Minor spoilers for both Telltale's 'The Walking Dead: A New Frontier' and AMC's 'The Walking Dead' follow.
Telltale's latest foray into The Walking Dead universe is impressive, if still limited by the developer's insistence on not really changing the formula much over the past few years.
And while I'm not a huge fan of this style of game---point-and-click narrative games with little in the way of "play" to be found---and think Telltale needs to stretch its wings more when it comes to innovation, I still found the first two episodes of A New Frontier pretty compelling.
This is, partly at least, because it's so much better than anything we've gotten from AMC's TV adaptation of the comics. The TV show has descended into a deep malaise, riddled with strange character decisions, uninteresting villains, and terribly contrived conflicts that make little sense, not to mention a pacing problem that drags the show down to such a crawl, even the most mutilated zombie could race it to the finish line.
A New Frontier, on the other hand, is a far more personal drama with emotional weight and surprising twists. Sure, it's still beholden to the dreary world of The Walking Dead and adopts some of the TV show's worst habits---any time the heroes show up some place, that place is doomed, probably within days---but at least there are characters we can enjoy and root for, and at least the bad guys have a little more depth. There's also some mystery tied into the backstory that, by the end of episode two, had me on the edge of my seat.
In other words, there's a lot the TV show could learn from the game, not the least of which is that taking chances and straying from the comics can open the door to new and better stories.
There's some great (and terrible) surprises, some familiar faces, and more than a few tough choices. Without playing it twice, I can't say for sure how much of an impact your choices make, but I certainly felt the weight of them as I played. When I have time I'll go back and replay to find out.
One familiar face is Clementine, who returns as a side character this season. Another is Jesus, who is way, way better in the game than he is on the TV show.
From simply a story standpoint, A New Frontier blows anything we've seen on the TV show lately out of the water.
From a gameplay standpoint, I really wish Telltale would break out of the mold a little bit. With other games like Life is Strange and King's Quest coming out that do more within the same genre, it would be nice to see Telltale do the same. There's not enough challenge, for one thing.
When all my button choices come down to Q, E and some version of "Left" and "Right" there's not that much to challenge you. The occasional fail (usually when I'm not paying close enough attention) results in restarting a few seconds back. I'd prefer to see more occasions when a failed QTE resulted in a different outcome rather than just a rinse-repeat. Likewise, hitting the wrong button should count against players; instead, I often accidentally hit "W" and then "E" right after and it still counts as a success.
I'd also like to see more variety in the types of QTE's we're faced with. There's the basic buttons you have to press and one "mash Q" type move and that's it. And sometimes you have to aim within a very generous target circle. I'd like more variety to keep things interesting. This aspect of the game should be just as compelling as the dialogue choices, or nearly so.
In any case, the zombie genre is feeling pretty stale right now. The Walking Dead is on wobbly walker legs for the most part. At least A New Frontier tries to tell a more interesting story with more approachable characters.
Have you played the new season yet? What do you think so far?