The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 1 Review

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I am a huge fan of zombies.  I’ve got swords up on my wall, I’ve got a gas mask, I’ve got half a dozen zombie survival plans and a bug out bag… I’m a zombie nut.  So of course I’ve been following the Walking Dead game series that Telltale’s been putting out and have been anticipating the release of the third season.

The first episode of Telltale’s new entry in the Walking Dead series could have fallen flat in a handful of ways – new characters to introduce, old characters to bring back convincingly, events and actions.  The question is: did they fall through, or did they continue their streak of making good content in the zombified universe?

Without the other episodes to go off of it’s unclear what the overarching plot is, but as is expected the episode has its own self-contained plot that will undoubtedly be woven into a larger story with the release of the subsequent episodes.  That being said, I enjoyed the introductory story that hit off the start of the game.

The introductory episode introduces Javier and his family on the day the zombie threat becomes known.  There’s been a tragedy in his family and despite his best efforts, despite abandoning his car in the middle of gridlock and running most of the way to his parents’ house, he’s missed his chance to be at his father’s side when he dies.  His excuse seems innocent enough until his father returns from the dead and wreaks havoc in the house, signaling the moment when their lives change.

After splitting up, time jumped to present day and what was left of his family was revealed.  It was never shown or said what happened to the rest of them, that could come later, but considering the circumstances it almost certainly wasn’t pretty.   Not knowing felt natural, though, because the transition, while obvious, felt natural.

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They’re in a tough spot in that they’re beginning to run low on food and fuel for their van.  After coming across a junkyard shit starts to hit the fan in the typical way in the zombie apocalypse: the junkyard turns out to be a base and they’re trespassing.

After getting separated from his family he comes across an old face.  Clem, from the previous two seasons, saves him from what could have been a bad situation, for a price.  He agrees to go along with her and, although they’re not overly attached to each other by the end of the episode, they do begin to bond.

Clem’s story thus far has been told through the use of dream sequences.  This could have gone badly, but the way it was designed kept the flow going nicely.  Out of the six chapters only one was dedicated to revealing how Clementine got from the end of season two to the start of season three.

Since it’s known that Clem will play a large role in the game, as she did in the last games, being able to import my save was a very welcome feature.  While I didn’t use the story creator to make her back story as I had my own save, I can also appreciate the time and effort that went into the system and can imagine a good bunch of people have been thankful for its existence going into this third installment.  On the other hand, if there isn’t a save available to import and you just want to get going, the ability to do that is there too, which is good for folks getting into the series without playing the previous games.

Of course, I would suggest playing the others since you grow attached to the recurring characters and better understand their stories, but this review isn’t about telling you to play the older games.

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The setup of the game absolutely got me.  The characters feel real in their interactions and I found it easy to connect to most of them on some level.  The chill conversation about worries and memories over a joint in the van painted them as human.  Mariana in particular stood out as an A+ character, and I loved her dialogue.  A few moments shocked me, which further set the stage for tragedies to come, and it’s telling that I was able to get attached to the characters so quickly that it was extremely sad.

The quick-time event based gameplay feels smoother than my previous experiences with Telltale’s games.  The prompts are blended more with the cut scenes, both into the environment and in terms of the lead-ins.  And the dialogue and big choices continue to be remembered by the characters, which undoubtedly will affect how things play out later on.

It was a solid offering and I can’t wait to see where the season has in store.  Where Javier and co end up, what happened to Clem between seasons, how everything escalates and with who, I’m looking forward to uncovering everything in the future episodes.  It’s already given me a good ol’ case of the feels, which makes me simultaneously excited and anxious about what’s to come.

Rating 9

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@brashgames.co.uk.

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