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Friday, 31 March 2017

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier E3: Above The Law

The Walking Dead:
A New Frontier
Episode 3: Above The Law

It's been a long, long wait. Episode two came out all the way in December, meaning there's been a good three months between episodes here -- which given that Telltale seems to have been trying to settle into a once-per-month release schedule with their games, isn't that great. That said, the wait has been skewed slightly by the fact that two episodes were released at once anyway, so I suppose we're getting the wait time for episode two tacked on here.

Picking up where episode two left off, with Javi and his companions at the gates of the New Frontier, hoping to find medical treatment for Kate, only to find out that his brother, David, believed dead, is a high ranking member of the New Frontier. Taken into the New Frontier's city, Richmond, it isn't long until the group -- bar Kate, Gabe, and Eleanor -- are deemed unfit for the city and thrown out, despite David's protests. As they travel to an old warehouse of the New Frontier's, hoping to find shelter, they discover that there is a conspiracy within Richmond, and that Joan, one of its leaders, has been conducting raids on other settlements. With David's help, the group return to Richmond to take back control.

Okay, so, this is a rehash of a standard issue Walking Dead plot, one which we've already seen in this series: A seemingly safe settlement is found, but something is revealed to be wrong with it in short order. Inevitably, this is going to result in the Richmond community falling apart, but we're not quite there yet. This is a very tired plotline by now, and I am completely sick of it -- even the 'ah, but there is something terribly wrong with this settlement' hints that the episode drops in early on aren't enough to save it, because we already got 'an obviously screwed up settlement' as a variation on this back in the second series.

It's not even a surprise when it turns out that Richmond has been raiding other communities, even though the episode weirdly tries to play it as one, because we'd literally seen them attacking other communities with lorries full of dead people. Like, this is not the shocking plot twist the game thinks it is.

We do get to learn Clem's backstory with the New Frontier, though, as we see that, while she was a member of their group, she stole medicine in order to try to cure AJ when he was sick and dying, only to be thrown out because of it. It's a very emotionally charged scene, and it only becomes moreso when it's revealed shortly afterwards that AJ actually did recover -- which gives Clem a reason to leave the party, since she then goes looking for him.

(In general, Clem is weirdly barely in evidence in this episode. She shows up part way through, then vanishes again shortly afterwards.)

The other big draw of this episode is probably waiting for David to turn evil -- he doesn't, not yet, but there are two more episodes to go, and we at least see the seeds of him going a bit crazy, with Kate remarking that he only seemed happy in a fight, David learning that his daughter was shot in the head, and it being very obvious that David thinks he can just pick his marriage up with Kate where they left off, and that he will not be happy to learn that Kate and Javi have gotten together. 

But for the most part, this episode is just the rehashing of an old formula to make a kind of bridging episode, taking us from 'Javi, Kate, and the kids as a group on their own' to 'a civil war in Richmond,' and doing it in the most unimaginative way they can.

Oddly, a few plot points seem to just vanish into the ether, as well: Eleanor was set up as untrustworthy, but that seems mostly forgotten about now, and Jesus, who joined the group last episode, just leaves in this one, cementing his status as 'basically just fanservice for franchise fans.' 

That's about all I can say about the story, so let's talk about the glitches: Because there are glitches! They're not game-breaking like the ones littered through Telltale Game's Batman, but they're there, which is odd for an episode with nearly three times Telltale's recent standard development cycle. One glitch sees Javi walking around with huge spikes of grey texture protruding from his body, making it look like he's wearing the world's least movement-friendly battle armour.

Overall, it's a disappointing episode, which is a shame when the first two episodes were actually pretty strong. Here's hoping that episode four will be significantly better, but honestly, who among us can say that we haven't been burned by Telltale enough times to know that that probably won't be the case.

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