Upon the conclusion of Telltale’s The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 1: Ties That Bind – Part 1 (I’m out of breath writing that title) things were beginning to get a little out of control. I don’t mean “oh no, I left the oven on” sort of out of control, but rather, “Oh no, a wagon full of TNT is barrelling out of control towards the orphanage” kind of madness. There was little time for meditative reflection, and the result was a story that felt a little too dynamic and ridiculous at times. Unfortunately, Episode 2: Ties That Bind – Part 2 picks up where the previous episode left off, doing little to stamp on the brakes of a story that is quickly spiralling out of control.
Right from its inception, Episode 2 throws you headfirst into the epicentre of the action, picking up directly after the calamitous events of the first episode. It’s an exhilarating and impactful introduction, immediately capturing your attention with its do-or-die high-stakes and (seemingly) important plot decisions. As a way to kick off an episode, it sure does utterly captivate your entire being, near-perfectly contrasting the (rightly) slower-paced introduction of Episode 1.
However, rather than immediately reducing the rapid pacing and tension after the opening conflict is resolved, Episode 2 instead retains it. You are never really given any moment of rest bite, a moment to take a well-deserved breather and mentally process the chaos that has unfolded before you. Protagonists Javier and Clementine are constantly bouncing from one action set-piece to another like a kangaroo at a Martin Garrix gig, and while it helps keep things tense and exciting, the result is one that feels chaotic and rushed. Truly great stories allow for moments of contemplation, something that is essential for building both meaningful character-to-player relationships and dramatic tension. By constantly throwing bucketful’s of action your way, Episode 2 leaves you little time to concentrate upon the overarching narrative of the game, a disappointing revelation considering how masterful the pacing was in Seasons 1 and 2.
That said however, despite the over-the-top pacing the story is actually incredibly engaging, something that is no doubt brought about by the continuingly captivating script. All the characters, including even the most minute and insignificant, are brilliantly well-written. Javier and his cohorts continue to be a satisfying and well-rounded cornerstone to The New Frontier, and it’s admirable just how quickly Telltale have been able to make these brand-new characters feel engaging to play and interact with. My only real qualm is how underused Clementine is as a character is this episode. She is by far the most exhilarating and mysterious (even for fans of the first two series who will know her well), yet aside from her brief flashback moments, she’s relegated to the role of a supporting member of the cast. Hopefully, future episodes will feature Clementine in all her bad-ass glory, allowing her to reclaim the stoplight she so rightly deserves.
Narrative-wise, Episode 2 is certainly a continuation of the events that played out in the opening episode. On the whole, the story threads from Episode 1 are aptly elaborated upon, yet at times the whole thing fells stretched and bloated. Very few new ingredients are added into the mix, and those that are feel all-too predictable, especially concerning Clementine. However, the conclusion of Episode 2 makes up these transgressions. As has become expected of Telltale games, the ending to Episode 2 is a hammer-blow to the senses, utterly overwhelming and blind-siding you and perfectly setting up future plot-lines.
Episode 2: Ties That Bind – Part 2 is a satisfying addition to the blossoming narrative of The New Frontier, pushing the story forward and adequately building upon the established cast, yet its execution is messy and somewhat cumbersome. Future episodes drastically need to tone down the frantic pace for fear of overwhelming players, and the overall narrative could do with a few Weight Watchers classes to trim down any unnecessary fat. There is a bountiful offering of potential with The New Frontier, yet it remains to be seen whether or not Telltale can follow through on it.