Telltale Games, as a development studio, has truly become masters of storytelling throughout the years. With their episodic releases of The Walking Dead, Tales from the Borderlands, Batman: The Telltale Series, and The Wolf Among Us (just to name their greatest achievements out of their vast catalog of games), the stories just seem to get better and better. One of the aspects I enjoyed most with Batman: The Telltale Series was the original story that was being told in that universe. After playing through the first two episodes of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, aptly named Ties That Bind, I’m already hooked and cannot wait for the third episode to release in order to see where the story continues to go. Read on for our full review of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Ties That Bind.
Title: The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Ties That Bind
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Available On: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC, Mobile
Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Release Date: December 20, 2016
Copy provided by the Publisher for the sake of this review
A concern that I had going into this opening was how Telltale was going to handle playing as an entirely new cast of characters, and how Clementine would be worked into the story and setting of A New Frontier. Needless to say, after about thirty minutes in, my fears were squashed and I already found myself rooting for this family I had just met. You can also shape the world however you see fit, thanks to a story generator that you can choose to do before starting the game.
A New Frontier introduces us to Javier Garcia, and the struggles he and the remaining members of his family endure after the world has been completely overrun by the Muertas (the dead in Spanish, which is just another term for the zombies/Walkers all over the place). The opening sequence, which is brilliantly paced and just does a great job setting the tone for the third season, shows Javi (his preferred nickname) speeding back to his family house because of an emergency. He arrives a little too late, and finds out this his father his passed away.
We then start seeing the dysfunctions almost every family faces, as his brother David stands up and punches him in the face, knocking Javi to the ground. Other members of the family are quickly introduced to the player, Gabe (his nephew), Mariana (his niece), and Kate (his brother’s wife). Those three, along with Javier, end up being the survivors when everything goes haywire, and it’s that group you’ll find yourself rooting for.
Not everything is always happy-go-lucky, and Telltale captures that dysfunctional family aspect perfectly with the Garcia’s. Depending on choices the player makes, Kate and Javi can end up romantically involved (including in a flashback scene before all of this even takes place, which was a nice touch), and of course Gabe is the typical moody teenager and Mariana is the shy and quiet type. Because this group of survivors were already a family before the zombie outbreak, their interactions with one another feel a lot more genuine, and you can definitely gauge their true feelings toward each other.
Speaking of the flashback scene above, this is one of the better aspects that Telltale Games has implemented this time around. Every so often, there will be throwback scenes to explain to players what transpired with the Garcia’s before the outbreak, or what Clementine was up to in between Season Two and Season Three with baby AJ. You’ll even get the ability to make certain decisions that will help shape things in the present day.
The underlying plot so far in A New Frontier works well enough to keep the player interested and engaged, as well as to continue driving the story forward. It’s hard to go into it in greater details just because we’re already treading the line of spoiler content, but the game kept me pleasantly surprised throughout the first two episodes, and made it hard to set the controller down for even a few minutes without wondering what was happening and wanting to get back to those characters.
I’d be doing a disservice to Telltale if I failed to mention that A New Frontier appears to be running on a new engine! The usual graphical and performance hiccups that Telltale’s previous releases were often criticized for have been seemingly corrected. This is most likely thanks in part to the last generation of consoles, the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, being dropped from the available platforms. Now that Telltale is focusing solely on the current generation and PC’s, we should hopefully continue to see improvements upon the engine, and better games because of it.
Fans of the series were slightly disappointed with how Season Two went down, and I don’t blame them to an extent. It failed to live up to the standards that Season One had set, but Season Three is definitely getting the franchise back on the right track. Telltale Games continues to improve with each new release and series they work on, and after what I experienced with these two episodes, I think they are going to have another hit on their hands. Ties That Bind has set the tone and the bar for the remaining three episodes in A New Frontier, and I cannot wait to see where the story goes next.