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The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series - A New Frontier: Episode 4 - Thicker Than Water (Xbox One) artwork

We're back for another episode of Telltale's The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. This review will spoil the previous episodes, so look elsewhere if you want to avoid that but want some thoughts on the game anyway.

As seems to be the way things are done recently, Episode 4 of Telltale's current Walking Dead season opens with another flashback, this time to a play date at the batting cages for Javier and David. Naturally David gets pissy when Javier, the former professional baseball player, is better at baseball than he is. Once again, A New Frontier's inability to make major characters besides Javier sympathetic rears its ugly head (at some point Javier says that Kate's “level head” has saved him more than once, but I guess she took a blow to that “level head” before the events of the game and turned into a moron who runs into the middle of a firefight and gets shot). This scene also features another dialogue option that doesn't work the way you expect it to. When a fan asks for an autograph while you're trying to share a moment with your brother, there's no way to politely refuse. You either give in or tell her to go crawl up her own butt and die.

Still, Thicker than Water is a step up from the disappointing previous episode. While David and Kate remain the worst, more secondary supporting characters do at least get a bit more time to shine. Tripp and Emily have their own drama in the background, and you're given the opportunity to get to know Ava a little better.

In a game full of emotionally immature adults (including, possibly, someone you expect better from, depending on your previous decisions), sometimes bad decisions get made and you have no control over them. When Gabe makes them, though, they don't seem so bad. I have more patience for his screw-ups because he's a child. He's at an age where he's desperate to be an adult but he's not smart or mature enough. That won't stop him from trying. He's sort of a mirror to Clementine, who has been on her own for a long time. She's tough, smart, and can take care of herself. There's a great scene that reminds us that she is still, in fact, a kid. There are things about the world and about herself that she hasn't been able to figure out on her own.

One character interaction I've been hoping for this entire season is for Javier and Kate to finally hash out their relationship instead of maybe flirting and having everyone make assumptions. If you've been reading my reviews for each successive episode, it won't surprise you to learn I rebuffed her as hard and as fast as I could. Most players apparently went along with her. I'd be interested in knowing how many actually liked her as a character (fair enough) and how many just felt like that's naturally the way the story was going to go and they could save some immersion by just going along with it.

The most major decision of the episode is the token "who lives/who dies" choice that every season of The Walking Dead has done to death. It's passe at this point, but this particular instance does a decent job of making it interesting by tweaking some interpersonal dynamics in the lead-up to it. Still, now we know the Sword of Damocles is hanging over the head of whoever survives, because that's just the way Telltale games work.

Thicker than Water is less dumb than previous episodes, partially because dumb characters are given less free reign to do what they want, and partially because you're given a little more freedom in your interpersonal relationships than you've had in the past. The game may have been guiding you to specific places before this point, but that doesn't mean you have to go all the way there. Still, the finale will need to do something spectacular if A New Frontier is going to be worthy of standing shoulder to shoulder with the previous seasons in the series.


Roto13's avatar
Staff review by Rhody Tobin (April 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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hastypixels posted May 01, 2017:

"Less dumb" has got to be the most disappointing endorsement I've read lately. "It's better than a rock, but not as much fun as mud." I get the appeal of branching, episodic games, but I just won't get into them because of inconsistencies like the ones you mention.

Thanks for the review. :)
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Roto13 posted May 03, 2017:

Most episodic games are better than this one.
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Masters posted May 04, 2017:

Nice review. You straddled the line pretty much perfectly between being informative and leaking spoilers. And you're right: how weak was that episode... It might've been the worst I've yet played in the Telltale TWD canon.
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EmP posted May 04, 2017:

I'm not even bothering with this until the season's done. I don't miss writing episodic reviews at all because I got stuck with the mediocre Guardians of the Galaxy release.

The last season was on shaky ground. And the Michonne stand alone was pretty poor.

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