This review contains spoilers for Episodes 1, 2, 3, and 4 of TellTale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, and all previous seasons of the series
Thicker Than Water successfully ramps up New Frontier’s story in a way that will certainly lead to a tense and thrilling finale. While it is a narrative success, some of the dialogue choices are confusing at best, and almost the opposite of their intent at worst.
TellTale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 4 – Thicker Than Water
Developer: TellTale Games
Price: $24.99 for a Season Pass
Platforms: PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC, Mac, Android, iOS
MonsterVine was provided with a PS4 code for review.
After the jam-packed third episode preceding it, Thicker Than Water had a lot of ground to cover, and story-wise, it succeeds. It’s only when the choice-based gameplay betrays the immersive narrative that the latest episode of TellTale’s The Walking Dead truly falters.
The settlement of Richmond is clearly on edge, thanks primarily to Javi and the gang’s actions throughout the last episode. The council that leads this little utopia, lead by the increasingly unhinged Joan, is preparing to wipe Javi and his friends out, while even planning on executing David to ensure public opinion is in their favor. It wouldn’t be The Walking Dead if a seemingly safe settlement fell to pieces because of the hubris and power-hungry greed that humanity represents so well in the series.
With so much tension and conflict bubbling to the surface, it’s no surprise to see the main group severed in half, with some declaring their love for one another, and others trying to kill each other because of past choices that are only now coming to light. There’s a great deal of conflict and betrayal happening between Javi, Tripp, Eleanor, and Kate, with Gabe and Clem trying to figure out their own paths within the group. Seeing the disassembly of this group wasn’t nearly as emotionally painful as watching the group in Season 1 fall apart, but it was still difficult to see Eleanor and Tripp sell out the others in order to secure their own safety, partially out of spite.
A highlight of Thicker Than Water was the continuation of Gabe and Clem’s young romance. Even Kate and Javi noticed the two growing close as a result of their current circumstances, leading to their own romance finally being addressed. It was just nice to see Clementine feeling genuinely happy after the intense life she’s lead over the past three seasons, even if the peace wasn’t meant to last for long.
The final scenes at the public trial in Richmond were the most thrilling and enjoyable of the whole episode, as I truly grew to hate Joan, as well as Eleanor and Tripp for their knee-jerk but believable betrayals. Watching Joan spiral out of control was infuriating from my point of view as the player, making it difficult to try to kill Joan at the expense of the others. The heightened emotional weight that these choices have throughout the episode is an example of how well TellTale can use your emotions as a narrative tool, which is truly their greatest strength, alongside cliffhanger endings like the one seen in this episode. Ending with Kate’s death, so shortly after her and Javi’s inevitable relationship, was tragic in a particularly Walking Dead fashion.
Clementine’s story took a bit of a back-seat in this episode, which wasn’t a bad thing for once. The short but sweet flashback managed to do all it set out to do, which was establishing the idea that Clementine still represents a type of hope for the future of civilization. Seeing Clem deciding to press on with the spirits of Lee (which will always evoke emotions from me), and AJ in her heart was a moving moment to experience, and further cemented Clementine as one of the best characters to grace not only The Walking Dead, but video games in general, as hyperbolic as that statement may seem.
The main problem with Thicker Than Water (outside of the usual frame-rate and model-popping issues) is the oddly inaccurate dialogue options. I actually had to restart the game at one point because of how vague the major decision was worded. When I chose to spare the doctor, I assumed it was to let Clem gather her intel on AJ, when, contrary to the information presented, I had to choose to kill the doctor in order to get this information. There were a few moments where Javi didn’t say what I wanted him to, leading to some frustrating moments of confusion between characters that should have never happened.
The Final Word
Thicker Than Water serves as an excellent prelude to the carnage that is sure to come in the Season finale. Genuine emotions were brought to life thanks to Clementine’s flashback and the betrayal of Javi’s friends, and the unfortunate death of Kate. The unfortunate false-advertising that came with certain dialogue choices made it difficult to know exactly what you were saying in some situations, which will hopefully be a fleeting issue, and not one that hampers future TellTale adaptations.
– MonsterVine Review Score: 4 out of 5 – Good