Bad Blood – “Above the Law” Review

The third episode in season 3 of TellTale’s Walking Dead might not have the same momentum as the premiere, but great characters and storytelling carry the weight.

Check out Bear Claw Gaming’s review of Episode 1 & 2.

After more than three months, Episode 3, Above the Law, is now available on all platforms. While it’s great to step back into the beat-out shoes of Clementine and Javier after all this time, this episode mostly feels like the developer is laying groundwork for what’s to come. While what’s coming seems to be great, the credits rolled without a lot of big changes to the narrative.

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Because episode 4 and 5 appear to be all about rising action and climax, the plateau of Above the Law means lots of dialogue, a few narrative options and very little action. In fact, in the hour and a half run time, I felt like there was probably under 10 minutes where I was in direct control of where Clementine or Javier was walking. This isn’t a bad thing per se, but those who enjoy the franchise for quick-time event action sequences might find the episode a little slow. Still, what action there is as brutal and satisfying as ever with decapitations, crushed skulls and other grisly acts.

Above the Law really shines through its character interaction and dynamic writing. Top-notch narrative is pretty much synonymous with TellTale, but the complex relationships that bind characters together are engaging. In particular, David and Javier’s troubled relationship can be rebuilt or further divided in Above the Law and the raw emotion brought to scenes by voice actors Alex Hernandez and Jeff Schine is phenomenal.

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More than anything, the first three episodes of season 3 have shown TellTale’s writing has matured. The story unfolding pushes the player to make big decisions about morality, loyalty and what makes a family. At the beginning of the franchise, it felt like morality was black or white, but with new shades of gray added to the mix, Above the Law made decision-making harder than ever.

One thing TellTale hasn’t totally revealed just yet is exactly what Clementine’s been doing between the seasons, but they’re slowly drawing back the curtains through flashbacks. Completely void of childhood innocence, Clem’s new no-bullshit attitude is as heartbreaking as it is badass. Simply put, she’s not the same girl she was before.
Although the time between episodes was far too long, it seems TellTale managed to put a little more polish in Above the Law, and performance is much more reliable than the first two episodes were at launch. Almost every game in TellTale’s engine has struggled with maintaining a steady framerate, so it’s good to see the developer working to right what’s been wrong for so long. The only performance issues I noticed were minor lip-sync issues that popped up from time-to-time.

The Verdict

Above the Law, running at around an hour and a half, feels like it ends just as things begin ramping up. While there’s a lot less overarching narrative movement than I’d have liked, character development monopolizes episode 3’s run-time and is delivered well. Those coming to the game looking to fight zombies might be underwhelmed by Above the Law’s offering as action sequences are used sparingly.

With TellTale’s newfound focus on creating realistic, multifaceted characters that are driven by different motives, it’s harder than ever to take sides. Above the Law is the building ground for season 3’s final two episodes. There are moments where the episode crawls, but once the developer reveals where the story’s going, it’s difficult to be anything other than excited.

4:5

The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier was reviewed on a Xbox One press copy courtesy of TellTale.

Interested in Bear Claw Gaming’s review process? Check out the official scoring FAQ!

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