Review: THE WALKING DEAD: A NEW FRONTIER (2016)

When family is all you have left, how far will you go to protect it?

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The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is an episodic point-and-click adventure role-playing video game developed by Telltale Games, based on the comic book series by Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard. Initially billed as the third season in Telltale’s The Walking Dead series, the game is more of an interlude, serving both as a standalone story arc, yet setting the stage for the eventual sequel to Season Two.

Is It Worth?

Okay, let’s address the elephant in the room. I’m writing this in 2020. Telltale Games hasn’t been around for almost two years now. The curtain has been peeled away, the behind the scenes stuff is out there. Why now? I’ll be honest with you, one of the reasons I played this game (and the next) was because I wanted to see Clem’s story through.

If you never play any Telltale Games henceforth because you would rather not engage in any form with a company that treats its employees like that, well, I hear you. If you play the game because that is, ultimately, the only way to support the developers who worked those brutal hours for this, I hear you too. In quite the Telltale fashion, the choice is yours.

A little about the Gameplay

The game follows Javier “Javi” Garcia, a disgraced former baseball player who must navigate a world turned upside down post the walker outbreak to keep his family safe. He meets Clementine, our series protagonist, at the end of a really bad day where he runs into what I can only describe as a community run as a militant regime. Family is the central theme of the game, with the writing trying to explore one dysfunctional relationship after the other, and how our idiosyncrasies and feelings shape them. While the series has, undoubtedly, lost its emotional punch, this time around the stakes do feel a little higher, the repercussions do eddy out to beyond just your group.

If you’re familiar with the Telltale formula, you already know how the game plays out. Just point and click, man.

The Good

1: At Games Rewired, we have reviewed a considerable amount of Telltale Games. And, if you have paid attention, you might have noticed how I seem to have trouble writing about the gameplay at every iteration. Let me come clean. I do. It feels like I’m writing about the same thing, but every time hoping I’ll magically come up with some new interesting way to describe it. I fail spectacularly every time. The truth is, Telltale’s formula is getting stale. There’s no easy way of putting it. So why is this part in “The Good” section? Well, I tried to “spice things up” this time around by playing with a controller instead of with a mouse and a keyboard. To my surprise, the game worked pretty seamlessly with a controller as well. This shouldn’t come across as that big of surprise, I get it. Telltale has put nearly all their big releases on consoles, so the mechanism to support controllers has always been there. It’s just that coming in as mouse and keyboard guy, I expect some trouble, maybe not on the scale of playing an FPS on console after you’ve PC-gamed it your whole life but something along those lines, and was pleasantly surprised when I had zero issues.

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The Bad

1: Like I mentioned earlier, the Telltale formula is getting stale. That is not helped any further by the fact that their technology hasn’t aged well at all. When characters try to be expressive, they make these weird constipated faces that pull you away from the story instantly. When you’re left free to move the character around, the animation feels… puppetry, for the lack of a better word. While it seems like Telltale did get a little creative with the visuals (I noticed a considerable amount of “handheld” camera movements during my gameplay), in the end they are just not enough to come across as something fresh.

2: I experienced quite a lot of glitches during my play – from frame drops to rendering issues to magically teleporting objects. (Perhaps I misheard, but I swear at one point one of the dialogue spoken by Javi was not performed by the designated voice actor…?)

The Walking Dead - A New Frontier

3: The pacing feels rushed. In a game such as this, where this time around you have reduced interactions and the exploration bits to hardly any that are of consequence, how you set the story up and how you execute it becomes paramount. The Walking Dead: A New Frontier stumbles on that crucial aspect, unfortunately. The game introduces all the right ingredients in the form of a large set of (interesting) characters, stirs them around in tense situations that would ultimately test who they really are, but rarely gives the plot beats enough time to simmer. For example, the game sets the ‘maybe they are, maybe they are not’ relationship between Tripp and Eleanor, and just when it seems like perhaps it will try to use that relationship to comment on the relationship between Javi and Kate… nothing happens. We gotta rush towards the conclusion of this story, guys.

Conclusion

While The Walking Dead: A New Frontier tries to follow the steps of its predecessors by checking all the right stuff on the list of what makes a Telltale Walking Dead game, ultimately, it ends up doing that and that alone.

You may also like:

Review: THE WALKING DEAD (2012)

Review: THE WALKING DEAD DLC (2012): 400 DAYS

Review: THE WALKING DEAD: SEASON TWO (2014)

Review: THE WOLF AMONG US (2014)

Review: BATMAN: THE TELLTALE SERIES (2016)

Review: BATMAN: THE ENEMY WITHIN – THE TELLTALE SERIES (2017)

About Amandeep Singh Virdi

My name is Amandeep Singh Virdi and I love video games among other things that include comics, films, music, and pro wrestling. Follow me @thatvirdiguy on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, whatever.
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