The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Thicker Than Water PC Review
In a strange turn of events, Telltale Games released this episode of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier very promptly. After leaving Javier and his brother in a tricky spot at the end of the last episode, in Thicker Than Water, Javier’s family and friends are planning how best to escape Richmond, despite a herd of ‘muertos’ just outside the gates.
Firstly, and one point I have been meaning to mention throughout my reviews, is the excellent ageing of Clementine’s voice by Melissa Hutchison. It is especially notable in this episode, where Javier and Clem have a chat about growing up and how to deal with the crimson wave while zombies are about (which I am sure was probably the most shocking moment of the episode to the average male gamer). Hutchison is a phenomenal talent and Clementine has such a wonderfully realised portrayal, that even though she is under-utilised in this season, she still has such a power to draw the attention away from anything else going on in the scene. The voice cast generally are brilliant, even when the lines they are working with are, at times, slightly hackneyed.
This episode certainly had plenty to do, avoiding some of the criticisms of my last review that the game was lacking any of the limited free roam interactions which allow for the development of character relations and greater interaction. As well as the limited free roam opportunities, there were plenty of quick time events and important choices to be made. The quality of the interaction has returned to on par with the first two seasons. There were those frantic moments of spamming Q and E but followed by the necessary counterpoise of catching up with each character.
Another criticism that was somewhat rectified by this episode, was the very brief explanation as to the happenings between Seasons 1 and 2. In my game, I saw more of the interactions between Jane and Clementine, which was welcome. That being said, there seems to be such a gulf of time between the two, that we are only scratching the surface of exactly what Clem had to go through. And the game desperately wants to demonstrate this bond of adoptee motherhood between AJ and Clementine, even though we have seen very little of their interactions. Though you would have to be heartless not to feel extremely sorry for Clementine for the consequences of being separated from AJ, it could have been far more impactful if we had seen more of their relationship.
Unfortunately, there was one major flaw in my playthrough of this episode. When the characters got back to an apartment where the rest of the group were holed up, who should open the door but a character who had been shot in the head and died in episode 2. Looking at the menu, apparently my choices from episode 2 had vanished into the ether, even though they had been carried over to episode 3 and I had never replayed an episode. Apparently I am not alone in problems with deleted saves or missing choices and this is especially egregious in a game where choices are really the only substantial mechanics. Killing that character was probably the only really major decision I had made so far and it hadn’t even counted.
There were some other really strange glitches. Some of the background textured were appallingly bad. In crowd or mass zombie scenes, I would often have several bodies pixelated and swaying in a strange manner. Additionally, one of the ‘fight’ scenes had no fluidity at all which made the whole thing very jarring to watch.
And for all the exciting twists and tense moments, this episode is still not very well written for a Telltale game. One line by the villain to the former chief of security was: ‘No-one is above the law – even you’. Cue evil stares. Even the heavily weighted decisions involving the lives of characters simply are not difficult to make. Help this junkie doctor with euthanasia? Sure, why not? I don’t really know him and if that will ease his pain, then who am I to judge? And then next to decide who should die between two characters, neither of whom I felt particularly strongly about. Perhaps this animosity would be resolved by playing all the episodes at once, but nothing about it feels particularly investing. Even Javier’s particularly unlikeable brother is not engendering much familial sympathy at present.
This series has been disappointing so far. This episode is probably the best yet but the glitches and just general lack of improvement in the writing mean that it is still substandard. The last episode would have to be incredible to draw everything together into a meaningful arc which lives up to its predecessors.