The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier premiere review
*This review is free of major plot spoilers*
Both parts of the “Ties That Bind” season premiere feel like a triumphant return to form for the TellTale Walking Dead series. The gameplay is largely the same but with increased polish, cutscenes feel more cinematic and the engine that supports all TellTale games has undergone series renovation.
Thankfully, the star of the show, the characters, are just as well written as what we’ve come to expect. While Clementine isn’t the playable character in “Ties That Bind” (and presumably the rest of the New Frontier season) she’s a crucial ally to the main protagonist, Javier.
Trust took center stage to the premiere’s story development. As Javier, the player is pushed to make decisions that will profoundly impact the remaining members of his family. If you make the wrong call, how a family member thinks of you might change, which could damage the relationship. As a protector, decisions of where to go and what rations the family needs fall directly on Javier. Even seemingly little choices like letting your niece steal pudding cups from a trailer feel like big moral dilemmas.
As mentioned, A New Frontier is the second TellTale series to use a newly renovated engine. Batman, which debuted in August, ushered in the improved engine, but it had some growing pains, which plagued the entire season. Thankfully, most of the kinks have been worked out because the framerate is much more stable (though not flawless) in both parts of “Ties That Bind.” Similarly, now that the engine is going for a more realistic angle and less like Batman’s comic book aesthetic, characters also look more lifelike. It’s an odd thing to notice, but I repeatedly was impressed by how good the skin and hair on characters looked compared to previous TellTale releases.
Combat seems to have been refined a bit in A New Frontier. Instead of seemingly random button presses, more often than not, controls seem more predictable. Gun use is still as wonky as ever; however, with the put the gun reticle in the moving circle mechanic feeling sloppy. Still, thanks to the beefier engine, all combat is more visceral and gritty. When spaced out as well as it is in both parts of “Ties That Bind,” combat is a literal and figurative blast.
More than before, it seems TellTale is using the passage of time to hide many character’s backstories. The developers don’t want players to know exactly what Clementine has been doing over the years, and even Javier’s past isn’t that clear. Of course, the past will be explored as the A New Frontier progresses, and there are a couple of Clementine flashbacks that show the ramifications of decisions made in season 1 and 2.
A New Frontier still has three more episodes this season, but so far, I’m sucked back into TellTale’s take on Walking Dead. With a willingness to break player’s hearts with engrossing storytelling and wonderful voice acting, I’m thrilled to be back amongst the Walkers (or Muertos, as Javier calls them).
As a two chapter intro, “Ties That Bind” perfectly marries new characters with the old while holding enough back to make each revelation a surprise. While I was initially let down by the decision to keep Clementine as a companion and not a playable character, Javier appears to have a deep backstory worth exploring.
The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier was reviewed on a Xbox One press copy courtesy of TellTale.
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