Note: This review contains spoilers for Episode 1 & 2 of Walking Dead: A New Frontier. Please be aware that main plot points from those episodes will be referenced to in this review.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead is one of their most popular series, and after a few months hiatus, the third out of five episodes has released. After a long wait, I was eager to hop back into the story of Javier and his crew, even if I was a bit blurry on the past episodes. Third episodes in Telltale series are generally known as the “fluff” episodes. However, there’s been some pretty decent mid-season episodes in past Telltale series. Does Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 3: Above the Law deliver an exciting undead experience, or fall victim to the “third episode slump”?
The Dead Return
Here’s where the spoilers start, so if you didn’t heed my warning at the beginning of the article, here’s your last chance to.
After the cliffhanger we saw at the end of the second episode, I knew that Episode 3 was going to be a bit slower than what we had already seen, but I didn’t know exactly what we’d be in store for. At the end of episode 2, we were surprised to learn that Javier’s brother David (who was long assumed dead), had become a member of the New Frontier. For those who may have forgot, the New Frontier are the same group of militants that had previously raided the settlement of Prescott, and before that, had murdered Javier’s niece.
Everything we saw of David in the past two episodes seemed to impress upon us that he’s not a great person. Several years have gone by since Javier last saw him, so we’re not sure what kind of man he’s become. Pair this with the fact that he has literally become the enemy, and it’s easy to see the turmoil that Episode 3 could contain. However, most of the episode flies by, clocking in at just over an hour.
A New Frontier of Characters
For the most part, Episode 3 introduces us to the various characters in Richmond, the New Frontier capital. This large settlement is home to many people, but we only briefly meet the major players. Besides the three additional leaders of Richmond (David is one out of four), we get to meet Ava, a hardcore chick who plays right-hand to David. I liked Ava’s character, and hopefully we get to see more of her as the season progresses.
Along with some new faces, we get to meet back up with some old ones as well. There’s two flashbacks in Episode 3, the first one showing us Javier, Kate, and the kids right after the outbreak. This fills in the gap between the house scene from Episode 1, and where we originally picked up with them on the road. The second flashback gives us a little more backstory for Clementine, who we also run into during the episode.
A Lack of Substance
Honestly, I can’t really tell you anymore without completely spoiling the episode. Unfortunately, Episode 3 is the most fluffy episode I’ve seen from Telltale in a while. After the massive wait, I was hoping we would’ve gotten a lengthy episode with some good content. Instead, we’re treating to a very brief collection of events that run us in a circle. Episode 3 doesn’t really do anything new, and while the flashback scenes are very cool, the rest of it is pretty by the numbers. I still really like Javier as a character, and feel connected to the story. Episode 3 is just a mediocre continuation of it.
There’s a pretty satisfying moment partway through the episode, but the rest of it feels rushed. Unlike Episode 2, there’s absolutely no exploration. The entirety of Episode 3 is context sensitive action scenes and dialogue. While this is standard fare for Telltale adventure games, there’s usually a bit of exploration or free movement. You won’t find any of that in Episode 3, except for a very brief section where you are attempting to pry open a door.
The Bottom Line on Episode 3: Above the Law
Episode 3 feels entirely too rushed and too hollow to be wholly satisfying. A lot of it feels by the numbers, and you constantly feel pushed along, hitting some action here and there. The biggest issue is the lack of connection I felt to the characters in this episode. I didn’t feel like I was making any major decisions, and there were no tough decisions to be made. The Walking Dead is all about feeling vulnerable, making tough calls, and going on an emotional roller coaster. Episode 3 did none of that, and was finished before I could even settle in.
If you have the Season Pass, go ahead and play the Episode 3. The rest of you can wait until Episode 4 releases, because you’re not missing much. It’s not a terrible hour of time spent, but one that feels unrewarding. Hopefully Episode 4 will turn The Walking Dead: A New Frontier back on track.