Technically sound and excellently written, Thicker than Water is the best episode of the season so far.
The penultimate episode of The Walking Dead – A New Frontier, ‘Thicker Than Water’, follows Javi and company’s troubles as the stakes are raised in this fantastic set up for what should be a thrilling finale.
‘Thicker Than Water’ explores the fallout of Joan’s actions in ‘Above the Law’, and sees Javi struggling to keep the group united whilst trying to save his imprisoned brother, David. Group revelations, conflicting interests and tough choices all take their toll on Javi throughout, leaving him in a challenging position come the episode’s explosive ending.
The episode opens, like the previous three, with a flashback, this time showing David and Javi spending time together at some point before the outbreak. Telltale’s use of these flashback sequences have not just been for the sake of it. Each one, whether it be Javi’s or Clementine’s, feels like it adds to the relationships between the characters. It fleshes out people we don’t really know too well, such as David and Kate, and gives them a past with Javi, which influences how players treat them later in the game.
The writing for ‘Thicker Than Water’ is excellent, with characters’ relationships being developed and tested throughout. After an awful lot of set up, the story is moving much more clearly towards its conclusion, which promises to be an exciting one. It’s great to see that Telltale have doubled down on quality writing and characters this season, whilst taking out the more unnecessary gameplay elements such as the lengthy “wandering around” sequences.
Telltale have also done a great job this season of planting story seeds hinting at what’s coming into play later on. Some of these subplots, such as Tripp’s “romance” with Eleanor, came to a head in ‘Thicker Than Water’ with unexpected consequences. The wrap-up of these subplots is rewarding as it keeps the episode interesting while the main storyline continues to ramp up.
Choices in this episode were very tough, with arguably three of the most important decisions of the season being present. This episode brought back the feature of having no timer for some decisions, clearly recognising that some players may have to think things over for a while. We are also treated to a couple of great action sequences. The quick-time events have gotten better with each episode, as gameplay still feels intense despite there being no real skill involved in it.
Most importantly, ‘Thicker Than Water’ runs well from a technical standpoint. There are almost no signs of the glitches that appeared in the previous three episodes, the only complaint being that on one or two occasions the frame rate slightly drops. But the episode looks great overall with the ending in particular being a spectacle in itself.
‘Thicker Than Water’ is by far the best episode of A New Frontier so far, with its tough decisions, well-written story and heart-pumping ending making it an excellent entry into what has been a consistently strong season.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Thicker Than Water is available digitally on PS4, Xbox One, PC, Android, iOS and Mac. (Reviewed here via the PS4).