It’s all about family
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier has been an incredible journey. I have spent more than 24 hours during the past three seasons crafting a beautiful badass in Clementine, and this season, a new family for her to call her own. The final chapter of season three does a masterful job of giving a sense of weight to the choices made during the previous four episodes, making the entire journey that much sweeter.
I thoroughly enjoyed playing as Javi as he attempts to hold whatever semblance he has of his post-apocalyptic family. While the beats that got me to this point were not always fleshed out as I would have liked, the payoff certainly was worth it. I reviewed the previous episode and felt like it had lacked emotional punch and fluidity. It seemed like its only purpose was to lead us to the finale. While that wasn’t really too much a detriment, it certainly was enough to keep it from being as stellar as the first two episodes. That being said, the finale does a superb job of giving my journey reverence and levity.
The Student becomes the Master
Javi’s struggle with adaptation in this world has been beautifully juxtaposed by my fierce version of Clementine. Clementine, who was once the vulnerable pupil learning to adapt to the harsh world, has suddenly become the pillar underneath Javi’s crumbling roof. I can’t help but be proud of what Clementine has accomplished thus far; seeing her inadvertently, perhaps just by example, tutoring Javi is truly beautiful.
Throughout our journey, Clem hasn’t had any blood family. Javi, however, has had to make tough decisions about his blood relatives, as well as the relatives he has decided to allow into his life. The finale cements who these characters have become over the course of the season — without asking you to compromise radically who they are. Most importantly, the decisions always feel important, without feeling cheap or unfair. I was never stuck between a rock and a hard place. My decisions had equal moral grey area; however, they still felt satisfying in their results.
On the downside
My only real complaint is that the episode tends to stray from what makes it great a little too often. So close to the conclusion, Telltale should have focused on the main players, rather than focusing at all on ancillary characters. This late into the story, the ancillary characters don’t matter, so they don’t deserve so much attention.
As I have said before, it is very difficult to review a narrative-driven game that has little “game play” — other than dialog choices. The story wraps a bow around all of the various personal story lines; however, it leaves a little slack so that we can revisit them in the future. If we never see these characters again, it might be a little strange, but I would be totally fine if Telltale moved past Clem and Javi.
Overall, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Episode 5: From the Gallows delivers a well-written, intense and moving finale. The payoff I felt that I had coming was delivered about as well as I could have hoped, and it even leaves some room to explore these characters, and this family, further.