, but they’re limited in both time and scope, only giving you the opportunity to interact with an object or two or get one line of dialogue out of the characters present.

This isn’t to say that A New Frontier is bad. It’s more of the same, yes, but that goes for the things that the series gets right. In the moment, some of the choices you’ll be forced to make under pressure can be downright brutal. The game also excels at cliffhangers, leaving me eager to keep seeing what was next with a pair of incredibly impactful moments that were quite hard to shake.

walkingdeadnewfrontier2.jpg

A New Frontier’s greatest trick, however, is casting players as a brand new player meeting Clementine for the first time. We spent the first two seasons shaping the character of the young woman we meet again with fresh eyes. First as Lee Everett, guiding and advising her on how best to navigate a ruined world overrun by the walking dead. Then by taking direct control and guiding her development directly as a playable character.

While it can feel like the game itself has had just as much input in her characterisation in A New Frontier (there were a couple of larger moments where I didn’t recognise her at all), it’s quite obvious in some of the smaller moments and interactions where you’ve managed to leave an impact on her personality over the course of two seasons of the series. It’s an excellent touch.

walkingdeadnewfrontier1.jpg

In its first two episodes, the third season of The Walking Dead is mostly interested in shuffling its pieces around the board and setting them up for what’s to come. How that inevitably works out will depend on where the season goes from here. We’ve been introduced to the new characters, now it’s time to see what Telltale has in store for them in the next three episodes. While it’s a rough start in places, I’m eager to see where this journey goes next.

Advertisements