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When I got through the first episode of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, I was tentatively excited for a game that could have done interesting things with perspective in storytelling. While there is a smattering of that throughout this latest season of Telltale's flagship adventure series, it's hard to celebrate that when there's so much wrong with the core game itself. By the season's end, A New Frontier fails to deliver a satisfying story, and just feels rough all along the way.
Not so new
If you've played a Telltale release from the past five years, you should know exactly what to expect from A New Frontier's gameplay. As opposed to classic, point-and-click adventure games, you spend the majority of your time with the game making dialogue choices to move a story forward. There are occasional sequences where you may have to have quick reactions or do some light puzzle-solving, but most of the action is of the “choose-your-own-adventure” variety.
There is very little new in the way of mechanics in A New Frontier. In fact, the game actually feels quite old. This is mostly due to some technical issues with the game, which cause hitching and stuttering all along the way. Beyond that though, there are some scenes and sections of the game that just don't look good at all.
Throughout the story of A New Frontier you mostly stay in control of Javi, the former baseball player from Episode One. He's an imperfect man who eventually finds himself entangled in a conflict with The New Frontier, a group of survivors that seems to have some dubious methods for surviving the zombie apocalypse.
As the player, you get to choose how Javi deals with this situation, or at least, it appears this way. It seems like the further you get into A New Frontier the more the choices that you make end up feeling like they don't matter. To be clear, this doesn't seem to be because the game is trying to surprise you or make a commentary about player agency. Some of the things that happen in A New Frontier just don't really line up with your choices, the characters, or anything, in ways that almost make the game feel broken.
To be fair, not all of A New Frontier's choices or story feel nonsensical. There are moments in every episode that remind you how good this gameplay formula can be. In particular, moments with Clementine, one of the protagonists from Season One of the series, feel particularly well-executed.
These moments are unfortunately short-lived, though. Javi's story–while capable of being emotionally affecting–moves at a really odd pace. Moments you want to revel in rush past to get you to a shooting sequence or the next big argument. In doing this, A New Frontier focuses on and highlights Telltale's biggest weaknesses while passing over opportunities to play to its strengths.
The bottom line
A New Frontier shows just about every way that a Telltale game can go wrong. It sets up an interesting direction for the series to move in, and then squanders its potential due to artistic and technical issues. Unless you really need to see more developments to Clementine's story from previous seasons of The Walking Dead, there's really no reason to see this adventure through.