After the disappointment of episode 3, I was not looking forward to episode 4. I was wrong. The mid-season lull was rectified and then some in episode 4. The Ties That Bind was back and with a vengeance!
As before it is impossible to discuss this game without major spoilers as the game is so story driven so if you haven’t played it yet or don’t want to know the plot then please don’t read on. I will say however that the game is great and you should definitely play!
The episode, as has become customary, begins with a flashback, we are shown Javier and David playing baseball together in a park. They are talking about Javi’s recent ban and David’s decision to leave his family to join the military. As a child approaches and asks Javi if he can sign her baseball the player is presented with a choice; sign or don’t sign. I opted to sign the ball though this seemed to make no discernible difference to the story. David then asks whether Javi will look after his family whilst he is away and I chose to agree. David offers to buy him a beer and the brothers leave together.
Back in the present we see Javi and David in the New Frontier’s jail cell, something which confused me given that we were exiled at the end of the last episode though potentially I missed something here. We again meet Rufus the driver here who is seen putting the brothers into a quarantine room.
David thanks Javi for supporting him through all of the mess that has been created but Joan enters and demands to speak to David about issues in the society. Javi is left alone in the cell. After looking for a way out I was broken out by Kate who had seemingly miraculously recovered from her debilitating wounds. She states that Eleanor has found a place to stay and to talk about their plan of escape and they both make their way to the hideout.
As they arrive they hear an argument between Eleanor and Tripp where Tripp demands that they should be a couple again despite Eleanor’s disinterest. Gabe opens the door and asks them where David is to which Javi replies that he has been taken by Joan. Following discussions with the group it is decided that Javi and Gabe should steal guns from the New Frontier armoury in order to facilitate their escape.
Watch the trailer for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Ep4 Thicker Than Water below:
Javi, Gabe and Ava successfully steal weapons from the armoury however on their way out they meet a guard who after a brief scuffle they stuff in a closet a la Metal Gear Solid. I enjoyed this scene as it reintroduced the perilous overtones that had gone astray since David left with Joan. This continued the feeling of being truly involved in the game and brought in further elements of surprise that have long been the hallmark of the TV series.
Deciding that they should go to the Richmond medical centre for treatment of Javi’s injury they find Dr Lingard unconscious, his having medicated himself into a kind of coma. Clementine who has come to the infirmary for a different reason offers to provide medical aid to Javi after showing that she too has suffered a similar wound, presumably in a previous series.
The group then move to the town square where Joan is giving a speech about order within their society, as part of which she sentences David to death. As they prepare the noose he accuses her of lying and as evidence she shows the corpse of Badger. Noticing Javi at the back of the crowd Joan asks him to speak in front of the massed crowd and reveals that Eleanor has willingly told her of their plans. Ava and Tripp are then brought to the front of the crowd.
This scene was a really interesting one and brought into sharp focus the idea of justice in a post-apocalyptic world in much the same way as Negan’s vicious introduction at the beginning of season 7. When law and order have broken down it would seem that ideas of fairness, law and being judged by one’s peers takes time to re-form. From Joan’s perspective she is acting in the interests of her community but from the player’s side she is behaving both viciously and dictatorially.
Javi is given an ultimatum; save either Ava or Tripp. I elected to save Ava and was shocked to see Joan go back on her word and shoot Ava instead. I hate this woman. Clint, who up until this point has remained silent, tried to resolve the conflict by pushing for a deal; a self-enforced exile of Javier, David and the rest of the group. The player is then presented with a choice, accept the deal or shoot Joan. In this instance, given her betrayal of my pervious choice I changed my tact, no longer a pacifist looking for the morally right choice I sought vengeance and was pleased to see the shot fire straight through her head.
In the ensuing shootout the group manage to save David from the gallows and, after seeing Clint escape, sees David pursue Clint. I elected to allow him to take Gabe with him in his hunt (he is his father after all!) Through all of this came Kate in a truck which she drives toward Javi’s position. A guard’s smoke bomb impedes her vision however and she careers towards the fence. As it crashes and explodes a herd of walkers pours into Richmond causing widespread panic. At this point the screen once more cuts to black and the episode ends.
Episode 4 was certainly an improvement on episode 3 and provided enough engagement to make a genuinely enthralling experience. The hackneyed ‘fade to black’ ending is used a lot throughout Telltale games and though clichéd is definitely effective in creating cliff-hangers. I don’t know what would have happened if I’d have taken Clint’s deal, but ultimately I wouldn’t change this decision. As before the graphics, voice acting, storyline and gameplay were thoroughly enjoyable and the allusions to the TV series and comic book franchise were always welcome. My only criticism is that the character of Kate still remains an odd one to me. The game has not yet developed her character properly and it is therefore difficult to relate to her in any meaningful sense or to become invested in her story. I do hope that they will improve on this in episode 5 which I cannot wait to get stuck in to!
The Walking Dead: A New Frontier – Ep4 Thicker Than Water was reviewed using a digital code supplied by the developer.
Publisher: Telltale Games Developer: Telltale Games Release Date: April 25, 2017 Reviewed On: PC/Steam Also Available On: Xbox One, PS4