Though it pains me to say it, the newest effort from Telltale and The Walking Dead falls flat. If I was a bad writer I might even say it was dead on arrival, but I won’t stoop that low. Yet.
The previous Walking Dead installments have been great, but this title just feels like a rushed job to cash in on a successful franchise. Sometimes we don’t need sequels because sometimes games and movies are just fine as one off titles. I loved the first two installments of The Walking Dead, they gripped me and they were new and exciting and different. Unfortunately despite the title, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier just felt like a retread of old stories and tropes we’ve already experienced. Don’t get me wrong, I love Clementine but I feel like we’ve gone as far as we can with that character. She is absolutely a great character, but we’ve seen her grow from scared little girl to a capable strong teen, and I feel like her story is ultimately completed and I’m fine with leaving that character and that story for new stories and adventures. Because of this I was really anticipating this new season and its promise of new characters and settings, but the whole experience really failed to give me the same emotional connections I had felt in the past for the series.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier follows new character Javier Garcia as he tries to navigate the Muerto infested world with his sister in law Kate, niece Marianna, and nephew Gabe. Along the way the group reconnects with Javi’s estranged hotheaded brother David and a community that he is leading, where of course nothing is as it seems. I did like the new angle and I really enjoyed playing as somewhat clueless Javier, but I just felt like a lot of the choices and actions were too cookie cutter and obvious. Whereas previous Telltale games have really made you struggle to weigh the consequences of actions, this game just made it seem way too easy to choose between essentially siding with Kate, who has been with you through this hellscape for several years and you have a deep connection with, or siding with David, your loudmouthed fly off the handle brother that does nothing but tell Javier how worthless and selfish he is throughout the entire game. Clementine is also featured in the story but I felt like players previous affection for the character skewed how she should have actually been portrayed and dealt with in this new installment with Javier knowing nothing about her.
New characters seem very lazily fleshed out and made me long for Kenny from Season 1 and 2. Even though I hated that character, he at least made me feel something towards him. Even in the finale of New Frontier I could care less about major character deaths because I barely felt like anyone other than Kate, Clementine, Javier and new addition Jesus were fully realized characters. I didn’t feel any emotional weight to any choices regarding David and I almost felt in the last episode the writing was changing his character from brash hothead to a cartoonish supervillain to fully cement the choice of siding with Kate and Clementine on any and all decisions.
On the positive side of things I did really enjoy the new animated prompts that Telltale is using in their new engine, and the character designs looked great. I did enjoy Javier as a new character but I just don’t think they knew what they wanted to do with him. On the technical end of things I didn’t experience any frame rate drops, screen tears or stuttering. If you are a huge Walking Dead fan I would pick this up, but if not I would either give it a miss completely or pick it up on a sale. The ending bumper assured us that Clementines story will continue, but this might be the end of it for me.
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is available on PS4, Xbox, PC, and Mac.