A few people could describe my approach to Telltale via the reviews of episodes as harsh to the point of taking them to the gallows for their crimes. It isn’t as though I didn’t have crimes to read off as the rope was put over the neck of the offender. Corner cutting narratively, aesthetically and mechanically as the prime offender among a list of grievances. Although these issues were particularly raised with the knowledge Telltale could do so much better than they had been. That said, we hit the end of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – From The Gallows which shows a glimmer of soul. While noticeably flawed, there’s enough strong material to take Telltale off the gallows for now with a murmured apology.
[There will not be any spoilers for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – From The Gallows, but I may end up discussing The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Ties That Bind Parts 1 and 2, Above the Law and Thicker Than Water, as well as the review of the episodes (which you can find here, here and here). However, the rating at the bottom will be spoiler-free if you wish to skip there.]
We ended last time with David upsetting the locals with violence and Kate deciding the best way to quell a riot is via breaching the walls between Richmond and a herd of zombies. With Gabe running off with a homicidal David into the crowd of zombies, Kate likely dead at the wheel and the betrayers Tripp/Eleanor nowhere to be seen, Javier is alone in the carnage.
I confess my expectations started out incredibly low. After episode 4 left me alienating the cast (especially Gabe who had been channelling the spirit of Nick from season 2), episode 5 starts off with some heavy-handed moral guidance of why abandoning the crew is a bad plan.
That said, without getting into spoilers, I have to say that The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – From The Gallows does challenge Ties That Bind (parts 1 & 2) for strongest written episode in this season. Albeit, only part of it is due to actual humanisation. There are some downer moments that might spur some drama from within, but they seem to more work due to being part of a finale than being actual development.
One of the way it does set itself apart from prior episodes is the extent things do come back to haunt you. Clementine can act radically differently depending on actions in her sections, characters make a lot of callback to previous actions by Javier and there are a good few dependant characters popping up or not. There really are enough call-backs to create the illusion of choice.
However, the main way The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – From The Gallows distinguishes itself is its amount of endings. Even the main two-way branching path has six possibilities (excluding attitude changes) depending on actions through-out the game, which can determine who lives and who dies. I’d say it might be excessive or on the other hand perhaps even fatalistic (as they still end the main over-arching plot in a very similar way), but fortunately the episode walks the balance between the two by having major differences in the same solid ground.
I also confess some love for the character profiling system going on. You’ll get a final one-word “grade” for your approach towards Kate, David, Gabe and Clementine, as well as some summaries of your actions towards the rest of the minor-cast. It is nice to see the game remembered even as far back as the intro to episode 1. As while I may not be able to shift the major tide, I do get a kick out of seeing I can still have something resembling an effect.
That said, for all my love for the choices made, I honestly get the sensation the “correct choice” was self-evident. That the heavy-handed “legacy” and “familial” talk was trying to dissuade people from the more likely choice. On the other-hand, I could be way off as at the time of writing 61.5% made the “correct choice”. Just it seemed like the type of choice not so much ineffectual due to the episode, but more due to being built upon episodes whose character development left individuals somewhat unlikeable.
Despite the severe amount of effort for the 1 hour 20 minute episode (which is a little brief), that isn’t to say there isn’t any corner cutting within The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – From The Gallows. Some conversation options are just different ways to say the exact same thing, some graphics look layered in a tacky manner and the strange graphical glitches from before are back with a vengeance. I’m also surprised at how tinny Tripp’s voice acting has gotten, at least it feels tinnier than before. It seems as though Telltale looked upon the mammoth task that are the amount of endings and had to juryrig/rush some parts to achieve it.
Oh, and before we launch into the conclusion: A teaser for season 4 already? Really? Did you want to let the body go cold before hinting about it? That isn’t to say I’m surprised there is a season 4, but don’t you guys have other properties to visit? I know you hinted at a sequel in the endings of Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands.
The final score for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – From The Gallows is an 7.5 out of 10. Even as flawed as it is (and it is deeply flawed), I can’t say I had a bad time with the final episode. Is it excellent enough to be a season pass seller despite the dullness of Above the Law and Thicker Than Water? No. The pay-off sadly doesn’t hit that hard, but there is still a solid conclusion at the end. It is a final conclusion with drama, action and some loss. A conclusion that, while should have been persistent through-out the series, I’m pleased to welcome none-the-less. While the season 4 teaser has left me wondering if anyone at Telltale are in it for anything but the money at this point, I can’t deny this episode as a sign they might know what they’re doing.
A PC Review Copy of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – From the Gallows was provided by Telltale for the purpose of this Review.