TellTale’s The Walking Dead series is the pinnacle of interactive drama that first rose to critical acclaim with Season 1 of The Walking Dead. These games are based on the popular comic book series by Robert Kirkman and aside from the name, they don’t share much similarity to the popular TV Show of the same name.
The Walking Dead is one of the better known TellTale series and they have always used their trademark interactive gameplay with some solid story writing to create and develop characters that the players can emotionally relate to in the game. You begin each season with a new cast of characters and by the end of your journey, you will feel a sense of attachment to them that is hard to describe, but it has usually paid off well in the finale of the first two seasons. The start of Season 3 is completely different with the focus on a new main character, Javier. While Season 3 of The Walking Dead will feature some old cameos including Clementine, the majority of the story is presented from the point of view of the new character. It is his life and struggle that you witness and you also get to partner with a fan favorite character, Clementine.
The story begins with a flashback that explains the backstory of Javier and how he ended up in the zombie apocalypse with his family. The introduction is well written with strong cast of characters. You will learn that Javier has a rather sour relationship with his elder brother who soon turns out to be jealous of him because despite being the elder, Javier is the family favorite. This kind of relationship is explained well in the game and since the story is expanded in a flashback, it gives the developers a chance to give a glimpse of a normal life that is not dealing with a zombie apocalypse. The introduction goes through the start of the zombie apocalypse and thing suddenly take a turn for the worst as Javier barely manages to escape with his brother’s wife and kids.
The first episode deals with Javier’s relation with his sister-in-law and the kids as they try to survive in the grim and dark world full of mindless zombies. They struggle to live in a place for an extended amount of time because they kept getting chased by a zombie herd. This prompts them to always stay on road leading to a frustration among the kids who are tired of these long rides. The episode properly begins when the player takes control of Javier as they stop to stock up on some gas for the van. They stumble on a hideout of someone that appears to have a lot of useful food stock. Since the game offers multiple choices to approach each story scenario, you will be able to decide whether to stay there or just leave it altogether. Unfortunately as it was the case with any of the past TellTale games, some of these choices are meaningless leading to the same outcome. It usually changes the way the outcome is played and that’s just the gist of it.
Javier never comes across a strong character in the start. He has been away from his family for long so he seems to lack the compassion of keeping a family, and he appears to have a troubled relationship with some of his family members. The game makes a controversial move by trying to pitch a relationship between Javier and his sister-in-law Kate. While the story makes it clear that Kate is not happy with her current relationship, mostly due to her abusive husband, it never properly lays out the love that Kate shares with Javier. The story is continuously going back and forth with flashbacks, to establish the backstory and motifs of each character, however the relationship and love story between Javier and Kate often comes across as forced. I wasn’t huge fan of how they presented this relationship in the game, not to mention it lacks the emotional depth of a proper relationship. At one point, Javier reunites with Kate and the game suddenly gives us the option to kiss Kate. It was awkward since by that point, the relationship between both these characters is not fully established.
Clementine, who is perhaps the main draw of Season 3 and is back with a bang, literally, makes her heroic entrance right in the first episode. A New Frontier has a lot of flashbacks and the first two episodes in particular will use them to tell the story of both Javier and Clementine, to show what happened to her after the end of Season 2. Sadly her character is barely a reminiscent of her past and even if you have the choice to import your save from the previous two seasons, to attempt to establish a personality for Clementine, it never seemed to work for me so I just left it up to the game to determine her personality.
The Walking Dead Season 3 is being developed on a newer version of the TellTale engine and this is obvious with the visuals which now feature an improved lighting system. However it still suffers from the same glitches including random freezes, stutters during some of the action sequences and stiff animation. I was playing the game on PS4 and there was a moment where the game froze leading me to think that it had crashed, but it then proceeded to work as normal after a while. These bugs and glitches are not frequent but when they show up, they do spoil the experience.
The Walking Dead Season 3: A New Frontier is a clear sign that TellTale is attempting to learn from their mistakes and are trying to improve on their predecessors. However after playing these 3 seasons from The Walking Dead series, it is clear to me that the relation and story dynamic between Clementine and Lee has yet to be topped and I honestly doubt if it can be done. It was something special leading to one of the most tragic ending that I have seen in a video game. A New Frontier is a good effort in keeping up this narrative focus on characters, but it is clear that TellTale still has a long way to go.
The Walking Dead Season 3: A New Frontier Review (PS4)
Game Reviewed on: PS4
Game description: The Walking Dead: A New Frontier (also known as The Walking Dead: Season Three) is an episodic graphic adventure game based on Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead comic book series developed by Telltale Games.
The third season of The Walking Dead attempts to rejuvenate the formula established by the series by introducing a new cast of characters, and it does succeed with it. Although it is still held back by the same old stiff animations, technical issues and awkward camera transitions, that never let it reach its full potential.