What I really love about this two parter is the dynamic that is present between Javi and his family. You really get the sense that these people have been through some tough times together and have somehow managed to survive without turning into the not-so-nice groups of people that roam the land of the dead. Javi himself is a similar character type to Lee from Season 1, flawed but still a good man (if you choose to play him that way). Also, make no mistake, the game may advertise you playing as both Javi and Clementine, but the majority of these first two episodes is spent controlling Javi.
That is not a bad thing, however. The scenes where you do get to control Clementine act as sort of an “Arrow flashback sequence” where you are transported back in time to see what has happened to Clementine since making whatever decision you made at the end of Season 2. It’s a really cool way to catch the player up on what’s been going on with Clementine instead of just dumping her backstory on us through dialog.
Puzzles and quicktime event sections make their return once again, but Telltale has really seemed to nail down how to use these well. Puzzle solutions don’t feel as random as they did in previous entries. The answers are, typically, something you would think of while in that situation yourself and that is the best way to do these puzzles. Quicktime events have also become much more fun. Instead of cramming a crapload of button mashing sections like previous games, A New Frontier opts for more shooting sections with quick button presses for melee combat. These changes to combat really help make these sections genuinely fun to play.
Lastly, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier looks noticeably better, graphically, than its predecessors. Not only do character models look much more detailed and environments have better textures and effects but the game’s camera is also hugely improved. Not saying that camera in the original two mainline games was bad, but this time around, the camera almost feels like its framing an actual episode of The Walking Dead TV series. Coupling the improved camera work with the improved character models and environments makes The Walking Dead: A New Frontier a much more cinematic experience.
This may seem like an old argument for some but, given that this is my first Telltale Walking Dead review, I’m bringing it up here. The choices you make in these games are largely inconsequential. To illustrate my point, I have to spoil Telltale’s The Walking Dead Season 1 and some parts of Season 2. If you’re not cool with that….I honestly don’t know why you’re reading a review for the third installment but now is your chance to leave.
No matter what you do in Season 1, your group ends up Savannah, Georgia where Lee gets bitten and he dies. Ben dies no matter what. Kenny is left to an uncertain fate (only to show up alive in Season 2) no matter what. Clementine ends up with Christa and Omid regardless of what Lee tells her to do before he dies. The only real choice you are given in Season 1 is whether or not you want to leave Lee to turn into a walker or shoot him. That’s not narrative choice, that’s picking your poison. Season 2 largely ends up doing the same thing albeit you get a real choice as to where to take Clementine at the end of episode 5.
No spoilers here for New Frontier, of course, but I made sure to play through episodes 1 and 2 twice, having a different Clementine backstory and having Javi make different decisions for both. Once again, I felt Telltale’s “illusion of choice” system. Sure, certain decisions took me down a different path, but that path led to the same destination. Granted, these choices in A New Frontier could end up changing the narrative drastically down the road, but these first two episodes don’t instill much optimism for that.