The Walking Dead: A New Frontier (EP 1-3) Review – More Telltale
Platforms: PC (reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, Android, iOS
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release: 20th December 2016 (Episode 1/2)
Price: 22.99 (PC) / 24.99 (PS4, Xbox One)
Review Key provided by Telltale Games
The Walking Dead was Telltale´s entry in the episodic games market, it´s most successfull series and its flagship series. After a good yet disappointing 2nd season Telltale tries to surpass the original once again but can they succeed?
Unlike season two, which let you experience the story of Clementine´s view, The Walking Dead´s 3rd season puts you in the shoes of Javier, a stereotypical family dad, who just wants to survive. Yet nothing in a zombie apocalypse is that easy, soon after they found an old junkyard Javi finds himself in a storm of events, sperating him from his family. Soon after he meets our beloved female protagonist from the previous games, Clementine. Quickly a bond is formed and so the search for Javi´s family begins.
What seemed like a pretty boring story concept at the beginning of episode 1 quickly evolves into one of the best story set-ups Telltale ever wrote so far. Especially the cruel and honest way episode 1 presents its main story twist surprised and amazed me. However, this truly amazing set-up, that could result into a bloody fight for survival, slowly looses its “bite” during the following 2 episodes. Instead of surpassing its first episode, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier couldn´t surprise me at any point, as much as in episode 1. On one hand it wants to deliver an emotional story, that sometimes has a bit too much similarities to the first season for my taste, due to the similar characters and their personalities and the overall story. The characters are still great, both, great written and with likeable personalities and developments, the thing is, the overall story just feels so similar to the things Telltale previously did. Compared to episode 1, which could offer something more unique, it´s sad to see such a development.
On the other hand The Walking Dead: A New Frontier and its story suffers from the main complaint I have for all Telltale series’, they don´t let you decide the story. On every corner of the game Telltale tries to let you think, your decisions actually matter to the world and its story, unfortunately that´s nothing more than an illusion. Like all of their series every episode has ~2-3 moments, where your decisions influence more than the conversation itself and even then, they only decide the outcome of the next 10 minutes. For example, if you land in prison or not, from where you escape or get freed 5 minutes after. The problem is, that I can´t really begin to care about the decisions, they don´t do much anyways. For me, this straight and streamlined story telling combined with a story and characters that wants you to believe, your actions matter, never really worked and they don´t work here either and I doubt it will change in the next 2 episodes.
Another promising thing about The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, its more action-packed and intense approach, also gets cut down by common Telltale series limitations. Since years all series basically run on the same engine, which gets some upgrades from time to time, leading to a very outdated technical base. I really love the artistic vision behind everything, yet it gets pushed down year by year by mushy textures, lackluster effects and most importantly stiff character animations. Especially the 3rd season needed smooth and good animations to present its action, which plays a big role except in episode 3, properly and give it the tension it deserved. Sadly, this isn´t the case, leading to some very rough and stiff looking close quarter combat, that just looks old, taking away a big chunk of its tension.
Gameplay-wise Telltale didn´t change much either here, so don´t expect anything revolutionary. You will still watch long cinematics, interrupted by too easy Quick Time Events and exploration areas. You will still be bored sometimes and still be unchallenged. However, it still works, is still one of the best ways to implement Gameplay for such a game and is still fun. Honestly, it would help a lot if the QTE were harder and the exploration areas more challenging but it worked years ago and still works today.
The first 3 episodes of the The Walking Dead: A New Frontier can basically be summed up in 1 word: Telltale. On one hand, it offers a great story with amazing characters and memorable moments. On the other hand it feels like I´ve seen most of it before, be it in previous seasons or series, be it the Gameplay or be it the graphics.
Objectively it´s a great series, that everyone should check out. Subjectively it´s the same (quality) we know and love from Telltale and slowly but steady I get tired of their base system and wish that Telltale renews their formula to our time and finally fixes the problems their series suffer from, since years. Let´s see what the future episodes and series bring.