The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier Ep. 1: Ties That Bind Part One Review

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Ties bind and ties break.

Telltale Games kicks off the third season of its Walking Dead series by introducing a fresh cast of new characters--a logical start for a season dubbed "A New Frontier." The story's lens shifts focus across the country to peer into the lives of a struggling family, rather than the exploits of downtrodden survivors. Yet even with all of these changes and scant undead creeps, A New Frontier's premier episode will feel familiar to fans of the series. Episode one establishes a heady moral stew loaded with hard choices and heartbreak, and is one of the best additions to the series since it began in 2012.

A New Frontier diverges from its two preceding seasons rather dramatically at times, rolling the clock back to the initial zombie outbreak. Here we are introduced to the Garcia family, located on the West Coast. Javier (Javy to his friends) is the new lead--a likable twentysomething and the black sheep of his family. In the opening scene, Javy races to his brother's house to see their terminally ill father before he dies. But traffic, due to the outbreak, stops him dead in his tracks. When he finally arrives, he's too late. Emotionally spent, Javy's brother David punches him in the face, followed by smack from his newly widowed mother. Once again, in their eyes, Javy failed to be there for his family when they needed him the most.

Where past seasons aimed to stay true to The Walking Dead’s comic book roots, A New Frontier's cutscenes employ notable cinematic flair.
Where past seasons aimed to stay true to The Walking Dead’s comic book roots, A New Frontier's cutscenes employ notable cinematic flair.

Where the first two seasons of the walking dead were mostly about forming familial ties with strangers you meet along the way, here we’re dropped into the middle of a traditional family with preexisting issues; stepmom immediately whips out a joint to relieve the tension of life on the run. There's illicit yet unspoken romance, hatred between family members, and ghosts of past transgressions lurking beneath the surface. Telltale has come a long way from the melodrama of past seasons, which revolved around the too-often-hysterical Kenny. In A New Frontier, Javy, Kate, Gabe, and Marianna are completely authentic in the way that they act and talk among each other, drawing you into their plight and earning much-deserved empathy.

Like its predecessors, this is an adventure that calls for casual interaction with only a few rudimentary puzzles to solve along the way. Nothing here is wildly challenging--although the quick-time-event combat scenarios do seem a bit more involved than in the past. The meat of the game remains the tremendous dialogue and the sheer number of choices that need to be made when deciding upon a course of action. The plot changes depending on what you do, which can have ramifications on everything from what somebody thinks of you, to who lives and who dies. This pumps up the replay value, with different outcomes motivating you to replay the two-hour story and reconfigure your choices.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Walking Dead game without Clementine. The ballcap-wearing heroine of the first two seasons is back, a little more grown-up and much more of a badass than she was at the end of Season Two. Flashbacks reveal pieces of what she's been through in the interim, and it isn't pretty. As a result, Clem now totes a combat shotgun, and her character has become something of a mystery, who may or may not be trustworthy. This is a gutsy direction in which to take a character who, up until now, has been the stainless moral center of the bleak Walking Dead world.

Clem's motives seem mysterious at the start of season three, but one thing's for certain: she's grown up a lot since the end of season two.
Clem's motives seem mysterious at the start of season three, but one thing's for certain: she's grown up a lot since the end of season two.

Season three supports saves from previous seasons across various platforms, so you can port in your past progress--and Clementine's--no matter how you played Season Two. If you misplaced your old saves, however, the “Continue Your Story” option lets you custom-craft Clementine's personality through a series of questions related to the first two seasons' events. No matter how you go about it, when you choose to continue the saga, and you get flashbacks to Lee, Kenny, and the rest of the gang. Start an all-new game, and you get more generic flashbacks to Clem's life on the road.

While the game continues with the graphic-novel style of the visuals, they’re not as bound to the comics as they seemed to be in the past. Scenes are set with more cinematic flair, with dramatic camera angles and evocative lighting setting the mood. The earlier games Walking Dead games from Telltale looked great in their own right, but this episode takes things to a higher level, exemplified when you see the Garcias' van speeding down a road under eerie moonlight, and when Javy rides on horseback to rescue his family as the sun rises over a run-down auto yard.

Telltale has crafted another entertaining chapter in the always-growing Walking Dead story. The Ties That Bind Part I takes the series in a welcome new direction with the Garcia family while still staying true to the moral dilemmas and zombie-chomping action that made the first two seasons so compelling. The New Frontier is off to a great start, and its troubled cast's harrowing journey is just getting started.

