"Above the law, below par."
Following a significant break after the double premiere of Telltale’s new Walking Dead season, we’re finally back for Episode 3. As always, this review spoils the previous episodes (as well as some minor things that happen in this episode), so if you want initial impressions of the season, take a look here instead.
Before allowing us to continue where we left off with Episode 2’s cliffhanger, Above the Law takes us through a flashback to Kate and Javi, in the early days of the zombie outbreak. They’re desperate, attempting to steal a propane tank from a neighbour, but when Kate finds that it’s empty, she has a tantrum. You’d think an adult would know better than to make this much noise when sneaking onto a neighbour’s property to steal from them, but Kate is not a smart person. (Remember this for later. It ties into my biggest problem with this episode, which we’ll get to soon.) After convincing Gabe that it’s time to good look for his dad, we’re back in the moment when they’re finally reunited.
David barely even notices Kate dying in Javi’s arms when they show up at the gates of the community he and his New Frontier buddies currently occupy. Still, he takes her and Gabe with him into town and “quarantines” Javi and friends. This is the point when things sort of fall apart for me. One secondary character side-eyes Javier upon learning that Kate is married to his brother. See, the game has been pushing you into a relationship with her. I choose the least romantic and most rejecting dialogue option whenever I can, but still the game treats me like we’re having an affair. This continues when David brings Javier to make his case to the leaders of the New Frontier. The implied goal is to convince them to let Javier stay. Why would I want to stay? These people are murderers. They killed Mari and brought Prescott to the ground.
You’re repeatedly given choices where neither option is appealing. I don’t want to be with Kate. I don’t want to stay in the town. Later you’re forced to decide to meet with your brother or run away with Kate, when all I really want to do is abandon the both of them and get the hell out of there.
This episode does, at least, finally explain the fate of AJ in Clementine’s short playable Scene-of-the-Episode. After joining the New Frontier, AJ gets sick. The doctor is sure he’s going to die, but that won’t stop Clementine from stealing medicine to try to save him. When she’s caught before she can inject him with the meds, you’re given the option to continue or stop and return the medicine. If this wasn’t in the past, this could feasibly be a real decision. If there was a chance to patch things up with Clementine and the New Frontier, there’d be a reason to cooperate. But in the present, they hate her. So why cooperate?
This leads to a moment that also doesn’t mesh with the rest of what the game is trying to communicate. It usually paints David as a jackass who isn’t a completely terrible person. He’s relatively innocent in the New Frontier’s misdeeds, but Clementine’s flashback ends with an act of pure cruelty that makes no sense when taken with the rest of David’s words and actions elsewhere in the story.
Past Telltale games have been better about giving you the illusion of freedom, even if there wasn’t much of it when all was said and done. In the past, they’ve given you either equally appealing or unappealing options with some acceptable reason why there’s no option C or D. That’s not the case anymore. The railroading in this particular game has been bothering me since the beginning, and it seems to only be getting worse. Here’s hoping by the end I can ditch the rest of these losers and go hang out with Clementine forever.
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (March 29, 2017)
Rhody likes to press the keys on his keyboard. Sometimes the resulting letters form strings of words that kind of make sense when you think about them for a moment. Most times they're just random gibberish that should be ignored. Ball-peen wobble glurk.
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