The fourth episode of Telltale Game’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier released earlier this week, and boy does it pack a punch. The new episode, titled Thicker Than Water, uses the enormous amount of information dumped on players during the last episode to emphasis some heavy-hitting choices and action sequences. Javier and the group join back up after being separated last episode and together plan on how to rescue Javier’s brother David then escape the New Frontier base in Richmond. Perhaps in an effort to project the meaning of the episode’s title, Thicker Than Water focuses on the relationship between Javier and David. The episode starts with a flashback from before the outbreak while the brothers are both coming off of very serious life-changing events. The two never seem to see eye-to-eye on things and there is a tension in most of their interactions thanks to that. During this segment, you can speak to David in a humble fashion and sympathize with his struggles, or you can handle the conversation less delicately and tell him to face the reality of how things are. I decided to be more direct with him since he and Javi never had a “beat around the bush” relationship. There is an interesting evolution in David’s character, and I think Telltale shared this moment from his past to help show that. Before the outbreak, David was quick to anger, acted less genuine, and was overall just an abrasive person. Now that a number of years has past, and he’s spent time dealing with situations of conflict (which he feels that he thrives in), David is more understanding and truly values the relationships in his life. This is really brought to light during a segment in the episode near the very end during his interaction with Ava. To mention more about that exchange and what was going on at the time would spoil one of the most intense moments of the season.
Perhaps the name Thicker Than Water refers to relationship of the entire group you are traveling with instead of just David. Javier and Kate’s relationship finally reaches the point that anyone playing the season knew would be coming eventually. You can choose to confess your feelings for Kate or tell her that you do not feel for her romantically. I picked the later for many reasons. One of those is that Kate (for anyone who has not been following the season) is David’s wife, and mother of his children, and I am not the kind of person who messes with that. I can understand the chemistry between the two, and if you were to tell me you think they are great together, I would believe you! Kate has felt trapped in her marriage and was pushed to the point where she did not truly love David thanks to his overall aggressive and dominating personality. When he never returned home during the events of the muerto outbreak, Kate counted it as a sort of blessing. Javier has been the one taking her and her children up to the point where A New Frontier starts off, so it’s understandable that they have gotten very close, and that they could have even become romantically involved.
In terms of the other members of the group, everyone has finally started to work really well together and they’ve let go of some of the issues that had happened in the past. Since this is the second to last episode in the season, however, Telltale uses the payoff of building a relationship with these people as a double-edged sword. That being said, without saying too much, you will loose members of your group to the events at the end of the episode. It just wouldn’t be a Telltale game if something major didn’t happen on the second to last episode of the season. Several events took me by surprise, while others were occurrences that you could predict coming but still brought a significant impact with them. While the ending was as much gut-wrenching as it was heart-breaking, I’m glad that the action level finally hit a point where you were forced to be invested in more than just Javier and Clementine. The shear amount of chaos and bloodshed that takes place in the episode could also be the merit for why the title Thicker than Water was chosen.
As for gameplay, there is still the same variety of quick-time segments where you put your cursor over the object you are interacting with then pressing the corresponding button. There are also a few more puzzle sections where you are confined to a certain area and given a number of things to interact with, which is something the previous episode only had one of. The starting puzzle is simple to figure out, but you have to look at a few unrelated objects to open up the options needed to correctly solve the puzzle. Previous seasons of The Walking Dead game had puzzles which could be solved without looking at every item. If you knew what you needed to do, it could be done without the extra steps. In A New Frontier, and in Thicker Than Water especially, it seems like Telltale has changed their approach to how they design puzzles, and I don’t honestly feel like it benefits the game very well. A lot of gamers suffer from a form of franchise fatigue with Telltale games thanks to how basic and repetitive actions within the game can get. With the tweaks to the puzzles which add way more steps than needed, and subsequently, adds an unnecessary amount of time to solve them, it’s definitely understandable why many gamers have opted to not play Telltale games. The biggest draw for me, personally, is the source material that Telltale pulls from. If you can’t justify playing a game that is repetitive for the sake of a good story, I can’t fault you.
If you are a gamer who loves story-heavy games and haven’t gotten tired of the point-and-click type gameplay that Telltale has used to carve their niche in gaming, the Walking Dead: A New Frontier is for you. Thicker Than Water does a fantastic job of using the information provided up to this point to make the choices and consequences in the episode impactful and shocking. Now, all that’s left to do is wait for the final episode of the season.