Season one of Telltale’s The Walking Dead series caught the gaming world by surprise and was a genuine game of the year contender because of its compelling story and grueling decision making. Since their first big hit, Telltale’s been pumping out new adventure games, and the formula has gotten a little stale over the past few years. Even though season two of The Walking Dead had a lot to live up to, it didn’t have the same impact as its premiere season. Luckily, the third season, known as A New Frontier, mixes up the cast with some new characters and focuses on developing their stories in engaging ways that feels like a soft reset and a clean slate for the franchise.
A New Frontier splits up play time between two main characters, with most of each episode spent playing as Javier “Javi” Garcia, a new character for the series. Javier placed his personal fame above seeing his father one last time before he succumbed to cancer, which drives a rift between him and his hot-headed brother, David. Unfortunately for them, this happens right as the zombie outbreak occurs, which sees Javier, David’s wife, Kate, and his niece and nephew separated from David. Years pass, and Javier and David’s family are living in a van travelling to look for more supplies. Javier then comes into conflict with a group known as The New Frontier, who have been raiding camps and killing innocent people.
Introducing a brand new lead was a risky move, but it pays off huge for Telltale. Javier is likable, compelling, and, perhaps most importantly, he’s easy to root for. Telltale does a really good job of revealing a lot about Javier in quick but smart ways. They may only give you a glimpse into a part of Javier’s life at the beginning, but a flashback sequences are used to round out his character and give more context to where he came from without beating you over the head with it.
While Javier is new to the third season, the other playable character is series mainstay, Clementine, who becomes a part of Javier’s group and becomes an important key for Javier to fight back against The New Frontier. Clementine’s playable segments act as flashbacks bridging her story from season 2 to the present, and there’s one flashback per episode. Not only are these flashbacks a satisfying way to view choices made in previous seasons, they coincide with revealing more crucial information about current plot points from a different perspective.
The action this time around is a tad more straightforward, with quick time events being simpler and acting smoother than before. While there’s plenty of violent action scenes, there’s significantly more interactions with human characters and their intertwining motivations. Walkers pop up, but a significant amount of time is spent building up conflict and fleshing out relationships. Where season 2 jumped around at blistering speeds, season 3 slows down just a bit to allow more investment into each character, which makes every decision mean just that much more. It’s so much easier to care about this season’s cast, and few characters feel underutilized.
Not every plot point works, however. While the first three episodes have great momentum and build up the main conflict; the final two episodes fumble the climax, and certain outcomes within the story can feel unwarranted and out of the blue to add twists that don’t feel like they belong. Without giving too much away, there’s a twist in the fourth episode’s end that sees a character act completely differently than what they’ve acted all season, and it sets up a tough decision that feels like an unlikely bridge just to have that “only one can live” choice to end the episode. It’s strange, because most of the season’s big decisions feel warranted, and the build to each feels natural, but this one instance in episode four, as well as a few more in the fifth and final episode, feel like convenient threads to push conflict between two characters where it didn’t seem logical before.
This review is based on the PC version, and I had little trouble with any frame rate drops or stuttering, though it’s still found here and there. Most of this comes in the “Previously on…” segments when it loads up your choices from past episodes, but I did experience some stalling between segments, though that isn’t too unfamiliar with those who have played any other Telltale series. I also had a few bugs where deceased characters would randomly be walking around during scenes where they would have been if they had lived in my playthrough. It’s goofy and not too common, but it’s worth mentioning.
After an uneven season two, Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier reshuffles the board with an engaging new main character, and some shocking turns that made playing the next episode an absolute must, which wasn’t the case for many of Telltale’s recent offerings. The extra time spent showing where characters come from and giving enough time for exposition helps the emotionally charged moments feel meaningful – and sometimes grueling. Not every plot line works, and the season loses a bit of steam in the final two episodes, but this is Telltale returning to the magic they found in the first season of The Walking Dead, and the future of the series that put Telltale on the map looks brighter than ever.
This Review is based on a review copy of the PC version of The Walking Dead – A New Frontier by Telltale Games. Review copy provided by Telltale Games.
- Great new cast
- Less QTE, more story
- Fantastic build
- Climax loses momentum
- Minor bugs