How awesome would a Telltale game based on Stranger Things be? You could play as the new kid in town who gets wrapped up in the adventures of Mike and the gang; Telltale nailed the 80’s style and mystery plot with The Wolf Among Us, and it would provide opportunities to return to a more traditional point-and-click style, paying homage to older adventure games. This is what I thought of while playing the third episode of Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier; such was my boredom.
In the third episode: Above the Law, Kate’s wounds have brought Javi’s group to the fortress of The New Frontier, with the shocking reveal that Javi’s brother David is one of the leaders there. Tensions are high as Javi and the group wants The New Frontier to answer for past transgressions while acknowledging that one wrong move could cause further problems for the group. It all comes to a head when Javi and David discover one of The New Frontier’s leaders has been ordering the raiding of peaceful colonies behind the other’s back, however, the, “It was for the greater good,” argument puts Javi and David at a loss against The New Frontier.
My biggest problem with the first two episodes is still present here: I simply don’t care about any of these characters. Honestly, none of them are all that compelling, most of them are just recycled archetypes from the first two seasons and none of them act like reasonable humans. There’s this romantic subplot between Javi and Kate that is totally tepid since the game only really gives you the option to go-for-broke or seem completely disinterested. You’d think her reuniting with her husband would add tension to this, should you be playing in a way that is set to hook Javi and Kate up, but it’s never explored in a human way. There’s no discussion of right vs. wrong, honour vs. desire or even basic want vs. need.
In fact, the only interesting story being told is that of Clementine, showing a tragic tale of how she joined The New Frontier in a bid to save AJ (the baby she was caring for at the end of Season 2) only to be kicked out after stealing medicine to save his life; with The New Frontier keeping AJ in their care. Every time an episode cuts back to Clementine’s story I couldn’t help but wonder why we weren’t still playing as her. Part of what made the second season so powerful was experiencing the harshness of the zombie apocalypse as a little girl. That could have been made so much more effective by not only continuing it, but also having an infant to care for. Instead, we just get wannabe Lee running through most of the same motions as the first two seasons.
Much of the same problems I had with the first two episodes are still present here. On a technical level, it’s still pretty pathetic with some of the lip-syncing being so horribly off it makes characters look right out of a badly dubbed anime. Much like the last two episodes, gameplay is minimal except for the one moment that decides to actually have some—and it’s terrible. While the team holds back a zombie horde, the player has to find a way into an abandoned factory, which seems pretty straightforward. However, the order of things you must inspect is very specific, so even after I attempted to open a locked door, found a carjack, and saw that the handle was within the car itself, I couldn’t actually interact with it until I had inspected some bay door to get the animation that the door wouldn’t stay open without the car jack, resulting in precious wasted time waiting for the game to allow me to figure out the puzzle I had already solved.
By the end, I was just making whatever contradicting choices I could, mostly in a bid to cause drama because I care so little for the characters and the events of their story (with the exception of Clementine of course). Everything feels so rushed (I actually timed it this time, it takes one solid hour to clear this episode), each episode ends in disappointing abruption rather than an intriguing cliffhanger and none of it feels genuine. By this point, I honestly don’t think episode four or five will redeem this season for me.