Just as the TV series became a massive hit, Telltale Games gained awards and fame with its first season of The Walking Dead. Based on the comic of the same name, both the first and second seasons told the branching story of one girl and the survivors around her. Now, the hit The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series is back for a third adventure, subtitle A New Frontier. It offers up a fresh start for both the returning cast and the beloved series as a whole.
In an unprecedented move, Telltale is releasing the first two installments of the five episode season on the day one. Together, the segments tell one intense, exciting chapter in the lives of returning lead Clementine, as well as Javier, her new costar. For both old and new fans, A New Frontier offers up a unique starting point -- along with new chances for players to decide between many horrifying-yet-necessary choices.
Some New Life in This Corpse
You start The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier getting to know Javier, this season's protagonist. He's a man with a complicated history, particularly with his family, and he's had to make some tough choices to survive in the zombified world. He and his group run into some trouble while searching for supplies, and Javi's life goes downhill from there -- how bad it gets is decided by your many quick, painful choices.
Having the third season built around a new face gives The Walking Dead a new lease on life. Javi comes with a history players will discover and define over the first two episodes. You get to see how he reacts to desperate times via a narrative built through his choices. Telltale's Walking Dead franchise star is also present -- Clementine meets Javi early in the first chapter. Like everything else in A New Frontier, Javi's point of view defines Clementine, and even she has a few surprises to share in these episodes.
Overall, the first two installments smartly distance themselves from the complicated ending to season 2. You'll find out what happened in due time, but A New Frontier is more interested in pushing you to new choices instead of reliving the past. A long-running series like this one needs a soft reboot now and then, so long as it never forgets its past.
The Zombie-Strewn Roads Not Taken
Just like in the previous entries, A New Frontier isn't defined by shooting mechanics or challenging gameplay. It's about experiencing a complicated story through your specific actions. And, without spoiling anything, A New Frontier gives you so many distinct choices that will change your story in ways you can't imagine. Some innocuous decision in a flashback might completely alter the tone of a scene hours later. The gradual reveal of the impact of your choices is part of the masterful storytelling Telltale continues to excel in.
Here's some advice on how to best enjoy A New Frontier. Like in other Telltale games, don't obsess over possibly making the "wrong" choice. The options and outcomes are varied enough that nothing ever works out perfectly for the folks involved. Just own your version of Javier as the person you define him to be through your playstyle. You'll enjoy the game much more if you play A New Frontier with that mindset.
With so many Telltale series out there, it's tough for the adventure gameplay not to feel formulaic. A New Frontier sidesteps that uniformity with excellent characterization of folks new and old, as well as novel choices to make throughout the game. There are moments in A New Frontier that are harrowing and compelling even with the high bar set by previous entries. After playing the first two episodes, I'm ready to see how many more chances for heartache and surprise are on the horizon.
Should You Play Season 3?
If you played the previous seasons: Certainly. If you felt burnt out on Telltale's approach to the series, A New Frontier takes The Walking Dead in a refreshing direction. Even better, the first two episodes do that without invalidating any of your previous Walking Dead choices.
If you never played a Walking Dead game before: It's an excellent time, no previous experience required. If you enjoy the comics or the TV series but were intimidated by the first two seasons, don't be. A New Frontier is an easy way to get into the gory, rewarding franchise without all the baggage from the previous games.
A One-Two Punch to the Gut
The first two episodes of The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier are an understated rebirth for the adventure genre pioneer. It builds on the past without being mired in it. Whether a familiar face or a neophyte survivor, Telltale establishes characters you love -- and then does unspeakable things to them. I wouldn't have it any other way.