The Walking Dead: A New Frontier “Ties That Bind” review for PC, PS4, Xbox One

Platform: PC
Also On: PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: No

Has it really been more than two years since we last saw Clementine? I guess it’s the prolific output of developer Telltale Games that makes the wait feel lessened, but the last chapter of the second season for Telltale’s The Walking Dead hit the digital world in August of 2014. Thankfully, Telltale has a couple of twists and turns in store for Walking Dead fans, yanking control from Clementine to new character Javier, while slowly filling in the gaps between the events of season two and three, now dubbed “A New Frontier”.

The focus of attention away from Clementine isn’t too severe, but her involvement in the first two chapters of The New Frontier make her feel like an additional cast member as opposed to the central protagonist. It’s definitely a change, but one that I’ve enjoyed so far. While I’d hesitate to say that any character suffers from “plot armor”, keeping direct control mostly away from Clementine certainly makes the game feel like more possibilities are open now. There’s even a couple of decision-making instances in the game that imply Clementine has taken on a much harsher view of her current setting, which in turn makes her a little less sympathetic than she was in season two.

Control over Clementine’s actions isn’t completely gone. There are a few flashback sequences that give an indication of Clementine and baby A.J.’s fate post-season two. One sequence in particular was remarkably sad and depressing, in true Walking Dead fashion. There’s still a lot left to unveil, but I enjoy the direction the game seems to be headed in so far.

As far as that new cast goes, I’ve found Javier to be a likable new addition to the cast, one that fits the protagonist role quite well. He doesn’t have a severe edge, and up to the events of episode one he seems to have things under pretty good control for his small band of family members. Of course that all goes sideways pretty quickly, which in turn pairs Javier with Clementine in a quest to save his small band of people. In addition to Javier we’re also introduced to a handful of new characters via a small, makeshift town. These additions all seem solid, and you can see the potential for future problems boiling underneath the personality of everyone involved.

From the gameplay side, this is still the standard Telltale experience. You’re primarily focused on making decisions at various points in conversations, which in turn impacts the attitudes of the other characters around you. There’s a handful of spaces to explore with limited options, a couple items to pick up for interaction purposes, and a few combat sequences that require quick button presses or some slight aiming. All in all, if you’ve played a Telltale game, you’ll know what to expect here.

As far as performance, playing via Steam I thought The Walking Dead: A New Frontier ran fairly well, and looked pretty good. Considering some of the choppy issues I had with various episodes in season two, this is definitely a step up there. I didn’t encounter any noticeable bugs, and carrying over my save file worked flawlessly on PC.

Speaking of, there’s a pretty decent system built in to build your own save file if you no longer have access to it, or if you’re just now joining the series. You can essentially pick from a variety of key points in the story if you want, crafting a tale that would mimic your previous playthroughs, while at the same time getting you up to speed if you’re having a hard time remembering all the events of the prior game. This isn’t necessarily a new concept, but I thought it was handled well here.

I’m definitely on board for another season of Walking Dead from Telltale, and I think you will be to. These two episodes start off strong, the new cast additions seem solid, and I’m excited to see where this entry takes Clementine. There’s enough built into these early episodes of A New Frontier to keep you coming back for more, and hopefully we won’t have to wait too long to see how things pan out for Javier and crew.

Grade: A