A New Frontier: Episode 2 - The Ties That Bind: Part 2
Telltale changed up their launch strategy a bit with A New Frontier, choosing to release two episodes instead of one. In many ways, there is an overarching plot that crosses over between the two episodes that (excuse the pun) ties the outset of Episode 1 with the ending of Episode 2 in an impactful and satisfying way. Without spoiling anything, it feels like Telltale actually mastered how not to waste any characters or narrative threads. There is a connection in almost everything you’ll see that will come back at some point.
Episode 2 keeps in line with traditional The Walking Dead beats but manages to put its own spin on them.
Javy himself doesn’t undergo much in the way of evolution, as the events at the end of Episode 1 have forced him to focus on the present, and the theme of “needing to keep moving” is once again the central objective. The goal takes on a whole new context, however, and it utilizes the classic “there’s this place we’ve never been that is supposedly a haven for survivors” beat.
Of course, the haven is not what it seems, but Telltale circumvents the predictability factor by cutting the bullshit and revealing very soon into your quest that the haven is indeed compromised. What’s left for the characters is the quest of having to face it anyway out of necessity, and there’s a distinct and engrossing sense of helplessness and foreboding on the part of the player. You know that things are bound to go wrong, but the fact that the characters know it as well firmly creates and unshakeable connection that narrative adventure games specialize in.
Clementine is still a part of everything that is happening, but her arc seems to be focused on what’s been going on in the time since the end of Season 2 rather than the present.
For her part, Clementine has become something of a reactive character in Season 3. She is still interesting, but she has evolved into a more hardened survivor, taking lessons from mistakes and scars from the past. This evolution has created a need to explain how and why she has reached this point, so a lot, if not all of Clementine’s best moments consist of flashbacks that take place pretty soon after the end of Season 2.
It’s hard to tell right now if Telltale will have enough time to take her arc from the past and place it into the present, but at the very least, what is here adds a new flavor to The Walking Dead’s narrative repertoire.
By the end of Episode 2, it’s clear that the story is ready to take itself in a new direction and what you are left with is an incessant need for more.
The only question that matters with narrative adventure games is whether or not a player wants to see more, and I can safely say that in my case, I can’t wait for Episode 3. Season 2 felt like a distinct step down from the majesty of Season 1, and a lot of that had to do with it trying to leverage past characters in new ways.
Telltale has apparently committed itself to telling a new story, albeit within the old story, but it works in the sense that I feel like I am learning something new. A New Frontier has a much better sense of balancing the old with the new, which is always tricky when trying to craft sequels.
It’s tough to dive in without spoiling the story, but rest assured, every square inch of this first two episodes appear to have been handled with the same amount of care and planning as every The Walking Dead game you’ve played to this point. Still, I’m one of those that believes that there’s nothing like an original, so Season 3 doesn’t have the same magic as Season 1.
What you are getting with A New Frontier is more of the same, which I imagine just about everyone with a remote interest in the game is expecting. Season 3 isn’t re-writing the book on narratively-driven adventures; it’s just delivering some of the best you can find in the genre.
If I had to score it now, A New Frontier is an 8.5.