Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platforms: Xbox One (Reviewed), PlayStation 4, PC, iOS, Android
Release Date: Available Now
Price: $4.99 Part I Available Here, $4.99 Part II Available Here
Telltale Games was a well-known developer long before they stepped into the spotlight with their The Walking Dead series, but when the first season was released and fans followed the story of Lee and Clementine they were instantly hooked. Combining the fascination of player choice possibly mattering and a world that everyone was already invested in thanks to the hit television show, the series saw great success and even a second season following Clementine a year later.
Now three years have passed and Telltale Games has returned with a two-part debut to the third season of their story, this time called The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. Does this double entry to kick off the series do a successful job bringing fans back into the world of the undead? Let’s find out.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier begins as something a bit different as rather than following the story of Clementine directly, players are now primarily shown the story through the eyes of the brand new character, Javier Garcia. During the initial start of the game we see this former professional baseball player who has fallen from grace after gambling issues force his departure from the league return home only to find that his father has already passed away from an illness.
As one would expect, this death comes at the same time the zombie outbreak has just started kicking into gear and the dead father rises once again to the dismay and mauling of some of the family members. With Javier tasked with driving his brother’s second wife, two children, as well as another family member to the hospital the story jumps to a few years later where it is just Javier, his brother’s wife Kate, and her two stepchildren alone in a now renovated van that doubles as a shelter for the wayward family.
Outside of Javier and his thrown together group players will see that Clementine plays a fairly different role this time around. Since many players likely didn’t pick up the first two seasons again on the latest generation of consoles, Telltale Games offers players a chance to either start the game from scratch with a default Clementine as well as craft a Clementine based on their previous choices through a short questionnaire. This allows players to mold Clementine a bit by selecting various options that Lee would have made in the first season and she would have made in the second. This option also gives players some finality to certain aspects of the second season’s ending as flashbacks are the only time we actually get to play as Clementine so far in these two episodes. These flashbacks show us the results of Clementine’s traveling choice in what ultimately becomes a heart-wrenching event to longtime fans.
After coming into contact with a dangerous group and separating from his family, Javier finds himself saved by Clementine who initially sees him as a threat and then a source of a potential vehicle once he reunites with the rest of his family. As one would expect, things don’t go very smoothly for Clementine and Javier as not only does a shocking loss taking place among the group but we encounter the people who call themselves the New Frontier.
With poignant moments scattered throughout, players must keep on the move as they meet with another group who join them only to find themselves in increasingly dangerous situations that push even the best of the characters with them to their limits. With the two episodes serving as something of a re-introduction for longtime fans and possible starting point for those who have never played before, the two parts of Ties That Bind help bring most of the big players together quite quickly in an effort to help move things along in the future and through flashbacks and current interactions we are given some history with Javier and the rest of the family to help establish him as something more than a fresh face.
Although players are placed in the shoes of a new character this time around, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier plays in a similar fashion as past games in the series. There are moments that the player can explore the environment and examine various objects and talk to the other characters around them, fight against zombies or other people in quick time events, and of course make important seeming dialogue decisions.
Whether choices matter yet has yet to really been shown off as playing through the entry twice saw the same result more or less unfold with the story leaving off at the same cliffhanger. It is worth noting that the rare appearance of a dialogue choice description not matching what ends up actually being said does happen during the beginning of the second episode, turning what players might have ended up thinking would be a simple way to stand up for someone into revealing another character’s unspoken intentions that may end up playing a bigger role in the future.
Visuals & Audio
It is clear that Telltale Games made the right decision to give up supporting the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 versions of the game. While there are still entries being developed for smart phones, the company’s ability to focus most of their efforts into the latest generation of consoles is quite evident here. Not only did I experience none of the performance issues that are regularly found in past entries, but both episodes in this release have been given a much better presentation than what was previously on offer.
The art style still mimics the comic book nature that fans are familiar with but with smoother transitions and better action sequences. The character designs are presented in a better manner as well, though I did notice that more than a few zombies appeared to have the same designs repeated throughout both episodes. That being said players will be able to experience some life before the undead apocalypse and catching a glimpse of certain characters and objects before and after the outbreak creates a rather interesting feeling of lost innocence in many of the character’s cases.
The voice work for the returning Clementine is handled incredibly well as she comes across as one would expect, cautious and untrusting of the new group, while the new characters are handled impressively enough with the familiar face from the comics also appearing to look, and sound, like many would guess.
Telltale Games made the wise decision to kick off the third season of their version of The Walking Dead with a double episode. Not only would players have been left with an unsatisfactory cliffhanger from the first episode, but the one that they are left on after Ties that Bind Part II wraps up is not only shocking but will leave players questioning some of their actions so far. While Javier may not have the same personal connection with fans that Clementine does, their interactions with one another and Clementine’s nature with the rest of the cast allows us to quickly warm up to the new faces. Whether they will manage to stay alive through all of this is yet to be seen but The Walking Dead: A New Frontier safely establishes itself as a quick moving dramatic storyline that may be a bit too familiar at times but will leave fans eager to see what will happen next.