After two emotionally-charged seasons of The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series, the team decided to make the next batch of episodes more inviting to newcomers who haven’t necessarily been following this excellent game series. As such, we end up tagging along with a brand new family (who become intertwined with some familiar faces) through this apocalypse scenario. To help fans get a better feel for the new characters, the premiere consists of two episodes. That said, it’s time to discuss whether this direction worked out.
Instead of playing as previous installments’ heroes like Lee and everyone’s favorite survivor Clementine, you’ll primarily be playing as Javier, the new lead who has survived several years of the zombie uprising with his brother’s wife and her two step-children. In true Telltale fashion, there’s great storytelling and writing that gives you a glimpse of this family’s first encounter with the living dead. For the sake of not spoiling too much (even though some of it was shown off in the trailer), Javier’s grandfather is the first to turn. It’s an absolutely chilling scene, and easily one of the most powerful moments in the series. And with the developer relying less on shock factor and more on great writing, I found myself instantly invested in these people’s lives.
For the remainder of the episodes, the plot jumps a few years into the future, passing the events in season two. You’ll notice that despite the world still being in complete shambles, the people that have survived for this long are much more hardened. The walkers (or, as Javier and his family refer to them, los muertos) are no longer the most terrifying creatures in the world. Though they can still end anyone’s life in an instant, it’s a batch of survivors that pose the most danger now.
That’s truly my favorite part of A New Frontier. It allows us to dive into new situations that we’ve yet to see in previous seasons with folks that aren’t just trying to get it together and figure things out. The people you’ll meet have already figured out a system to living in this dark world. Things really pick up when Clementine makes her grand entrance as your captor. This isn’t the sweet little girl we met in the first season. This isn’t even the hardened survivor we played as last season. Clementine knows what it takes to live in this world. She’s been in different groups, and has seen more than enough in her young life to make her into the ultimate badass. She now appears to be in her mid-teens, and is no longer afraid of pulling the trigger and getting down and dirty to make it out alive.
But of course, to Javier, she’s a stranger. In a lot of ways Clementine becomes the teacher. She’s basically lost everyone she’s ever loved, while Javier, who has lost a lot, still has his family around him. This dynamic pushes the narrative forward for several hours, until you’re faced with tough decisions as the plot unravels as you travel to several towns to find safety.
Making the narrative much more compelling, the game features a reliance on flashbacks to allow you to piece together elements of the story. And of course, there’s a huge cliffhanger at the end that’ll leave you starving for more.
Introducing new characters to an already existing franchise is never easy, but Telltale has done a wonderful job. By centering the plot around Javier and his family, it helps ease new players to into the story, while fleshing out an existing world for the veterans. Clem is more of a strong supporting character (at least for the first two episodes). If you don’t want to play through the first two seasons (even though you really should), you should have very little trouble getting into A New Frontier. You’ll miss some of the references, but nothing major at the end of the day.
For those who’ve played the previous two seasons, you can either transfer your save file over, or you can simply recreate the choices you made by answering a few questions before you start the season. It’s an easy way of continuing the story you’ve already experienced.
Gameplay-wise, you can expect the same mechanics from its predecessors. Most of the time you’ll be making dialogue decisions, solving some minor puzzles (that are way too easy) using items you find lying around, and playing through some intense quick time events.
There’s only one small gripe I have with A New Frontier: I actually think this will be a better experience for newcomers than for those familiar with the franchise, because the story banks on you having little affinity for Clementine. I’ve been through hell and back with Clem, so most of my choices in the new installment were to help her out, and it wasn’t even hard to make those decisions. But this game thrives when the choices are the toughest.
Javier is as compelling a character as I’d hope he’d be. The writing and storytelling in the first two episodes are as fantastic as we’ve seen in the previous stories. You’ll quickly learn to love the new folk who join you on your brutal journey. And who doesn’t love an even more badass Clementine? If you’ve played the previous two seasons, then definitely get on board. As for newcomers, this is the time to jump on the bandwagon.
RATING: 4 OUT OF 5
This review was completed using a PC copy of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier provided by Telltale Games. The game will hit shelves on December 20, 2016 for the PC, Xbox One, Steam, iOS, Android, and PlayStation 4.
Images: Telltale Games