It has been quite the wait for the third episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead – A New Frontier. The premiere, which consisted of the first two episodes, aired back in December and ended on a cliffhanger that has taken two months to address. In the past, Telltale has been pretty good about releasing new episodes every month for The Walking Dead, and I hope that the extended wait for episode three (titled Above the Law) does not set a precedent for the rest of the season. In the past, Telltale has left month between games, which is a strategy I think is detrimental. If extra polish is needed on the game, I would rather have Telltale release the entire season later so they can get further along in the process. Longer waits between episodes cause me some grief because it lessens the impact of the game’s cliffhangers and decisions. The largest grievance it causes me is that I don’t want to wait because I just want to play the game.
The story so far in A New Frontier is hard to talk about without spoiling too much of the game for others who haven’t played it. The series plays really heavily on choices made in previous episodes. It even takes into account decisions that were made in past seasons. Choices made in seasons one and two affect the way that Clementine conducts herself when faced with situations of conflict or comradery. Since you do not play as Clementine in A New Frontier (a decision that bothers me less the more I learn about Javier, this season’s protagonist) you get to see how all of your decisions in the past have influenced how she has matured.
Javier, the main character, was someone that I thought would be hard to invest in, but it turns out that he’s very easy to root for. His primary motive for survival is the safety of his family. This leads to some interesting situations since his brother David (thought to be dead) has been reintroduced back into the story. Javier has been caring for David’s wife, who Javier may have been fostering an intimate relationship with if the player chooses, and his children. Since David has been out of the picture since the zombie outbreak, the player can feel more entitled to make decisions affecting David’s wife an children, as opposed to letting David do that now that he has returned. It seems like A New Frontier will have David along for much of the ride, so it will be interesting to see what other tight situations Javier will be put into while making decisions regarding their family.
Above the Law further explores the group New Frontier (for which the season is named) by adding David back into the mix. Turns out, David became one of the leaders of the group some time after the outbreak happened. We see a whole new side to New Frontier than we have in the past. Above the Law shows the group as a self-sustaining crew of hardened survivors who are all interested in the prosperity of their settlement, New Richmond. Understandably, Javier and his group are skeptical of New Frontier because all interactions with them up to this point have ended in death. Previously, New Frontier has gone as far as to destroy an entire settlement that many of the group yields from. Throughout Above the Law the team slowly discovers who is really pulling the strings and for what purpose. In unusual fashion, the episode cleans up a lot of little loose ends and wraps up without a very large cliffhanger. This is not typically Telltale’s or The Walking Dead‘s style.
While I can see what events Above the Law is setting up for, the episode didn’t not feel as impactful as the first two episodes. This one is very dialog heavy, even by Telltale’s standards, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The amount of information contained in the episode provides information needed to answer lingering questions from the first and second episodes, and provides additional information to help thicken the plot going forward. Now that so much information has been provided, it is likely that next two episodes will focus heavier on Telltale style action sequences and conflicts.
There was only one section of the episode that let the player walk around freely instead of locking them into conversation. This section put the players under a time limit that could easily end in the death of Javier and his crew if the player did not solve the puzzle quick enough. I enjoy Telltale’s item finding puzzles, but this was an irritating one. It was very clear from the start what you had to do; get the car jack to open the jammed garage door. To do so, you needed to examine each part of the environment in a particular order that did not make sense. At one point, you had to look at the obviously locked garage door before you were allowed to open the car door to get the car jack’s lever. Having to do this completely unnecessary step cause the death of my crew three times before I tried it on a whim. If players are suppose to solve a life-or-death puzzle within such a short window, why require the completion of unnecessary steps?
This time around, I did not suffer from any serious glitches or frame-rate issues. This was a problem that caused some issue in the first two episodes, and does not seem to have made a return. Graphically, the game looks as good as I’ve ever seen a Telltale game look. The animations still look stiff, which is something I highly doubt we’ll see improve as this season of The Walking Dead progresses. Telltale games will likely struggle with this for some time. We even see this pattern within the trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy. Since the developer is true enough to their source material and art-style that even some bizarre animations and other graphical grievances don’t bother me too much.
Above the Law is a great addition to A New Frontier. While it may be heavy on dialog, it helps set the scene for a larger conflict to come in the next two episodes. If you are a fan of either The Walking Dead or Telltale games, A New Frontier is shaping up to be a great season, and I encourage you to try it out.