Hello everyone, its Kiki here back with another game review. Recently I had the pleasure of playing the newest installment of Telltale’s series “The Walking Dead” to which the first two episodes, “The Tides that Bind Part 1 and 2” were available to play. As a huge fan of the series, I eagerly seized the opportunity to play the game and had plenty of awe moments that I look forward to sharing with you. I did a review on Seasons 1 and 2, so if you would like to read that first and foremost, you can click HERE.
Warning, before reading further, please be warned that spoilers may be discussed.
As most Telltale games will give evidence to, the gameplay is very simplistic and minimal. It has basic point-and-click mechanics to which you control a single character and interact with the overall surroundings. Walking Dead, Season 3 is no exception to this rule. However, where the gameplay lacks, the story more than makes up for. The story continues two years after the events in season 2, and much like all Telltale games, your decisions and actions in prior games will affect some critical points in the current. Rather than continue the story of Clementine, the leading heroine in seasons 1 and 2, the third season begins with a new array of characters to which Clementine is more a support.
The game is fantastic just like its predecessors. You are instantly drawn in with the fast paced dialogue between the characters and the moving story of the zombie apocalypse. The graphics were a large improvement over previous game, where freckles, shadows, and details in the environment stood out heavily. Characters movements and facial reactions were much more responsive and realistic, which overall made your involvement in the game a grand experience. There was one flaw in the story that I felt a bit unbelievable, but it was a minor set-back in the overall arc of the available story.
As stated above, and on my previous Telltale The Walking Dead review; the game focuses very minimal to complex game mechanics. This largely on purpose for multiple reasons that actually works to benefit the game rather than take away. The developers at Telltales want your experience to heavily be focused on storytelling rather than extensive gameplay. All of your attention is focused on the characters and scenery around you, and how every outcome can affect the end of the game. There are some battle sequences to which your quick time skills and shooting accuracy will be tested, but the handicap set up for the “shooting scenes” make it very easy to master. With the game mechanics simplified, not only does the story take a lead but it then appeals to a greater audience. Anyone can pick up the game and play it. I remember when season 2 was released, my mother and I were on a Walking Dead kick due to the show, so I insisted that she try the game. She was able to get through the first episode of season 1, and she had barely played any video games prior.
The only issue I had with these first two episodes of this season, were a few moments in the game that you can control your character, Javier, from a third person perspective. One was that you were searching for fuel in a junk-yard, the next is you were walking through a bar to introduce yourself to some characters, and the last is when you are retrieving a bottle of water for your female companion and then looking for your nephew character. Although a minor issue, my biggest complaint with these third person moments that I never had too much of an issue with in prior games, is the tasks that you are given for these moments seem very trivial and don’t drive the story much other than to take up time. I can forgive the first scene in the junkyard because it leads you into another area of the game, but the other two could have easily been replaced with cutscenes or turn and click based searches rather than third person control. I am reminded of season 1 where you are playing as Lee and you are trying to uncover who broke a flashlight and stole medicine. You aren’t simply performing meaningless tasks such as walking through a bar such as season 3, rather you are walking and aiding the group in uncovering a mystery. Again, a very small complaint in the game, but still something worth noting.
With all that in mind, Telltales storytelling is the selling factor to all their games. Their ability to disregard gameplay to such an extent, leaves little to no error with the story of the game. To which for the most part, they succeed in all accounts. The Walking Dead Season 3 picks up two years after the ending of season 2. You are following Javier Garcia, an ex-baseball player who was banned after being caught in a gambling scheme. The game begins showing what happened to his family the day the apocalypse occurs, and then cuts to four years after. Javier, which is shortened to Javi, gets caught up in several bandit raids and eventually comes into contact with Clementine; who up until this point, the story has been focused around. Clementine is still a leading drive in the story, which myself and I am sure other fans were hoping for, but the introduction of Javi and journey helps to pull the story in a new direction away from her in a healthy and steady manner. Just like the prior Walking Dead games, the game uses dialogue and choices to reveal the type of character you are crafting Javi to be. There are some hints to romance with the woman you are traveling with, as well as another woman you meet in a small town that Clementine takes you. Without revealing too much of the story and the characters themselves, it carries on as usual. You determine the type of guy Javi is, and the characters surrounding you will act accordingly.
There was one major flaw in the story that I had yet to encounter in a Telltales game before. There was some level of believability concerns when in regards to the second episode. As mentioned at the top of this review, please be warned of the spoilers ahead. When you reenter the town Prescott with Clementine and your family, you are eventually encountered with the bandits that had attacked you early in the game. They give you, Clementine and the leader of Prescott the option of surrendering your protagonist, or risk a shoot-out. The leader of Prescott, Tripp, who you (as Javier) just met a day prior, is unwilling to negotiate your surrender to the group. Now this isn’t entirely unbelievable, because it can be argued that the Walking Dead universe has salvaged some men and women to still have decency, but what is unbelievable is how Tripp then is willing to abandon his entire town of people, who he had kept safe and secure for months and possibly years, to protect you… You, I remind you, he had just met a day prior.
As soon as this sequence took place, I immediately was turned off to the realism due to my prior knowledge of the Walking Dead universe both in the show, the comics and in the games. The zombie apocalypse has now been an ongoing game for now four years in the Telltale game universe, to which several groups of people have battled, died, survived, pillaged and traveled by means of survival. Towns and sanctuaries had been created and were strictly ran to ensure maximum survival chances for the people they housed. I think of season 2, the sanctuary Wellington that Kenny and Clementine traveled to (if that was the ending you chose, mind you) and how they were willing to turn away a child and a newborn infant because they “didn’t have room” and yet in season 3, this Tripp character is willing to abandon his entire group of people for the sake of one man he met only a day before. This could be taken several different ways. This could be clear evidence of the type of character that Tripp is. Or this could be a major plot hole that no one was willing to review in the final renditions of the game. As much as I hate saying it, I have to give it to the ladder. And further evidence is shown when Tripp first invites you in with Clementine, and jails you after a brawl happens with Clementine and a character after selling her blank bullets. If you convince him the brawl was in self-defense, he believes you but still insists on jailing you for precaution. He later comes to you and tells you he will escort you to your family in the junkyard and “get you out of his hair”. In just one day, he goes from getting you out of Prescott… to then then abandoning them to save you. The flip-flop was too large, it stuck out too deep. I felt an instant disconnect from the realism that I had admired about the games for so long.
Don’t peg me for a hater though. My love for the game still reigns high. This could be own biases towards the Walking Dead universe playing a factor here, but I can forgive one plot hole to the overall story I believe Telltales is going to tell in the upcoming episodes. Will all that in mind, here is my final and overall verdict. The gameplay is minimal and simplistic; but this is a huge plus to the game because not only does this allow a great audience of people to play it, but it also gives the player the chance to solely focus on the story that is being delivered. It tests your choices and actions to alter the story and to make it your own. The story remains to be immersive and colorful; characters are diverse, all with pasts that slowly trickle into revelation which only instills sympathy and encourages true and difficult decision making. Episode 2 did introduce one of the only plot holes I can recall encountering in the Telltales Walking series, but my confidence and loyalty to the developers gave me the ability to look past it in hopes that the remaining episodes are beautiful and crafted to satisfy its audience.
A copy of The Walking Dead Season 3: A New Frontier was provided by Telltales Games for this review.