Posted on 19 Jan 2017 by L Coulsen

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Ties That Bind – Part II

The Defence

Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Genre: Adventure
Platform: Consoles, Mac, PC
Review copy: Yes
Release date: Ep1/2 20 Dec 2016

The Prosecution

Minimum
OS: Windows
CPU: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.4 GHz
AMD equivalent
VGA: Nvidia GeForce 450
AMD equivalent
RAM: 3 GB
HDD: 8 GB
DirectX: 11
Controller: Full
Mod Support: No
VR: No
FOV Slider: No
FPS Lock: Unknown

The Case

Actually released on the same day as the previous episode, and even sharing a part 1/part 2 title scheme. Conventional wisdom would seem to suggest treating Ties That Bind as a singular entity. However, though there are certainly a great many elements holding both together, they are still clearly distinct entities that, like any episodic series, further the larger narrative as a small part of a greater whole. So, to that effect, let’s dive in and take a closer look at The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Episode 2.

The Trial

Unsurprisingly, this kicks off right where episode 1 left off. With Javie and Clementine dealing with the after effects of the complete clusterfuck that was part 1’s climax. Something which actually ties into the climax for this episode, making it an oddly symmetric experience that feels very much like a symbolic return to form at the same time. Now that the new characters have been introduced, and the dynamics have been ironed out, Telltale are saying we can settle in for the ride and not have to worry because it’s back to business as usual. It just so happens that business as usual means everyone getting royally screwed over and making all the worst choices in the universe no matter how much they try not to, but hey ho.

Like a gangsta...

Though Ties That Bind part 2 actually clocks in at roughly the same length as episode 1, about ten minutes shorter all told. And though there’s a lot going on, it actually doesn’t seem like there’s all that much going on. There are some incredibly tense moments, which include an all-out assault on Lexington right at the beginning, the settlement that Clem, Javie and co have chosen to hold up in. And a confrontation with a huge horde of walkers in the sewers towards the end, a scene which really shows off the new lighting improvements.

But the vast majority of this episode is dialogue based, with even a couple of small puzzles thrown in to mix things up a bit. It makes the episode feel…not so much longer, but more laid back. Certainly a deliberate narrative choice to allow the player to fully digest the events that came before. And this is the largest reason it is better to look at the two parts of Ties That Bind as distinct entities. There’s a massive tonal shift here that brings us firmly back to the realities of living in the world of The Walking Dead. Grandiose concepts like survival and rebuilding human civilisation are cast aside, literally torn down around you again. In its place is an emphasis on what really matters – family.

It’s also now when the titular New Frontier become a major factor of the narrative. With this episode’s climax being a doozy of a reveal about who, exactly, they are. But more importantly, how they came to be. Nevermind the fact that Clementine was actually a member of their group once upon a time. A story that has not yet fully been told, but reveals a few more tidbits of via another flashback. Something which only serves to raise more questions than it answers, but handled with a degree of aplomb that will keep you more intrigued than frustrated.

There’s also a short scene which takes place prior to the outbreak, and before even the start of the previous episode, between Javie and Kate. Because things aren’t complicated enough, there’s some not so subtle sexual tension that’s been bubbling between them for a while now. It isn’t just them coming together because they’ve lost almost everyone else. Javie has had his eye on his brother’s old lady for a while now. ‘Cause, y’know, he’s just a stand-up guy and all. But again, it’s done in a way that doesn’t ruin the character in any way, it serves to humanise him further. Reminding us, in no uncertain terms, that nobody is perfect.

There is always light at the end of the tunnel.

That’s the main theme of episode 2 actually. All the best intentions in the world don’t amount to shit after you’ve shot Marvin in the face. The revelation about Clementine helps add context about her too. Further driving home the fact she has damn good reason to be so gruff and insular. Just in case the events of the previous two seasons hadn’t convinced you yet. You know, whilst we’re on the subject, it’s actually quite astounding that Telltale have managed to pull this off for so long without things ever feeling contrived.

The Verdict

Anyway, the point is, episode 2 takes a slightly rocky, but very solid opening to the season and pushes things forward and onward to better things. Well, worse actually, but you know what I mean. I wouldn’t say this is Telltale’s best episode over all, but it comes really close. The new characters have firmly established themselves now, the stakes have been clearly defined, the new direction is showing the first, depressing signs of where it’s going…and we couldn’t be more maliciously, deliciously excited for the next instalment.

Case Review

  • Back to the Future: Those flashbacks that seemed like interesting little tidbits are now factoring as major shadows of things to come.

  • Burned at the Stakes: Let’s just say, the big bad is going to have some hard thinking to do.

  • Melissa Hutchinson: Oscar!

  • Lighting: The sunset near the episode’s opening and the torchlight in the sewers are truly a work of art.

  • Length: Even shorter than the episode before it, barely scratching 70 minutes, but still well packed with plot and action.

  • Custom Key Bindings: Nitpicker’s gonna’ nitpick.

5 Score: 5/5
Takes everything episode 1 did and turns it up to 11.

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