Reed Pake ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Back in 2012, Telltale Games released the first season of their hit series The Walking Dead to critical acclaim, reinvigorating the point-and-click adventure genre. Inspired by the comic book and television series of the same name, Telltale’s first two seasons of The Walking Dead impressed gamers with its emotional narrative that adapted to player choices. After years of refining their formula with other properties, Telltale has returned to the zombie apocalypse with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, treating fans with not one but two brand new episodes. However, does Telltale’s choose-your-own-adventure gameplay style still have life this go around or is their brand of interactive storytelling starting to show its cracks?
A New Frontier stars Javier Garcia, a down-on-his-luck former baseball player trying to keep the remaining members of his family safe from Walkers, or zombies in The Walking Dead‘s universe. Javi and his family are introduced in the most harrowing but riveting way possible, throwing players right into the action. This establishing scene allows for the player to quickly put themselves into Javi’s shoes and care for his family and what they’ve been through during the course of the zombie apocalypse. Series mainstay Clementine returns for this season to accompany, assist, and cause problems for Javi throughout the story. Hardened from player’s choices from the previous seasons, Clementine’s growth from a scared little girl to a true survivalist is satisfying to witness as a longtime player of the series.
The narrative that unfolds in the first two episodes of this new season are typical The Walking Dead fare. Players will have to escape zombie herds, fend off bandits, scavenge for food, establish positive or negative relationships with the ensemble cast, and decide their fates when situations grow dire. Although the story is trite with tropes from the previous seasons and typical zombie apocalypse clichés in general, the fresh band of likable protagonists help keep the player emotionally invested. The writing is sharp throughout with believable dialogue between characters and flashbacks that flesh out Javi and his companions. Telltale’s knack for humanizing characters is on full display here, making their inevitable demises gut-wrenching affairs.
The gameplay is nothing new if you have played a Telltale game before. Players will still be mashing button-prompts during quicktime events, exploring small environments for supplies, and sifting through dialogue trees. However, the main draw of these titles are the choices given to players to shape the narrative. Unfortunately, its kind of underwhelming here. Although exhilarating in 2012, Telltale’s illusion of player choice has grown thin by this iteration. The main story unfolds fairly similarly regardless of what decisions the player makes, with only minor alterations to dialogue or situations throughout the experience. Hopefully this will be addressed for the remaining three episodes.
Overall, this is a solid addition to The Walking Dead canon, if not a bit familiar. The direction the story is headed is intriguing thanks to the likable new protagonist and Clementine’s engaging character growth. Hopefully the next few episodes attempt to break the mold of the formula a bit more to keep this season fresh.