Goon Review: The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier Episode 1: Ties That Bind

(Thanks so much to Mr. Andrew Peters for this radass review…I love all of TT’s TWD tit-les, and I shall be checking this one mout posthaste!! 🙂 xoxo)

Before we get started on the review, doesn’t that episode sound familiar? Like we’ve heard it before. Was this a title for another Walking Dead game or a superhero game of some kind? Anyway, it’s irrelevant. So, the third season of The Walking Dead subtitled A New Frontier debuted not only it’s first episode, but its second one as well, although for now we will only be talking about the first which is called Ties That Bind Part 1 and it does have some relevance into what happens. Personally, I would love a second season of The Wolf Among Us or Tales From the Borderlands, but I do want to see some closure with Clementine’s character, if done justice.

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Being the fourth Walking Dead series from Telltale, I was worried about this season coming off as stale, seeing as how TWD: Michonne was so milquetoast, it may as well not have existed. Not only that, any incarnation of TWD seems to pander to an audience that only wants to see gore and zombies, shaping itself after the television show. Michonne really suffered from having too many characters that had no substance and you didn’t care about them, which was extremely disappointing seeing as that’s what these games are known for. However, we’ve grown with TWD’s main character Clementine over two seasons. We’ve watched the decaying world – both the state of humanity and the physical form of them – tear away at her as she has resisted to become anything less, but the end of the second season saw her and Jane being pushed to the limit by an old friend.

However, A New Frontier doesn’t throw us right into Clementine’s situation yet. We’re introduced to a new character, Javi. The game opens right as the outbreak is taking place, but people aren’t really aware of it, as we see Javi running to his brother David’s home and explains that he’s late because the highway was congested. His brother insults him, even hits him, because their father died and Javi, being the favorite son, should have been there, but we learn that Javi was never really around. We’re also introduced to other family members, like David’s son Gabe, David’s wife Kate, which the two seem to have a mutual interest in one another and there are various other family members, but the only other one that really matters is Mariana, Javi’s younger niece. Suddenly, Mariana is bringing her grandfather’s favorite drinking cup to him as the others tell her that he’s sleeping, to which she tells them he isn’t… dun dun DUN! Not the strongest opening the series has had, but it was really decent, maybe even a little chilling. Javi’s got some potential to be a good character, so let’s see what’s in store.

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As they check the room, zombie gramps bites grandma on the face and another on the hand. David takes them to the hospital and Javi looks after Kate, Mariana and Gabe. We cut to someone time later and the four seem to have been traveling in a van not down by the river, but all over looking for food, gas, maybe even a home. Gabe and Mariana are asleep in the back seat, giving us the players some time with Kate and Javi to get to know them as Kate lights up a phatty and your first big choice is to toke with her or not. Okay, TWD, I get it. Weed’s legal now. This wakes up the kids just in time as you find a junkyard and you decide to explore it. Before doing so, you get a little bonding time with Mariana, kinda like how Lee did with Clem back in the first season. It was a nice touch to call back to that subtly, even if it doesn’t seem as strong. It’ll make sense when you play it.

Things go sour quickly after the group finds a cache of food and Javi is jumped by a group that seems to share a similar mark on their body, like they were branded like cattle. Javi lies about the having others with him and is en route to their base when a tree falls in the middle of the road, blocking the way and crashing the truck. Upon exiting, you have the option to shoot the driver or let him go, but that all depends on how cold blooded you are. Turns out that tree falling was no coincidence as the little saboteur reveals themself as… get ready for it… CLEMENTINE! She’s back and she’s a little older and has a potty mouth and an attitude. Oh Clem, what made you this way? Well, this is something you should know if you are playing with saved games from Seasons One and Two. The game shapes her and her past after what choices you made during your gameplay, which is very, very cool. If you don’t have any previous game saves, the games creates her past at random, so on my PS4 playthrough, I saw what happened to Clem and Jane after the events of the second season and although it was predictable, it was very sad because I liked Jane’s character. On my playthrough on PC that you can watch, I had no saves, so one was created for me and it was just uneventful and only led to Clem missing a finger for no reason. Huh, okay then.

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Clem and Javi pitstop at a safe town where the people seem friendly and you’re even introduced to a few new characters and get a little insight into Javi’s past. Personally, I liked Tripp who’s basically a loveable oaf. It doesn’t take long before Clem causes some problems and lands you in one of their homemade holding cells, but the most interesting thing is that nobody really seems to care about what happened. You’re given the option of sticking up for Clem or throwing her under the bus and if you do that, then I must believe you have no soul. You’re also given the option of sneaking out at night with one of the characters you met or waiting in the morning for Tripp to take you to the junkyard. Now, believe it or not, your choices will seemingly have a vastly different outcome. First time, I chose to sneak out only to arrive at the junkyard with two of my family members dead, so I went back and played again, waited for Tripp and got a much happier outcome… for the moment.

This is where the game really starts to take off. Seeing as how the truck is destroyed, Javi manages to convince Clem to head back to the junkyard to find his family and depending on how you converse with her, you can build a nice budding friendship, which is what I’m doing. I’ve missed Clem and I can’t be mean to her, seeing as we’ve already been through so much and I know what she’s lost. Once you reach the junkyard, it looks as if it’s been turned over and lit on fire, but you quickly find your family and everything seems like it’s going to be alright… yeah, sure. If there is one thing The Walking Dead tries to do way too much, it’s lull you into a false sense of security. I do have to admit, it kinda worked here. As Javi’s relationship was building with one of the characters, it became more clear what was going to happen, seeing as The Walking Dead just can’t help itself from steering away from this one trope, but it kinda got to me, especially as graphic as it happens. Your final choice is to stay and fight your attackers with Clem or bail with your family.

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After a long, overdue wait, Clementine is finally back and it’s great to see her again (especially after the remarkably disappointing Michonne). As gamers, we’ve grown up with Clem and to see her as the teenager she’s grown into is both depressing and you’re proud of her at the same time for making it as far as she has and depending on your choices, you get hints that she’s still the same girl you’ve grown to love. I’m excited to see what else she’s been up to since she’s been gone and at the time I’m scared at what might happen to her. At first, I thought Javi was just gonna be a cliched character with nothing interesting going on and was only going to be a vehicle for Clementine, but he’s actually shaping up into a likeably guy. Even if you decide to be a dick to everyone with him, you’re making the choices, so you still root for him. Javi and Clem make a great pair and luckily it’s not a retread of the father-daughter dynamic Clem and Lee had, but it’s something new altogether. Survivors becoming friends and that’s what The Walking Dead is all about! Part Two of Ties That Bind is looking to be another great episode, so we’ll dive into that one soon.