I reviewed the first two Episodes of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier at their launch back in January, so I was extra excited to dive back into this wild, troubled world full of intrigue, turmoil, and deceit. Javier's story is a compelling one, and although it took me a little while to remember the details of the last two chapters, I found myself rapidly falling back into the rich narrative for which Telltale Games is renowned. Given that this is the third episode of a five-episode season, there is always the risk of cliffhangers or plot twists that leave the players more frustrated than ravenous for more. Fortunately, that isn't the case with Episode 3, and I can't wait to see what comes next in the final two episodes.
Choices Matter, More and More
Not surprisingly, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Episode 3 ups the ante, and the decisions that players face are increasingly dire and arduous. As always, I don't want to give away any story spoilers here, but I will say that the third chapter in Javier's saga felt more focused on inter-family strife and conflict, leaving interactions with the New Frontier crew resigned to outlining concerns. It doesn't make those choices any less critical, but they did seem like more of an afterthought, given the weight of the choices facing our dysfunctional, wayward family. At the end of Episode 2, we saw David, Javier's brother, return from the great oblivion of this post-apocalyptic world, reuniting him with his wife, Kate, and his son. Kate had been shot and was on death's doorstep, and our band of unlikely companions was begging for entrance and medical care at the gates of the New Frontier's main base. It wasn't the happy ending that it could have been, unsurprisingly – The Walking Dead isn't famous for its peaceful reunions and compassionate endings.
As in the previous chapters of the epic Walking Dead saga, A New Frontier blends action-packed situations with quick-time events, combat choices with the emotionally charged interactions between characters. Once again, I found myself struggling with numerous decisions, unsure of which direction I wanted to go in, but ultimately, I was satisfied with the decisions I had made. It's an emotional ride, and I love that Telltale Games doesn't hesitate to blur the line between what is considered morally right and something that might ensure your survival. The cast of characters that made Episode 1 and 2 so compelling returns once again, including Clementine, the heroine from The Walking Dead: Season Two. Although A New Frontier has faced criticism for not being as reliant on the Choices Matter aspect of this style of storytelling, the decisions are generally increasingly meaningful as the plot progresses.
As with A New Frontier Episode 1 and 2, this latest chapter is a relatively brief experience. It took me about two hours to play through each of the chapters thus far, but given the season is slated to have five episodes, the final playtime is comparable with other story-rich titles.
Precision and Polish, Plus Zombies
As usual, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is a smooth, polished experience, with all the precision and finesse that fans have come to expect from Telltale Games' series. The combat, while minimal overall, is satisfying, and the level of violence experienced during Episode 3 is comparable to all of the other Walking Dead sagas I've played in the past (and nowhere near as gruesome as the hit TV show of the same name).
The "Muertos" (Walkers, by another name) felt like an afterthought in this chapter of the story, given that our primary conflicts stem from interpersonal relationships more than the desperate quest for survival out in the open. But this is still a story from The Walking Dead universe, even if it has diverted from more familiar faces, and the looming threat of the undead is always in the background. I didn't encounter any bugs or issues while journeying through this latest piece of the saga, and so far, the episodes have blended seamlessly to make a truly enjoyable experience.
As with the first two episodes of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, Episode 3 is a joy to play.
Few studios produce stories as captivating and keenly appropriate for an interactive experience, but Telltale Games' prowess shines in titles such as this. Javier is a character that is easily relatable, and Kate's influence, in not only Javier’s decisions and motivations but also in the overall story arc, is welcomed and pleasant. Without a doubt, David's return lends more complexity to an already challenging situation for our protagonist and his sister-in-law. Episode 3 goes a step further (when it comes to plucking at our heartstrings) by showing us more of the backstory in Clem's history, including additional details about her time as a member of the New Frontier (a revelation we saw in the first two episodes of the season).
A New Frontier Episode 3 left me eager for more, delivering compelling, engrossing new details in the story unfolding, and I can't wait for the next two installments. Without a doubt, the finale of this season of The Walking Dead will be utterly gut-wrenching and satisfying, and players with love for this franchise – or even just Telltale Games on their own, as storytellers – shouldn't hesitate to take the plunge with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier.