The Walking Dead: A New Frontier retains much of the charm of its previous two Telltale Games installments with a new cast and over the top action.
As much as I liked The Walking Dead: Season 2, it didn’t quite grab me as much as its predecessor. Some of that had to do with the return of Kenny, a favorite from Season 1, who immediately snatched the spotlight from the new characters. The new additions rarely resonated and felt like so much cannon fodder doomed to die. And as the game played out, maintaining my loyalty to Kenny paid off.
To avoid a similar issue with A New Frontier, players control Javier Garcia (voiced by Jeff Schine), a disgraced former baseball player trying to keep his brother David’s (Alex Hernandez) family safe. Years after the initial outbreak, he’s working along his sister-in-law Kate (Shelley Shenoy) and his niece and nephew Mariana and Gabe to survive.
I appreciate Telltale Games’ willingness to spotlight other minorities. Character heritage isn’t a big factor in the game, but it’s nice to play games where the minorities aren’t token characters and the first ones killed.
Not long into the game players encounter Clementine (Melissa Hutchison), which is a bit of a surprise since she was not alone last time we saw her. Season 2 ended with Clem choosing between Kenny or Jane and them riding off with baby AJ.
If players lost their data from Season 2, Telltale implemented a pre-game sequence to re-establish their choices. What happened to Clementine since Season 2 is one of the core subplots that takes place throughout the various episodes.
Clem is handled like a true supporting character who comes in and out of the story. Javier is the main character and the choices you make have major consequences on the story. The script featured a tricky subplot involving the option to make Javier romantically involved with Kate. I chose that direction on the first playthrough, which led to a few awkward moments that had me second guessing my choice.
As usual, A New Frontier features some great characters who act in a realistic manner…for the most part. My favorite new addition was Tripp, the well-meaning and occasionally gruff leader of the Prescott community. Comic book and show character Jesus also makes an appearance for an extended cameo.
For the most part, players have the freedom to make decisions that branch out new story paths. I didn’t feel the story ‘ripping’ control from me regardless of my choice until Episode 4. The choices aren’t always clear based on the dialogue options.
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In some cases, the options fail to convey the proper emotions leading to some harsh statements that ruffle established alliances. Replay value should be high for at least a second playthrough to see what would happen if you made different choices. In at least one instance, players have to choose between two characters to save.
I’m not sure if it was a combination of being invested in the story or if some episodes were short, but A New Frontier felt quick. The previous seasons had enough length to settle in and spend a couple of hours playing. A New Frontier episodes typically wrapped within 90 minutes. On one hand, the shorter episodes eliminate dead time, but there’s not enough opportunities to invest in the characters before the next explosive quick timed event.
Graphically, A New Frontier looks better than its predecessors. The signature Telltale Games’ shading technique has improved to the point where small details like freckles show up. There’s the random pop up or glitch, but the graphic engine holds up well.
While it’s not nearly as shocking or emotional as the first installment, A New Frontier takes some necessary narrative risks and puts control back in the players’ hands resulting in another engaging gaming experience.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10
Photo Credit: Telltale Games