The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Ep 3: Above the Law Review
The final days of 2016 concluded with the beginning of Telltale’s latest chapter in their established Walking Dead series. The one that launched the indie developer into the mainstream, and as my very positive review of it explained, effectively carried the torch of Clementine into a new season of characters and heartbreaking adventure.
A New Frontier debuted with two episodes rather than one, building an introduction that grabbed everyone by the head and never let go. Its cliff-hanger was upsettingly effective, leaving me at the edge of my seat.
The bar episode 3 had to match was very high and it feels good to report that for the most part, episode 3’s ending is equally aggravating, as you’ll desperately want to continue. But after the debut, the story had revealed its tricks. The end of episode 2 had propelled the story in a direction that fascinated, but from here on out, is easier to predict its trajectory.
“These moments have their depth and purpose, it’s just less interesting from a gameplay perspective when you’re able to predict the beat of a scene.”
That’s why the best moments of episode 3 are the greyest. Their unpredictability and messiness keep you on the edge, meanwhile the story reveals feel less like a new puzzle piece, and instead, confirm information that we picked up on. These moments have their depth and purpose, it’s just less interesting from a gameplay perspective when you’re able to predict the beat of a scene.
As discussed previously, the gameplay here is unchanged from Telltale’s formula, so the context for each of the scenes – whether they’re dialogue based or focus combat and puzzle solving – is highly important in whether the mechanics are interesting or not.
Oddly enough, the most predictable moments involve Clementine, and the most unpredictable involve the player character and their family. It’s odd, considering Clementine was another layer of tension previously, and here, feels more relegated to the support role than ever before. There are also some storylines that feel abruptly forced in this episode where they previously felt like a choice. Specifically in the connection between your character and their sister-in-law that’s the subject of conversation throughout.
“The action scenes in particular benefit from some improved sound design.”
It’s here that we’re let in on the game’s greater plotline. While it sets up a world of conflict for our characters, the engagement comes from the peril it puts them in, rather than the situation itself. The politics and reasons given for it are rather simplistic and aren’t anything we haven’t seen in the post-apocalypse genre.
In terms of presentation, episode 3 maintains the bar set by the opening. Its voice-acting and dialogue is excellent and the pacing in conversations is of the best in Telltale’s history. The action scenes in particular benefit from some improved sound design. However, the music is rather forgettable and there’s some visual anomalies involving certain characters and locations.
Episode 3 is a bridge between this game’s first and second half. As a result, it’s almost inevitable that the storyline is going to spend time setting up events that won’t pan out until later and laying the final nail in the coffin for any absent details from earlier.
There are scenes here that feel placed out of obligation rather than necessity, and it’s what makes this episode a weaker installment than the debut. But A New Frontier still engages with its characters, world, and direction. The ending only leaves me wanting more and that’s what The Walking Dead is supposed to do.
***A PC code was provided by the publisher***
- Strong voice-acting
- Maintains presentation quality
- Leaves you wanting more
- Doesn’t surprise
- Uninteresting reveals
- Forced sideplot direction