Now we're in familiar territory. Either through generosity or other ulterior motives, Telltale released episode two bundled with episode one. This in itself was a wise decision on their part for a number of reasons. For one, it's just more bang for your buck, and two, Ties That Bind Parts 1 & 2 genuinely feel like one large episode cut in half. Plus not having a superior episode to play after a dull drag of an episode would not elicit hype for the next episode. Luckily for us, Ties That Bind Part 2 hits almost all the right nails on the head.
With Prescott overrun, the group, now consisting of Javi, Clementine, Eleanor, Kate, Conrad, and Gabe, have to travel to another settlement in hopes of finding a doctor for a wounded member. It's hard to explain, but this episode felt more like the previous seasons than the first episode did. Some characters do a complete 180 in personality to become likable, and others just keep getting worse. We also get the introduction of quite possibly the coolest character in the series since Kenny, Jesus (or Paul Monroe if you don't want to call him that).
There are strange changes that come out of nowhere. For instance, after an altercation that ends in murder, the character Tripp tells Javi and Clem to leave his town and never come back. Tripp is clearly angry and serious, but Javi and Clem do eventually come back and Tripp welcomes them with open arms. He even offers Javi an invitation to stay. From then on, Tripp becomes a good guy and reliable ally. Then his town gets overrun by the New Frontier. What is left of the group survive and escape. So clearly Tripp, the obviously capable leader, becomes the leader of the group, right? Wrong. He hands all reins of leadership onto Javi, a man he did not trust and possibly hated a couple of hours ago. While it is nice to see Tripp as a friend, this change did not make sense.
Some characters are growing, but not always in the right ways. Javi, for example, is becoming more likable, but only because you are tailoring him to your personality rather than him having his own. Lee and Clementine in seasons one and two had their own personalities, but exhibited some of your own through the choices you made. Javi, on the other hand, is essentially a blank slate to draw yourself onto. I have no doubts that he will be 100% likable at the end of the season, but only because he's 100% me. The opposite is happening for problem child Gabe. He's still whiny and complains about everything, but now he has a gun. It also seems that Gabe is going to be a potential love interest for Clementine. Clem clearly doesn't want to get attached to anyone, but do any of us? Honestly Clem, you can do much better.
Ties That Bind Part 2 also solidifies the problem with simplified dialogue choices. If you remember the "Glass Him" option in The Wolf Among Us, you know exactly what I'm talking about. The dialogue choice in the picture provided forced me to restart the episode twice because you don't know what each choice is going to make Javi say. "Tell him off" should be renamed "Destroy his entire marriage and family" and "Break down" should be changed to "Defend Kate and yourself, but in an incredibly insecure way." Thankfully this happened at the start of the episode so I only lost about 10 minutes of playtime having to restart. There have already been other players complaining about this one choice in particular, so hopefully we won't run into something similar again.
There was also a pretty serious issue with performance during one section of episode two. As you and your group escape from the now overrun Prescott, you come to a tunnel that has been blocked with cars. You have to get out and find a way to move the cars to press on. Sounds simple enough, but the area is a bit more open than usual. Stuttering is common in Telltale games, but this particular section was almost unplayable. Every 5 seconds or so, the game would stutter for a brief moment all the way to a complete stop and do this repeatedly until you finished moving the cars. A simple annoyance at first, but then walkers show up and you are forced to perform quick time events with the stuttering at full effect. I haven't ruled out that it may have just been my PC having issues with this part, but I've never had anything of this caliber occur with other Telltale games or even the first episode of the season.
All in all, Ties That Bind Part 2 was a much better return to form while also remaining fresh. For better or for worse, the cast of characters are becoming more human and more fleshed out. While I won't spoil this episode's crazy cliffhanger, it's definitely cheap, but I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me excited for episode three. After a bit of a rocky start, it seems A New Frontier is coming into its own and shaping into an enjoyable experience.