Review: Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier (Episodes 1 & 2)

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80%
80
Great

Two fast paced, entertaining episodes to kick off what promises to be another quality season.

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After a near two-and-a-half-year wait, Telltale’s The Walking Dead is finally back. The return of the studio’s most popular IP sees the addition of a horde of new characters, the welcome return of familiar faces, and a whole load more zombies. This double episode premiere, entitled ‘The Ties That Bind’, gets the season off to a solid start.

This season’s story starts with new character Javier, voiced by Jeff Schine, surviving with the remainder of his family long after the outbreak. After running into some trouble, Javier finds himself stranded, until he runs into returning fan favourite, Clementine. From this point we see a team up between Javi and Clem as they look to reunite with Javi’s family, whilst also facing the mysterious group known as ‘The New Frontier’.

Telltale’s choice to move the focus away from initial protagonist Clementine initially came as disappointing news to some. Thankfully though, Javi is a likeable, engaging, complex character whose story is interesting and new. The incredibly tense opening sequence of Episode 1 sets up Javi’s family dynamic in an excellent way and is a great gateway for getting to know our new lead. Clementine returns to the series a more matured character from Season 2, and whilst A New Frontier acts as an entry point for new players, it is rewarding for returning fans to see their choices carried over into Clem’s new story. The side characters are also well written, particularly when it comes to Javi’s family, who will no doubt play a bigger role in the episodes to come.

In terms of Telltale’s hallmark feature of making choices to change the game, A New Frontier’s first two episodes are filled with some incredibly difficult decisions that dramatically affect your overall experience. Hopefully this will continue throughout the season, as comparing choices with other players and feeling like your story is unique is part of what makes the Telltale games so fun.

In terms of gameplay, The Walking Dead continues the trend of previous Telltale titles. Button prompts appear for dialogue choices that take up the majority of gameplay. Other times you will be walking around small open areas, investigating and interacting with the environment to progress through the story. Telltale have improved season upon season in shortening these sequences so that, whilst they’re not the most entertaining, they do not last that long. There is also the return of quick-time events, where button prompts will appear during action sequences under tight time constraints. These involve the face buttons as well as the analogue sticks and whilst not the hardest sequences, the timing element does add a sense of urgency to the gameplay.

This is by far one of the best looking Telltale games. The studio’s updated game engine, previously used for Autumn’s Batman series, allows for more detailed character models and environments as well as larger exploration spaces. This added detail is a significant improvement over season two, but after such a long time on the previous version of the engine, this was to be expected. Despite this, the game does not run as well as it should; an unfortunate trend in Telltale’s many franchises. The game has particular points at which it will freeze and skip dialogue, the latter happening far too frequently. Although the game’s overall look and feel has improved, its performance issues are something that Telltale must address soon.

Coming in at just under an hour and ten minutes each, both episodes feel much shorter than those of seasons past. Luckily though, this shorter length does not sacrifice quality as both episodes pack a large punch in terms of story. The cliffhanger ending for Episode 2 in particular will leave players itching for the third.

Overall, A New Frontier’s first two episodes successfully set up what looks to be another excellent season of The Walking Dead. Assuming Telltale can address the current technical issues, we should be in for something special.

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Episodes 1 and 2 are available digitally and through retail now, Episode 3 will be available sometime this March, all are available on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Android, iOS and Mac.

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