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    The Good
    Refreshing cast of new characters
    Captivating presentation
    Great dialogue reveals interesting backstories
    Numerous crossroads present meaningful choices
    Simulating save data from previous seasons is a clever and convenient feature
    The Bad
    The two hour episode is over before you know it
    About GameSpot's Reviews
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    About the Author

    Brett hung out in (the virtual version of) Prescott for about four hours while playing through The Ties That Bind Part I twice. He was provided with a complimentary pre-release copy of the game by Telltale Games.
    40 Comments  RefreshSorted By 

    Avatar image for kreator669

    Well, maybe I'll try this game

    Avatar image for dmblum1799

    The reason it's episodic is because, duh, it's based on a TV show, which is a genre episodic in nature.

    Avatar image for Sound_Demon

    Is this seriously still a thing? Reviewing each episode in this series as if it were a separate game? It isn't a different game. They complete each other. Why not just rate each chapter of final fantasy xv individually? I don't understand why this is a thing.

    Avatar image for bbq_R0ADK1LL

    @Sound_Demon: Getting a review in the headlines every time they release a chapter certainly benefits Telltale.

    For me, this might as well be an Early Access review. The game isn't done yet.

    Avatar image for Fia1

    both episodes are incredibly short, if only they were to release the complete season in one go, i hate this episodic structure so much...

    Avatar image for brandiesel

    @Fia1: same. I'll wait for it to be complete. I'm not supporting this episodic nonsense anymore.

    Avatar image for deviltaz35

    Release Tales from Borderlands 2 or nothing please. There were too many zombies in 2006 let along 2016 . Zombies need to be outlawed from games starting january 1 2017.

    Please have a new years resolution that we may finally see some decent franchises in 2017 instead of rehashed nonsense about zombies.

    Avatar image for joper2017

    @deviltaz35: It's not just about zombies. The Walking Dead was always about the human threats. Which this games usually deal with. If you played the game like you said then you would understand that.

    Avatar image for Lazerbeak2125

    @deviltaz35: u just don't get it.,,,,,,,,,,,,it's not about the zombies

    Avatar image for deviltaz35

    @Lazerbeak2125: What is it then? as this is now the third game that is basically just the same thing again and again with fake options that make very little difference to the overall story arc. Why are people getting so obsessed over nothing more than interactive story books? They were done years ago in paper form called Choose your own adventure books but at least some of them involved dice so the outcome changed.

    Avatar image for Pierce_Sparrow

    @deviltaz35: It's just good storytelling. It doesn't matter if it's zombies or not, it's the characters we like and their stories. The zombies are just the choice of disaster. You'll notice that pretty much anything that Telltale does is met with popularity. TWD just happens to have a huge following and the game franchise from Telltale is that good.

    Avatar image for deviltaz35

    @Pierce_Sparrow: It's not good storytelling though unless you are about 6 years of age with the brain capacity of a turnip.

    As some people get in here even the so called choice is mostly just an illusion.

    Avatar image for Pierce_Sparrow

    @deviltaz35: I'll take the opinion of most people who have played the Walking Dead games over your half baked assessment and pathetic insults.

    Avatar image for deviltaz35

    @Pierce_Sparrow: i have played them otherwise i wouldn't have the opinion nitwit. Just clever enough to wait for 4.95 sales when the whole season is available on each. As that is the price point they should be certainly no more than 9.95.

    Avatar image for bbq_R0ADK1LL

    @Pierce_Sparrow: @deviltaz35@Lazerbeak2125 I agree, it's all about the storytelling. These games pretty much let you go along for the ride with just enough inputs to make you feel more invested than a simple TV show.

    I have a pretty big aversion to zombies too though. Mostly it's just an excuse for bad AI. Mechanically I don't like zombie games because hordes of dumb enemies get boring. Narratively I don't like zombie games because the concept isn't believable - human teeth aren't great for breaking skin, any organism whose means of feeding is also their means of reproduction is doomed to a very brief rise & fall... it requires way too much suspension of disbelief.

    I give The Walking Dead games a pass because they're more about the human relationships being put under strain than the outside threat.

    Avatar image for rk7p5

    @bbq_R0ADK1LL: The idea of someone you knew and loved dying but somehow still walking around is very deep.

    Some people refuse to believe they're dead and they can be saved/cured somehow.

    Other people even though they know the zombies are are dangerous and can kill you, have a difficult time smashing someone's head in especially if it's a friend or family.

    You have to suspend belief in order to enjoy most games, movies and books.

    If it's so easy to suspend belief, no one would have nightmares.

    Avatar image for deviltaz35

    @bbq_R0ADK1LL: Unless they file their teeth sharp but i have never seen that once :)

    Avatar image for deviltaz35

    @bbq_R0ADK1LL: That is a good observation. There is far too much crap about people's feelings in games nowadays. How did we get to this horrible state? Do they think everyone playing games today is a nancy boy or girl crybaby that can't think for themselves and needs to be nursed by a game on how their life should be?

    Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

    @deviltaz35: I get what you mean - but Tales from the Borderlands isn't really any more sophisticated.

    Maybe you prefer a goofier setting.

    Avatar image for deviltaz35

    @Gelugon_baat: It isn't that it's more sophisticated it is just far better written and you can tell they cared about what they were doing. These other games are just churned out as money makers.

    Avatar image for Gelugon_baat

    @deviltaz35: TellTale does care about whatever it does - the results may not impress everyone who is not them though.

    By the way, I don't think that Tales from the Borderlands is better written either. That last episode of Season 1 - man, that's just an excuse to toss in outrageous shit like popular culture references.

    Avatar image for deviltaz35

    @Gelugon_baat: Yeah the problem with last eps is it's set up for inevitable sequels. That is the real problem with Telltale nowadays everything is set up for part 2 or part 3 or part 4 etc. They need to end games and start something entirely fresh.

    i agree with you there on pop culture references they need to leave them out of games that have an international release as they are meaningless to anyone outside the know.

    I just wish Telltale would start releasing real point and click games again where you needed a brain to play them.

    thank goodness there are still some excellent point and click adventures being made where the story and quality runs rings around Telltale. They don't even upgrade the engine.

    One of the worst games so far from them is Game of Thrones though , it doesn't even work properly on PC. I only paid $3 for the season but it's not even worth that.

    Avatar image for NTM23

    Oh, yeah... This is out now. Well, I won't be playing it until all of them are out, which is unfortunate, because it means I have to wait. I loved the first two seasons, but I have very little excitement for this since it's just only starting now. I played the first two when they were already both out, so I got to play them back-to-back. Dang, and now that I am checking Steam, I guess I played both of them near the end of 2014. It felt more recent than that. Hm, the second episode was already reviewed?

    Avatar image for SoNin360

    Did I miss something? Pretty sure I only spent like an hour and 15 minutes on this episode... the second part was barely over an hour. Good episodes but they literally just cut it in half and made it the first 2 episodes of the game...

    Avatar image for deviltaz35

    @SoNin360: Telltale overcharge , these games are not too bad at a $10 price point when all eps are released but that's about it. Still haven't seen one better than Tales from The Borderlands though.

    Ties that Bind is a 2011 movie title too , surprised they can get away with it when all they are creating now are interactive movies broken into bits.

    Avatar image for TigerRifle1

    Titles aren't copyright protected only characters and plot.

    Avatar image for naryanrobinson

    The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier Ep. 1: Ties That Bind Part One

    Thank god, I only play games with more than 15 words in the title, and I was getting bored.

    Avatar image for hastati4

    The Walking Dead

    A Telltale Series

    A New Frontier

    Episode 1

    Ties That Bind

    Part One

    Avatar image for sakaixx

    When is projection for the last episode release date? Gonna pick up when the whole season is finished. Not loving having to wait for next episode like the previous seasons, when I'm hyped up or emotional then sudenly cliffhanger and I need to wait for like 2-3 month for the next episode.

    Avatar image for Lazerbeak2125

    @sakaixx: You can't think of it as a game....

    Avatar image for lateralus85

    Sounds like a good start, Ill wait till the whole season is done to get it.

    Avatar image for Itzsfo0

    great cant wait to play

    Avatar image for with_teeth26

    this game has a unreasonably long title

    Avatar image for deviltaz35

    @with_teeth26: It takes about the same amount of time to read the title as it does to play the episode.

    Avatar image for kozzy1234

    @with_teeth26: bahaha!

    TWDS3:EP1 would have been much better

    Avatar image for siarhei

    " The plot changes depending on what you do, "

    Can we stop with this already?

    Telltale makes great interactive comics, but the storyline is always set in stone at least until end of Ep.4

    Avatar image for Pro-Aktivity

    @siarhei: Right? Every time their games start with that phrase I roll my eyes. The stories they tell are mostly good, but they are so bad at pulling off the illusion of choice.

    Avatar image for deviltaz35

    @Pro-Aktivity: How is it you get that but too many people don't?

    Avatar image for deactivated-5861e28463500

    @siarhei: I agree.

    Let me correct the sentence "Some irrelevant details of the plot changes depending on what you do."

    The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier More Info

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    The Walking Dead : Season Three has players play as both Javier and Clementine.
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    Developed by:
    Telltale Games
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    Telltale Games, Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
    Content is generally suitable for ages 17 and up. May contain intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content and/or strong language.
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