The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Genre: Graphic Adventure
Release Dates: May 30, 2017 - Complete Season (EU & NA)
Price: 22,99€ (Steam)
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier takes place around 2 years after the end of Season 2, introducing us to a now teenager Clementine, and even though the story is still following Clementine's journey you will mostly play as Javier Garcia, Season 3's new protagonist, as his story intertwines with Clementine's. Joining Javier is a new cast of characters including his brother David, his sister-in-law Kate and their kids, Gabriel and Mariana, alongside their newly met friends Tripp, Eleanor and Ava; together they form an intriguing story worth following, that unfortunately moves on to the next plot point before reaching the height of its previous encounter, and that is mostly because this season is shorter than the previous ones, so the story never gets to that point where you get attached to a character too much, but nonetheless the surprising twists and turns will still leave you dwelling on your decisions for a while.
The main issue with A New Frontier's story is that it feels rushed for the sake of being a shorter game, as the game will constantly move you from one critical situation to the next one, without any breathing times in between to get to know the characters better and understand the motives between some of their decisions; even with the fact that this is the zombie apocalypse that we're talking about and everyone seems to be on the run, visiting and exploring one location should take longer than five minutes. On the other hand, the flashbacks starring Javier and David are a nice addition to the story so at least the main characters have a well defined background story going in.
Aside from a few UI tweaks, A New Frontier plays pretty much similar to Season 2, breaking up the gameplay in dialogue sections, exploration sections and quick time events, but compared to the previous seasons there are very few things that you can interact with during the exploration sections and the answer to what you're supposed to interact with is usually very obvious, so there isn't any actual challenge regarding difficulty or puzzles. As always, the only times you will die will be when you accidentally press the wrong button during a quick time event, which is disappointing since we've seen other graphic adventure games released in the past few years that managed to integrate new mechanics and challenging puzzles into the game, making gameplay equally entertaining to the story.
Since the gameplay is divided into the previously mentioned sections, there's always that inconsistency when it comes to how fluidly the game should progress while keeping the player engaged and The Walking Dead had a similar problem in Season 2, because it switches from unlimited time exploration to a quick time event or a dialogue line with only a few seconds to respond in an instant, while also adding the occasional cutscene moments when you aren't supposed to do anything, so you never know when you should hold your controller tight and when to play in a more relaxed manner.
Graphically, there isn't a lot of improvement from Season 2 and by this time Telltale's engine is starting to show its age, as even with its comic art-style flaws like chunky textures and bulky environments become obvious on larger displays. Even though the engine has been updated several times, at its core it's still more than a decade old, and right now we simply got to the point where flash games can look better than this, so hopefully TellTale will consider a change in this department for future projects. There is also the lip sync issue which somehow looks worse than it did in the previous games and the occasional empty backgrounds during some scenes in a few particular locations.
If there's one thing that Telltale does right in most of their games, it's casting the right people for the right characters and A New Frontier is no different, as Jeff Schine does a great job bringing Javier's personality to life while Melissa Hutchison reprises her role as Clementine once again. Joining them is a talented cast of characters including Kelley Crowder as Eleanor, Alex Hernandez as David and Troy Hall as Tripp. The soundtrack while still enjoyable, feels weak compared to the amazing tracks of Season 1 & 2 and the effects, just as the graphics, could use a modern makeover.
The New Frontier is the shortest game in the main The Walking Dead series by Telltale, as it can be finished in 6-7 hours and there are very few points where your decisions drastically change the outcome, so a second playthrough might not be worth it. Considering the 22,99€ price tag, you might want to wait for a sale before picking this one up, since this is just a one-time run experience.
Story-wise A New Frontier is still a great game in the Walking Dead franchise, but its limited run-time, outdated engine and the same repetitive gameplay that we have seen for the past few years keep it from being so much more.