Spoilers for Episode One, Two and Three of A New Frontier
My God, talk about speeding things up!
There was me thinking we were in for another long haul between episode releases. But then Telltale pulls it out of the bag and releases Episode Four only 28 days after Episode Three!
Opening with another pre-apocalypse flashback, Thicker Than Water continues immediately from the end of the previous episode with Javier (Jeff Schine) and David (Alex Hernandez) at each other’s throats.
Realising there is no chance of safety in Richmond, Javier must prepare supplies, weapons and his team for their eventual escape. But with antagonist Joan (Jayne Taini) bearing down upon them, the fear increasingly sets in as it becomes strikingly evident that not everyone will get out alive.
Thicker than Water is very much a tale of two halves, with the first being rather plodding compared to the action packed second. Indeed there are moments in the first half where character’s decisions are utterly inexplicable. For example, early on you’re about to set out through dangerous territory in a search for weapons; and yet a supporting character chooses that moment to stop you and ask for relationship advice!
The decision to make Joan the primary antagonist is also somewhat baffling, especially when the previous episode indicated that it would be David that would become Javier’s primary foe. Not only would that be more logical, but it would have made for a fascinating battle between two siblings. I can’t help feeling that maybe the writers wanted the best of both worlds, but were unable to make that ultimate sacrifice.
Though I found Joan to be a rather underdeveloped antagonist, especially when compared to Season 2’s Carver; I did find her inciting monologue at the end to be one of the best pieces of emotional writing in a videogame. Never have I gone from “I’m the hero!” to “Am I the hero?” so quickly.
Technically, the only thing of significance was that the entire game crashed about 3 minutes before the end. Talk about taking you out of the story! But fortunately it was a relatively minor problem that barely impacted on my emotional experience of the story.
Speaking of emotional experience, it’s also great to see the burgeoning romance between Javier and Kate (Shelly Shenoy) finally reach a climax after three episodes of build up. Though I couldn’t help being amused how both of them have magically shook off a gunshot wound to the gut and a stabbing to the arm respectively.
I especially enjoyed the increased presence of Ava (Ally Johnson). Whilst I had barely noticed her in previous episodes, her storyline here gains her a great deal of sympathy, especially in her scenes with Clementine.
Shame such a positive relationship can’t be said of the character of Gabe (Raymond Ochoa), whose sulky teenage bitchiness is an irritation that I will be introducing to a bullet as soon as the game allows me.
However, though the characterisation may be baffling, the final third act climax is undoubtedly the greatest sequence created in the past three seasons of Walking Dead gameplay. Every second becomes a heart pounding struggle as life changing decisions are thrown at you left right and centre; and never can you be completely sure that you’re making the right choice.
In the end, while the beginning was rather poorly paced, the finale more than makes up for it; and makes my anticipation for the final episode, From The Gallows, all the more sweeter.
Coming Soon: My Review of Episode Five: From the Gallows