It’s been a few months since the two-part debut of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, but finally Telltale are back with a third episode to try and capitalise on what is a memorable opener to the season. Will the latest instalment allow Javier to hit another home run, or will it be a swing and a miss? Let’s delve straight into episode three, ‘Above the Law’.
Before you continue reading, just make sure you’ve played the opener, or are at the very least happy for spoilers in relation to previous episodes, as you may find very minor spoilers in regards to the new episode.
Javi’s life turned upside down following the day everyone started to turn into walkers, and ‘Ties That Bind’ only threw more torrid times his way. Living life on the road with his brother’s wife and her two kids was messy enough, before bullets came their way after an innocuous trip to a Junkyard which caused a fair few casualties. Holding together what little of his family was left, Javi made some new friends, met Clementine and ventured towards the cold-hearted killers who set all this in motion, the New Frontier, as a last resort for some much needed help. It was a risky move that became more shocking when none other than his mindless thug of a brother, David, greeted him at the gates in Richmond.
In fairness, it’s taken me a fair while to recover from all the ups and downs of the premiere – mainly downs – and the storytelling ensured that any hatred felt by Javi, was ultimately felt by the player. Going into ‘Above the Law’, I’m already thinking from Javi’s point of view, a view which is only strengthened throughout the episode.
This season of The Walking Dead appears to be going with the formula of occasionally flitting between flashbacks and modern day, in order to flesh out not only Javi’s back story, but also fill in any blanks for the time we’ve missed with Clementine. It works surprisingly well for further establishing the blossoming, if somewhat frowned upon, relationship between the main character and his brother’s wife, Kate. Clementine’s journey up until present day is one of true pain and suffering, and considering what she’s been through, one has to wonder how mentally stable she is.
The pacing of ‘Above the Law’ is almost perfect, with plenty of downtime for us to take in the settlement created in Richmond, heated exchanges to navigate through using dialogue choices and, at times, all out war taking hold – what more could you ask for? It manages to offer a great insight into how things are supposed to work within the New Frontier and who the authority figures are. The place itself looks far different to any I’ve come across already in The Walking Dead and on the face of it, people seem happy. It’s quite impressive how my perception of characters can change over time, due mainly to great character building.
Decisions are tricky, even when they don’t seem like they’ll affect too much, because a huge part of it is balancing between what was once a family and the family Javi has built since then. Despite David being a bit of a bully, sometimes family comes first, especially where survival is concerned. Other tough choices involve who lives and dies, which obviously leads to consequences… there’s always a consequence.
I can find no faults with the main characters in Javi’s group, except maybe Jesus who does something awesome then fades into the background for a considerable amount of time. I’m not entirely convinced about the other authority figures in Richmond, and that leads to a cliffhanger which misses the mark slightly. I don’t really care what happens to them, I hardly know them in truth. Contrary to that, there’s a supporting character named Lennie, and his script and voiceover work portray him as an absolute weasel; it’s just a shame the other newcomers don’t nail it as well.
I often feel boredom creep in when the scenes arise where you need to wander round an area and look for things, usually at a slow pace. This is supposed to be the zombie apocalypse so there’s no time for that, and for once Telltale agree with the inclusion of a frantic section full of interactive objects, combined with QTEs and bloodshed. It genuinely conveys the pressure of surviving under threat of walkers galore. The QTEs require very quick reactions to avoid an untimely end and feature button mashing, button repeating and directional movement. What I love most during the brutal fight scenes is seeing Javi using a weapon he’s far more comfortable grasping and it makes for some great action.
For the most part – a flashback aside – Clementine takes a backseat, occasionally chiming in with her thoughts on the New Frontier and David in particular. That’s a good call as she’s had her time in the limelight, this is about Javier Garcia and so far he’s doing a smashing job. The relationships he’s built, those he’s mending and the tricky choices made are all shaping him into a great lead.
There are a handful of new locations included in episode three, keeping everything fresh with plenty more of the vast Richmond settlement surely still to be seen. The new characters could do with a little more build, but those returning grow on the whole and emotions run wild as much for the gang as it does the play. Talking plays a huge part in developing the various dimensions of characters, whilst action-packed segments are thrown in to bring a healthy amount of excitement to proceedings.
Does the ending of ‘Above the Law’ entice me in for the next instalment? Truthfully? No. But that’s fine, because the rest of the episode is bloody great, mixing walker slaughtering with heartfelt conversation to create the ideal balance. I’ll be there for episode four of what has so far been an impressive season