The Walking Dead: A New Frontier has been quite the surprising season for Telltale’s marquee franchise. With the first two becoming smash hits, it was expected that the developer would follow them up with a similar entry. Instead they took the narrative in a whole new direction, still featuring series star Clementine, but moving the focus to a new character and his family. So far, through four episodes we’ve grown attached to Javi and his group, and now the finale puts the finishing touches on the season. Does it stick the landing and cement The Walking Dead: A New Frontier as another fantastic entry in the series, or was this a misstep for Telltale?
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 5 “From the Gallows” jumps right into the action, picking up on the cliffhanger from the previous episode. Javi and his family are stuck within the walls of Richmond, fighting for their survival while dealing with the politics of the area. Things have gone way wrong, and practically none of their plans worked as expected. Javi and his group will fight to stay alive, but also try to work out some of their internal struggles.
Starting off with another flashback, TWD: A New Frontier Episode 5 doubles down on the focus it has placed on Javi and his family. We once again see how Javi’s family life was before the zombie apocalypse, setting the stage for the family drama that follows. These flashbacks, and the way the whole story has come together, seems to show a larger amount of planning went into this season than the previous ones. While the first two had moments where the plot meandered, or took an odd turn, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier has remained steadfast in its story.
Whether or not that’s a good thing comes down to how attached you became to Javi and the drama that surrounded him. Telltale did a good job of making the characters all fairly relatable, and the comic cameo for Jesus certainly brought things to another level. On the whole though the drama this season wasn’t quite as pulse pounding or endearing as what we’ve seen before. It is still far better than most video games out there, but this season will likely be remembered less fondly than the first two seasons of The Walking Dead.
The episode is one of Telltale’s best from the last year or two
With that said, Episode 5 does do well at bringing together all of the themes, story elements, and characters from the entire season. Each relationship and story reaches a conclusion here, with only a few things being left to question, possibly to be picked up in The Walking Dead: Season 4. This is especially true of Clementine, whose role as a secondary character seemed like a bold choice, but has left this season feeling a bit less impactful to longtime fans. She gets some standout moments in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 5, but the big thing that her story made clear was that there was more to be told there.
Looking back at this season as a whole there were less memorable choices to be made throughout. Some of the gut wrenching decisions that players had to make in Season 1 and 2 have stuck out as some of the best in video game storytelling. A New Frontier lacked some of that, and what it did have were quickly patched up via the usual methods used by Telltale. That was true of the first four episodes, so heading into the finale it seemed like things would be forced together to deliver the conclusion.
Instead Episode 5 delivers some great choices to be made, including the smaller ones about how you interact with other characters. These allow for some very divergent pathways, including a large chunk of content that players will almost certainly want to play through by loading a save and seeing what happens. This hasn’t happened in a Telltale game in a while, which marks The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 5 as something special for fans to enjoy.
The episode as a whole is one of Telltale’s best from the last year or two. It does succumb to the Telltale formula a bit, with choices that seem impactful, but end up being cut off after only a short while. Still, the storyline here has been engaging, and this was possibly the best episode of this entire season. This is largely due to the drama within the story, which is superbly written as always, but it’s also a great showcase for how Telltale handles gameplay.
Things have gone totally wrong before Episode 5 “From the Gallows” even starts, so aside from a few moments where our characters catch their breath, the game is firing on all cylinders throughout. Shooting sequences, fighting hordes, and some tense stealth moments add up to one of the most action-packed episodes of this entire series. Quick Time Events may be old to some players, but Telltale has perfected them at this point, and this episode serves up some of the best.
As far as how this series ends, I won’t spoil anything. There is a lot of deviation allowed in the ending, which is always good to see in a Telltale game. Some story beats weren’t handled as well as I’d hoped within my main story choices, but perhaps Telltale is laying the groundwork to touch back in with Javi later on. One thing that did seem odd was how much time was spent within the middle of this episode, only to rush through the last few scenes. Nothing was skipped over, but some more time saying goodbye to these characters felt necessary.
But that’s all nitpicky. The Episode as a whole is another great entry from Telltale. This is true in the story, but the technical side does still need some work. The updated engine still looks good, though not up to AAA standards, of course. Animation is still a bit of a problem though, with jittery movement and glitches presenting on occasion. On the whole this is still a big improvement for Telltale, but it’s clear that more work could go into stabilization and polish.
It’s hard to talk about a finale without discussing the season as a whole. By itself The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 5 “From the Gallows” is a solid entry in the franchise. As a finale it does a good job of delivering on the build up that we’ve seen throughout this season. The season as a whole might not be the best this franchise has seen, but it was bold and different in unexpected ways. If you’ve stuck with the series this long then Episode 5 will be a delight, and will have you begging for Season 4.