Telltale’s The Walking Dead series remains its longest running franchise, compiled of various seasons of characters. We’ve come a long way from where the original season started, and as I played through The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, I was conflicted. While I consider some of the early Walking Dead content to be of Telltale’s best, I found myself lacking the connection to characters and narrative this time around. The season started off well enough, but started to drag soon, and remained so up until now. The final episode, From the Gallows, had a decent enough set up to succeed as a finale. Let’s see if Telltale managed to pull it all together.
Note: This review will contain SPOILERS for Episodes 1-4 of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier.
The Fight for Richmond
Richmond has been the setting for most of the latter half of the season, and the final episode is no different. The gang stronghold was last seen being breached from the inside out, thanks to Kate and her van. A good chunk of the finale takes place in and around Richmond, as the cast deal with the fallout of Kate’s actions and the zombie horde. Although this is the third episode in the same setting, Episode 5: From the Gallows views it from a very different perspective. Generally speaking, there’s some pretty cool shots and the locale is utilized much better. Instead of feeling like a dingy hide out, Richmond kind of feels like an actual fortress this time around.
Although the finale doesn’t venture far beyond the walls of Richmond, most characters find a way to show up and let their plots get resolved. If The Walking Dead: A New Frontier does anything well, it’s making sure the majority of the loose ends are tied up. Sometimes this can mean for disappointing deaths or throw away appearances, but the fact that they took the time to revisit old characters and subplots was appreciated. The game actually opens with a flashback to before the outbreak, giving us a bit more closure on Javier’s relationship with his father.
Finally, Some Undead
Call me old fashioned, but I like a nice dose of zombies in my zombie games. The past few episodes were pretty light on undead interaction, so I was very pleased that the finale showed some love to its namesake. Right from the get-go, Javier is forced to deal with zombies arising from the breach in the wall. This is where The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is at its best; when the zombies start dying and the bullets start flying. Despite the classic Telltale stutter (more on that later), action scenes are fun to play and enjoyable to watch.
Furthermore, I’m happy to report that there’s quite a few inventive zombie kills as well. Often times The Walking Dead gets too wrapped up in its own drama to let loose and have a little fun. After all, what good are zombies if you aren’t killing them? Throughout the episode, there were a few particularly cool zombie finishers that I must applaud.
Javier’s Philosophy 101
Conversely, I’m unhappy that there is no free movement. Much like Episode 3, Episode 5: From the Gallows contains no exploration sequences, only a very brief moment of character control. Plainly speaking, this finale is an interactive cut scene with dialogue interspersed. There are a handful of tough choices you’ll have to make, but for the most part it’s a passive experience. I was mostly bothered by this when playing Episode 3 because the storytelling wasn’t very good. That’s not the case this time around. While this episode contains plenty of action scenes, it also takes the time to slow down. Characters chat philosophy, outlook, and their world view. It’s refreshing for this season, and I found myself enjoying the writing more than before.
The story of Episode 5: From the Gallows is a bit eclectic in tone, but it’s a good combination of action and dialogue. My only real complaint is that occasionally the content feels a bit rehashed.
Where’s the Polish?
Once again, I have to comment on the technical issues with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. Yes, the game stutters quite a bit. This particular season of The Walking Dead happens to stutter more than normal for a Telltale Game. However, I’ve seen more random bugs and awkward stuff in A New Frontier than any other Telltale franchise. New problems arise and get fixed with each episode, so in a way it’s kind of interesting. For instance, Episode 3 had a big problem with frame rate. Episode 5 seems to be unpolished animations, odd voice work, and some baffling stuff.
I won’t harp on it too much, as a lot of it can get nit picky. However, I use this as a platform to point to the weirdest glitch I’ve seen in a Telltale game yet. In Episode 4 of this season, Richmond’s crazy leader ended up shooting Tripp in the head (based on the choices I made). Imagine my surprise then, when halfway through the finale, Tripp just casually walks through the scene. No, it wasn’t a “ghostly appearance” or anything of the sort, just a super weird glitch. It completely pulled me out of the game (enough to screenshot it and make sure I wasn’t seeing things), and knocked me through a loop.
The Bottom Line on The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 5: From the Gallows
Although I encountered some pretty unique glitches and technical issues were still apparent, Episode 5 made for a decent finale to a rocky season. By the end of it, I felt like I had formed some sort of bond with certain characters, and that some of my decisions had a decent amount of weight. Clementine remained consistent throughout, and I’m excited to see where her story continues. I can’t say that I recommend the season overall, but Episode 5 was definitely a highlight. For those who bought the entire season pass and perhaps lost interest, go back and finish it out. The finale wraps things up nicely and slightly redeems a large lack of quality in previous episodes.
This game was played on an Xbox One.