It's been almost exactly 3 years since the first episode of The Walking Dead: Season 2, and ever since, fans have wanted more. So Telltale Games answered that call with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. Introducing new characters and bringing back old ones, A New Frontier serves more as an expanded narrative rather than a direct continuation of season 2. So is the first episode of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier any indication that this season has been well worth the wait?
Ties That Bind - Part 1 (episode one) begins with a surprisingly well executed prologue that introduces new characters just as the zombie outbreak has started. Shortly after, we jump forward several years after the initial outbreak with our new group. A simple task goes horribly wrong and the adventure begins. If you've played the previous seasons, there's nothing wildly different here. Since this is only the first episode, I'm not sure how much I can say before it becomes a spoiler so I'll leave it at, "It's your standard Walking Dead story."
There's been a shift in focus on this new season of The Walking Dead. We no longer get to play as Clementine. In fact, she's actually become a secondary character. This may be a disappointment or a breath of fresh air depending on how you look at it. I'd be indifferent on the matter if the new characters were even half as likable as the cast from the first two seasons. Sadly, this isn't the case.
After the aforementioned introduction, our new group is revealed: Javier, Kate, Gabe, Mariana, and eventually Clementine. Javier is so bland that it almost hurts, Kate only cares about herself. Gabe is a drama queen, and Mariana is the new innocent little girl we're supposed to care about. Clementine, on the other hand, is still a joy to be around. The natural progression of Clementine over the course of these three seasons felt natural and it's nice to see her finally adapt and accept the world she's forced to be in. While we do actually get to play as Clementine in very brief flashbacks, Javier is our new main playable character, and I can already tell that making it through each episode is going to be an absolute chore. It's common practice to have the playable character void of all personality so that the player can imprint themselves onto them, but considering Javier has a vivid backstory that the player experiences, he really should have had his own personality.
The natural response to those criticisms would be, "Well it's only the first episode. These characters might grow on you and become likable as we approach the end of the season." While that is true, it still hurts the overall narrative. In the first two seasons, the player knew who was likable and who wasn't in the very first episode. Those characters still would grow and become more or less likable as time went on. The problem with starting everybody off as unlikable just makes the player not care about anyone and have no desire to push on to the end, and that's where Clementine comes in. Perhaps it's just me, or maybe Telltale intended it this way, but Clementine is the only real reason I want to finish this season. She's just as, if not more, likable as she was in seasons one and two.
Seeing as how this is a modern point and click adventure, gameplay is the standard point and click fare. You walk around, hover your mouse cursor over an item or person, and click to interact. Quicktime events also make a return, but are a bit more in depth than they were in season 2. Although it still comes down to a variation of WASD and Q or E. If you are familiar with the combat in Telltale's Batman series, you'll see the similarities immediately.
Here's where the boring characters affect gameplay. Just like before, there are times where the action stops and you can walk around and talk to various characters that are in the area. The problem? Since the characters are so bland and uninspired, why would you want to talk to them? Giving them the time of day won't change your opinion about them. It just seems that the love and effort that went into the characters of the previous seasons is lost here. Now it seems like Telltale have adopted The Walking Dead show's formula of "little to nothing happening for the entire show then drop a crazy twist/cliffhanger at the very end so you'll have to tune into the next episode."
I know it may sound like I'm being overly harsh on The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, but overall, I actually did enjoy the first episode and look forward to the rest of the season. Perhaps the overly critical nature of this review is due to my love for The Walking Dead series, and Telltale games in general and how I don't want to see the series fizzle into mediocrity. Despite it all, I do recommend episode one of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier.