The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier Episode 1 on PC
It’s been over two years since players got their hands on the final chapter of Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead season 2. In that time, players have had to idly sit and wait to find out answers to some pretty huge questions. What happened to baby AJ? How is Clem going to cope on her own? And what lay in wait for her in the future? Thankfully, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier has finally released, bringing with it not one, but two episodes to kickstart the series.
A New Frontier aims to explore beyond just what it means to survive in a world swarming with the undead, and instead sees our characters confronting the new rules of order and justice that come with the last shreds of humanity’s efforts to survive. While episode one, titled Ties That Bind Part I, didn’t get too deep into this, it did help to set the scene and introduce all of the components for this theme to be truly explored in later episodes.
With many members of our band of survivors no longer with us, A New Frontier introduces a whole host of new characters to get things underway. We’re introduced to these characters in the form of a brief five-minute opening cinematic scene set during the initial outbreak of the virus. In this time, I’d already learned a lot about the new protagonist, Javier, and his relationships with the rest of his family. Most importantly, however, it showcased the high production level that A New Frontier is being made with.
Skipping forward a few years after the chaotic events of the opening cutscene, players assumed control of Javier, a guy who’s just trying to do right by his family in a world overrun with the undead. This family dynamic was prevalent in Ties That Bind Part I, with Javier, and his brother’s ex-wife, Kate, looking after her two step-children. Right from the beginning, Ties That Bind Part I instantly made your decisions feel like they carried more weight than in previous seasons. In this regard, Part I’s focus on family leads to many of your decisions tossing up the option of the right thing to do as a survivor, and what will keep everyone happy. Though that doesn’t mean A New Frontier’s options are clearly signposted on which is which.
Before long, Javier and his family will run into trouble, and after a series of incidents, a familiar face will show up. Clementine, now a young woman, is a changed character not just in her appearance. She’s matured as a survivalist and is no longer so quick to accept people as her allies. She’s strong and independent and knows how to handle herself. Yet, this hardened Clem never feels too distant from her roots back in season one. In fact, her whole introduction is the perfect blend of survivalist and dry teenage humor. Telltale’s development of Clementine feels like a natural evolution of the girl we’ve spent so long with out in the wild. Every so often, a small action, such as the way she takes down the undead with a swift kick to the back of the knee, will remind you this is the same girl you’ve been rolling with for 20+ hours already.
A New Frontier doesn’t immediately start out from where season two left off, though, and this means there are a number of questions – like the ones I mentioned before – that aren’t immediately answered. Instead, these are drip-fed to you through flashbacks throughout your adventure in A New Frontier. And oh boy, are they interesting. Not only do these give you the opportunity to take control of Clem rather than Javier, the few that I’ve experienced so far have been some of the most interesting and also hard-hitting moments. Though it’s worth noting that if you choose to import your save from previous seasons as I did, these flashbacks will change based on the decisions you made.
While Telltale’s Batman series had wrestled with some pacing issues from time to time, Ties That Bind Part I didn’t skip a beat. Even when things did slow down a little, it didn’t stay that way for long. In terms of an introductory episode, Ties That Bind Part I was one hell of a ride and managed to do a lot of the necessary character and world building in an action-packed manner. Unfortunately, thanks to its cliffhanger ending that had me sigh with relief that Part II released simultaneously, Ties That Bind Part I doesn’t clearly convey the direction that the series is going. Though, this isn’t an issue as much of this is cleared up in Part II.
As for performance and technical issues, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier’s premiere episode ran without a hitch throughout its hour and a half duration. In fact, the whole thing felt like it ran smooth as butter, with character movements feeling natural and silky, rather than the more robotic animations that we’ve seen in previous Telltale series.
Ties That Bind Part I was the perfect way for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier to start. It reintroduced us to grown-up Clementine, provided ample time for us to get to know Javier and the rest of his group, and gave us plenty of moments for us to decide what kind of a guy we wanted him to be. With an ending that made me want to jump straight back into the action in Ties That Bind Part II, I came away from this opening episode more engrossed in Telltale’s Walking Dead story than I ever have before. Good thing I didn’t have to wait to continue.
Score: 4.5/5 – Great
• A cast of characters I can’t wait to learn more about.
• Grown-up Clementine feels like a natural evolution of the character fans have come to know and love.
• Decisions have a more personal aspect to take into account.