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The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Episode 1 & 2 Review

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Episode 1 & 2 Review

The Walking Dead is Telltale’s staple franchise by now, having become if not the most famous, undoubtedly the most cherished. The original is even considered by many a seminal work and the magnum opus in the developer’s wide portfolio of established brands spin-offs. Fair enough; it laid the ground for a legacy of mechanically and stylistically similar games, but entirely different in terms of theme. That is, aside from The Walking Dead franchise, which not only carried over the same universe, but also the same overarching theme and characters, creating a chronologically sound universe. A New Frontier is the third season in the series, although not officially, as it’s not a continuation of the events in the past two seasons as much as it is an independent story to which Clementine is progressively weaved in. And a damn good one at that.

Telltale knows that Season 2 catered to veteran players who had already completed the first one, and that a third season would only curtail its target demographics. And thus, A New Frontier is largely a standalone title with recurring characters, but which requires no previous experience in zombie-fighting. If you are one of these players and have no notion of who Clementine is, your experience will most likely be very different from mine, as you´ll have a clean slate for her first appearance, with no predisposition towards her. This is one of the many challenges that Telltale presents in the game, becoming part of the meta game, in regards to the player’s knowledge and feelings, and not the character’s.

A New Frontier introduces Javier, a young Cuban-American ex-baseball player with a career cut short, as the protagonist of the game. Telltale’s mastery of storytelling comes to light in the first episode by involving the player in the story of Javi and his family, and seamlessly and swiftly construing each and one of them before the end of the first episode, making them feel almost like your own family. However, unlike in previous Telltale games, this one is being premiered with two episodes at once, which, according to the developers, helps direct the story towards a particular path that would have misguidedly been shadowed in the first episode by more shocking events. This way the first act of the story is finalized then, when introductions are superfluous and the upcoming challenges clearly looming ahead.

The core theme in every one of The Walking Dead games has always been family. Not the one given to us by blood, necessarily, but the one we forge through hardships and love. With this vision, which was also present in the comics and TV series, A New Frontier starts off before the outbreak, introducing Javi’s family as a tight-knit, diverse and contentious, to the point that his older brother David ends up sucker-punching Javi within minutes of arriving home. However, once shit hits the fan and people start eating each other, part of the family is separated, and Javi must act as a fatherly figure to his niece and nephew, Gabe and Mariana, and to his sister-in-law, Kate, who rarely shows any signs of grief towards her disappeared husband.

By the end of the first episode, A New Frontier, a berserk bandit group with little tolerance towards outsiders, has an unfortunate run-in with Javi’s humble clique, and they end up antagonizing each other. A couple of hours later and this spat is still ongoing, with each party going all out to destroy and avenge their losses. Javi’s luck leads him to Clementine, who is now an aloof and solitary survivor with a troubled story. In her late teens, there is a gap in the past few years where the veteran player wasn’t there to guide her in every action, so Clem’s personality and background is nuanced by events gradually shown to you through flashbacks.

A New Frontier’s narrative shines due to its lack of typical tropes and abundance of perfectly-timed plot twists and cliff-hangers that shake up what has already been established to the core. Telltale’s limited interactivity foreshadows just enough when it needs to, and introduces new characters and kills old ones when the player too cosy – some of them are clearly better than others; shout out to Tripp, a friendly-lumberjack-kind of character that stands out for being both dull and a convenient ally for tough spots. More importantly, even though the themes and structure of the game is rehashed from the old ones, A New Frontier polishes off the pacing and dialogue. Despite never feeling like an evolution of the prequels, this latest game definitely is a step up, creating different paths within the same story, adding weight to your ‘meaningful choices’.

Perhaps the greatest shortcoming is the game’s stubbornness to shove Javi’s family as the player’s raison d’etre, when it’s clear that Clementine is a much more relatable and less frustrating character. The classic Telltale trap of unavoidable events is still there, but by now you should know what you’re getting into. If judged by what it attempts to do, rather than by what some sceptic players want it to be, A New Frontier’s harrowing first episodes smoothen most rough edges found in other games in the series in terms of storytelling. It just about manages to shake off the notion of being a rehashed concept, and become a beast that can stand on its own two feet, built upon the foundations laid by Lee and Clementine. Hopefully the rest of the season manages to sustain this level of quality.

8.50/10 8½

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier (Reviewed on Windows)

This game is great, with minimal or no negatives.

Perhaps the greatest shortcoming is the game’s stubbornness to shove Javi’s family as the player’s raison d’etre, when it’s clear that Clementine is a much more relatable and less frustrating character. The classic Telltale trap of unavoidable events is still there, but by now you should know what you’re getting into. If judged by what it attempts to do, rather than by what some sceptic players want it to be, A New Frontier’s harrowing first episodes smoothen most rough edges found in other games in the series in terms of storytelling. It just about manages to shake off the notion of being a rehashed concept, and become a beast that can stand on its own two feet, built upon the foundations laid by Lee and Clementine. Hopefully the rest of the season manages to sustain this level of quality.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Borja Vilar Martos

Borja Vilar Martos

Staff Writer

Jammy since birth, not so much in videogames. I will rant if you let me. Cake, and grief counselling, will be offered at the conclusion of t

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