FINALLY! Another episode of Telltale’s third season of Walking Dead has arrived, and third episode A New Frontier: Above the Law has finally come to grace everyone with its presence. Episode 3 has proven to be a fresh installment compared to the double blast of episodes one and two with Ties That Bind. While things still felt rushed from the previous episodes around the edges, they took a significantly slower turn this round. Slow and much more disturbing.
Javier and the other survivors have made their way to the front gates of the New Frontier. The survival group with an insignia burned into the skin of each member to show their dedication to the community, sacrificing their rights as an individual to adhere to the rules set by the leaders. The air of the community at first seems like a Godsend to the group. There are crops being grown to feed the populace, there is a working hospital, and despite pressing stress of the authority figures, the community seems organized.
Clementine continues to voice her concerns that nothing appears as it seems, and soon everyone become suspicious at their turn of good fortune. David Garcia, Javier’s older brother, appears to be on their side, but does he have a second agenda? Not to mention the New Frontier group are the ones responsible for the untimely death of Marianna in earlier episodes. Dark secrets are revealed about the supposedly peaceful community, promises are broken, and some truly disturbing people are brought to center stage.
There’s also a significant lack of player interaction beyond the usual dialogue trees and decisions that must be made compared to earlier episodes. If anything, the lack of being able to explore areas and talk to other characters surprised me. This change doesn’t draw away from the main storyline, but it did lead to feeling like a passive experience compared to how intense earlier episodes have been.
The focus is the shocking revelations made about the New Frontier group and the conclusions Clementine came too during her stay with them. The decisions and conversations between the characters were striking from start to finish, often making me feel uncomfortable when they presented themselves. One example has Clementine facing the decision to give AJ, a baby she’s been caring for, the last of a medicine despite the overwhelming odds he won’t survive. She has the option to forgo giving him the medicine to stay with the new New Frontier group or give it to him know there is a slim chance he’ll be able to survive. It’s not often you see a true Sophie’s Choice in videogames.
Another disturbing moment is when Badger, an unsavory character on his own, describes shooting Mariana in the back of the head and how it amused him. I’m no stranger to cruelty in videogames and certainly not callous villains, but Badger’s words left a bad taste in my mouth.
Improvements to optimization and visuals seem present in Episode 3 since the freezes and pauses I experienced in earlier episodes are completely absent. While there’s no chance to explore the town of Richmond once Javier and his group reach it, there is plenty of small details to flesh out the world perfectly. There are vegetables growing behind white picket fences, people in the city going about their day, and even a quarantine area blocked off for new arrivals.
A New Frontier: Above the Law left me feeling uncomfortable, and that’s coming from someone who’s seen her own fair share of unmentionables their lifetime. I understand the impression being made and can even relate to harder decisions made by the characters; certain situations still made me want to put the controller down and simply walk away. That said, this episode is certainly a step up from the earlier installments, especially technically, but players should be prepared to start questioning their morals afterward.