Following the dramatic conclusion to season two -where a possible seven endings could be achieved- many were curious as to how Telltale would incorporate every outcome into the latest series.
Sadly, the tortuous decision between Kenny and Jane simply didn’t matter. Clementine, ultimately, faces the epidemic alone. This is disappointing, borderline infuriating as the characters you fought so desperately to protect are cruelly snatched from you.
The developers feed us the same line every instalment: “This game series adapts to the choices you make. The story is tailored by how you play.” Clearly, that’s an exaggeration.
More on Clem later. The story’s lens shifts focus from the young survivor to a disgraced baseball player, Javier Garcia, and peers into the lives of his struggling family. For the first time since the series began, we’re transported back to the initial outbreak.
Javier (Javy) is a charismatic twentysomething-year-old and the black sheep of the family. In the opening scene, he receives a phone call from his brother and races towards the family home, where his father lays dying.
What ensues is a potent moral cocktail full of split-second decisions and heartbreak. A New Frontier tends to dissect its episodes into two preceding timelines, informing you through lengthy flashbacks regarding both Javy and Clem. In the previous seasons, you mostly spend your time forming familial relationships with strangers.
Here, however, you’re immediately dropped into the middle of a traditional family with pre-existing issues; hormonal teens (Gabe and Marianna), an exhausted stepmother who enjoys the occasional reefer (Kate), and the ‘cool uncle’ Javi. Although the history between the four is unclear, the tension and sadness that inhabits them are palpable.
Of course, the iconic Telltale decision wheel returns, along with a handful of rudimentary puzzles to solve. Though, the studio has thankfully refurbished its highly criticised quick-time-event system.
No longer are the button prompts clumsily planted on the screen; they are more dynamic and integrated into Javi’s surroundings or wrapped around a weapon intended for bludgeoning.
Another welcome return is everyone’s favourite ballcap-wearing heroine, Clementine. If you’re new to the franchise or have misplaced your saves, the game will ask you to construct a timeline regarding Clementine’s progress.
Depending on your answers, Clementine will react and behave in a particular way. She will either adopt the morals instilled in her by Lee, Kenny, Jane, Luke or a healthy balance of each character.
Moulding Clementine’s personality is nifty, but your loyalty to her may put Javi in some hairy situations. So, be careful when siding with the soft-spoken teen, because we all know you will. Why wouldn’t you? It’s Clem.
This new hardened and cynical Clementine, who now totes a combat shotgun, is no longer the unsullied moral centre of the Walking Dead universe.
While the Walking Dead continues with the graphic-novel style aesthetic, the game is not as tied to the comics as it once was. Cutscenes are cinematic and animated while characters move more freely.
Those awkward, almost robotic, animations have finally been erased. A New Frontier utilises the studio’s new engine and looks exceptionally well for it; exemplified in the scene where the Gracias are frantically wrestling with a walker.
Yet again, the unstoppable force that is Telltale Games has created an entertaining and harrowing chapter in the Walking Dead story.
The Ties That Bind pulls the series in a new direction with Javi and his family while employing the same moral dilemmas and heart-racing action from the previous games.
If you’re a fan of the franchise you’ve most likely played through both episodes and are itching for the next instalment. For newcomers, A New Frontier welcomes you, but it won’t have the same emotional impact.