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The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 5 Review

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 5 Review

The final episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is finally here, and it’s an action packed experience. Running around 90 minutes like most Telltale entries, Episode 5: From the Gallows wraps up the storyline in a satisfying manner while setting the stage for Clementine’s next adventure. This article will cover mainly Episode 5 and the series’ conclusion, without spoilers. You can read my review of previous episodes as well as in-depth look of the game itself here.

Like previous chapters, Episode 5 starts with a flashback. Dealing with Javi and Dave’s father a month before the apocalypse started, this brief glimpse of life before zombies doesn’t provide as much backstory as in previous episodes, but works as an emotional set up for the chapter about to come. Soon enough, we’re back where we left off on Episode 4, with Javi and Clementine surrounded by a horde. The game drops you right in the middle of the action, but manages to slowly ramp up the interactive cutscenes intensity to avoid swamping the player. It’s clear Telltale understands gameplay has a flow, just like storytelling does.

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They are a bit light on truly dramatic moments, though.

Episode 5’s plot packs way more punch than the previous two entries, as it needs to tie up the knots and close storylines. While the balance between action and talk is well achieved, the game does stumble on how hasty it is to wrap up loose ends: at the end of Episode 4, you have a choice of which of two characters should die. Roughly half an hour after this chapter begins, the one that didn’t die is unceremoniously killed off to write them off the story and avoid branching plotlines. It is a shameful execution that borders on the disgusting, as none of your companions react to the death of this person they clearly care about -- given how much thought and effort is put into every other emotional moment of A New Frontier’s run, it is despicably transparent how ignominious this attempt to reduce plotlines is.

That hastiness does permeate the rest of the chapter; all the relevant plot beats are solved in little over an hour, leaving the last 15 minutes to dally along with very little content. The nature of these last interactions prevent the game from dragging along, but just barely -- by the moment the sixth and final part of Episode 5 starts, it’s hard not to feel the story has run out of places to go.

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Because getting a haircut is always such an exciting endeavour.

Weirdly, some very important decisions and ideas that could have been touched upon are not. Javi and Richmond are left in an interesting position as the game ends, and the game doesn’t make it abundantly clear what may happen from now on. That’s a problem this season as a whole seems to struggle with -- at the credits I got a summary of my actions, and the descriptions expanded upon the context of my choices in a way the game’s writing and narrative just never managed to convey. Weirdly, the credit breakdown was at times more enlightening than experiencing the events first hand.

But From the Gallows is quite intense during said events, constantly intercalating conversation pieces with more interactive cutscenes. Javi stabs and shoots zombies, drives vehicles, runs around, and even gets to climb stuff, providing lots of engaging happenings. Even Jesus comes back for a short while, bringing along some Kingdom troops to help deal with the horde surrounding Richmond.

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Jesus even misunderstood what I meant and kinda hit on me. That was… awkward.

The final episode does stands out for properly acknowledging past actions and creating repercussions around it. Given how many companies consistently lie about offering you choices and meaningful branches, it was refreshing seeing how many things only happened to me because of my decisions in the past four chapters. I especially like a specific conversation option regarding the end of Episode 4, involving a hostage situation and a crazy power hungry dictator. I immediately saw through her ploy and acted accordingly, and I was pleasantly surprised that Episode 5 allowed me to briefly explain that to a character. It represents a marvellous awareness of the reasoning behind a player's judgement, and I am glad they acknowledge that with a conversation response.

Unfortunately, The Walking Dead also struggles with gameplay. The game can’t help to slow into a crawl due to the dated controls, making conversations weird and action sequences weirder. The strange overabundance of moments where you shoot a gun with a E or Q are only surpassed by the oddity of firing an AK-47 in full auto by pressing Shift+E. The game has very few sequences where you can shoot with your mouse like a sensible person, but it mostly wrestles control and agency away from the player via quicktime buttons, guaranteeing even dramatic accidents misses are always bound to happen. It’s cheap storytelling, and about time Telltale upped their game.

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And I’m still disappointed there isn’t a “backhanded bitch slap” button prompt anywhere.

Technically, A New Frontier is a mixed bag. The voice acting remains top notch, garnering all the praise, while the music is mostly good (except for the abhorrent “Previously on” track). Graphics were good, though the engine is bursting at the seams -- hordes were composed of a dozen zombies at most, and no single shot ever had more than half a dozen characters showing up at the screen at the same time. In an age where we can create huge beautiful maps like Just Cause or render thousands of high-res units in real-time like in Total War, it is unforgivable having just a handful characters on the screen, especially when they looks as ordinary as these do. Even worse, I had a huge amount of low-res textures and animation issues -- a woman once held the exact same expression through an entire conversation, not moving a single muscle of her face even when her arm was suddenly broken. It was off-putting, as we don’t expect the “big finale” to have a lower standard of quality than intervening episodes, but there you go.

In the end, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier was an enjoyable experience. With good writing, amazing voice acting, and serviceable graphics and gameplay -- but which are in a desperate need of revamping -- Telltale’s latest zombie tale delivers an emotional and engaging story. It has more than its share of flaws and annoying characters, but in an industry where good stories are so hard to be found, A New Frontier satisfyingly delivers.

7.50/10 7½

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

This game is good, with a few negatives.

An engaging yet flawed chapter satisfyingly closes off the season and sets the stage for Clementine's next adventure.

This game was supplied by the publisher or relevant PR company for the purposes of review
Marcello Perricone

Marcello Perricone

Staff Writer

Passionate, handsome, and just a tiny bit cocky, our resident Time Lord loves history, science, and all things that fall from the sky.

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