What on Earth Were Telltale Thinking?

So I just finished the Walking Dead A New Frontier.

It’s shit.

“Why is it shit?”, I hear you ask. The answer is simple: It builds really well; Episodes 1 through to 4 with competence, and then episode five takes a massive turd on the whole thing. In this look back at the game I’d like to give criticism on what I think went wrong and also point out the things I enjoyed because, as I said above, the last episode is the one that ruined the whole season, not the others.

First I have to be honest with you though; I have only got one of the games endings. I got the ending where Javier’s family survives, except for David, and then they all go on to lead Richmond to a brighter, better future. I have read other small reviews praising alternative events that take place in the game, which I didn’t get, and they seem to think this game is good because of that. But let me be clear, while it is inevitable that some endings will always be better than other endings, whether it’s a fact like one ending to Life Is Strange is distinguishably better than the other, or whether it’s subjective like the multiple endings to season 2 of The Walking Dead, that doesn’t mean any of the endings should metaphorically resemble raw sewage… Like my ending did, in comparison to what I’ve seen and heard about others.

No one died in my ending. Everyone lived. I guess it’s good, but it’s not emotional at all. The thrill of season 1 was no matter how hard you try to keep everyone alive or as a member of the group, someone would die and someone would be forced to leave. It was a hard realism. Even Lee, the players character, has a send off despite the fact his choices may have led him to become the most favoured member of the group by everyone, he still dies. In season 2 someone has to die. It’s about whether the player thinks Kenny’s time is up or whether what Jane did with AJ, to manipulate Kenny, is reason enough to let her be the one to die. Or you could kill them both. But in A New Frontier everything is wrapped up in a bow in what is considered the “good ending”, whereas the other seasons didn’t have a “good ending”, they just had something that could maybe be considered a “good ending”.

In my play through Jesus hated me because I basically an asshole to anyone that wasn’t Kate or Clementine. I shot Conrad, helped a depressed doctor kill himself, treated Gabe like dirt, treated David like he meant less than nothing (and also had a fight with him on two occasions that I had the opportunity too), told David Kate wanted to leave him, kept smashing the baseballs in the flashback to make David feel bad, destroyed badgers skull, executed Max myself and tried to leave with Kate because I didn’t care about Richmond… at all. David and his cause could go to hell as far as I was concerned- And so could Gabe, he was an asshole the whole time. I saved him from Conrad and he repays me by outing me killing Conrad to the others, then wonders why I’m mad at him and let him have no part in any of our plans. It’s whatever; It’s how I played the game. I enjoyed making these choices, these are the bits I loved. I was free to be an asshole if I wanted to, and I was. So props to them for that… but episode 5 just kind of ripped the whole game down, like none of that mattered.

Episode 5… God… Where to begin?

The following are a list of Telltale games I have played: The Wolf Among us (10/10), The Walking Dead Season 1 (8/10), The Walking Dead Season 2 (9/10), Tales From The Borderlands (10/10). As you can tell… I am a Telltale fan boy when it comes to these choice games. I know they’re probably not this good in most people’s eyes but I just want to show you how I see them so that when I say, “Episode 5 of A New Frontier is literally the worst piece of content I’ve ever played in a Telltale game”, you understand just how much I mean it. Here’s why:

I chose to save Tripp in episode 4 which, of course, ends up in Tripp dying and Ava surviving instead. I felt sad Tripp died. When Ava survived I was enjoying it because it was dynamic and unexpected, highlighting how good a villain Joan could be by taking our control of choice in the game in a way that didn’t make the choice making element useless. But then episode 5 makes this choice useless anyway! Because Ava dies abruptly, randomly within three seconds and after only one conversation with her by falling to her death with a walker. It is not telegraphed, which is good, but there is no minor set up either. There is no danger or tension in the scene she dies in and, also, no emotion. It’s literally random. Look it up on YouTube… It’s stupid. Then, in the next scene, David cares for about 2 seconds an then everybody forgets it happened. (Also Tripp, despite being Dead, can be seen in the background of one of the shots after this, which means this episode was maybe rushed out).

Wait. Un-bracket that. This episode was DEFINETLY rushed out. Ava’s death is nothing but bad writing. The writers were clearly sitting down like “Well Ava has nothing to contribute to this episode so, instead of making her relevant to the story, we will ruin the previous episodes pivotal choice by killing her in the most absolutely idiotic way possible.” Did a two year old write Ava’s death? Would Tripp have died the same way if I had chose to save Ava and Tripp had lived? I don’t know, but the thought is stupid and idiotic in of itself. Someone needs to get fired for writing Ava’s death, along with whoever confirmed with that person that it was a good idea and should be left in the final product. I mean I’m okay with her dying… but not like that!

Then, later in the game, David and Gabe leave the group because David gets mad that Javier and Kate are hooking up, and Gabe is all like “I love my psychotic dad who’s never once been there for me, so I’m going with him.” I didn’t give a damn because, as I said before, I hated Gabe for being a whiney little useless child and I hated David for- for just being himself, I guess. So I chose to, instead of chasing David and Gabe, to help Kate save Richmond. I mean I said before I didn’t care about Richmond, but I liked it and what had happened within it more than both David and Gabe, so it only seemed logical. Anyway… Jesus shows up and is really friendly with me… This was especially weird because he hated me with a burning, fiery passion the last time I saw him. And there’s this really boring sequence on a big digger where Javier and Kate mow through zombies without facing a single hint of danger and have nothing close to resembling a close call, and effectively save the town without putting in a single inkling of effort because Jesus basically does all of the challenging stuff.

It is then revealed, when Clementine returns with Gabe, that David died OFF SCREEN to a walker and Gabe had to shoot him. And she says it so casually like “Yo I saved Gabe! Also your brother died, and also a walker did it, and also Gabe had to shoot him, and also, also, also, also… Hey look, I saved Gabe.” This is another indicator to me the game was rushed out. I mean I know I chose not to chase David but did it never occur to the developers that his DEATH to the hands of his own SON might be something the player would want to see? I’m sure there’s an alternate ending where you do see it, I have no doubt. There’s probably endings where Kate dies and where even Gabe dies, but if David is going to die we should see it in all the endings, I think, as he has become such a pivotal character to Javier’s character after coming to Richmond. Considering I reluctantly saved his settlement from a walker invasion, and hated the man, I’d have relished so much is rubbing my achievements in his face (Again) as he died… Just like I did when I was smashing those baseballs (Which, I might add, is one of the parts of the game that I think was very well written because your choices really did feel impactful even though it was only something as small as hitting a baseball).

I swear I’m not an asshole in real life by the way, but in these types of games I have a tendency to go nuts and murder anyone I can

So David dying off screen pissed me off. But not as much as how bad Clementine’s expositional rant about it was. It was probably the point in the game where I would have felt no guilt or remorse for brutally murdering her.

So then we simply transitioned a few days or weeks ahead to Richmond being rebuilt. This is where it gets stupid. Jesus encouraged me to lead Richmond… despite being in possession of the knowledge that I have been a cold-hearted murderer and have acted like a selfish asshole towards any character that wasn’t Clementine or Kate. He doesn’t even mention the fact he might have forgiven me because of how I chose to save Richmond, he just sort of pretends like he didn’t witness me execute another human being right in front of him a couple of days or weeks before.

For some reason Gabe is cool. I don’t know why. It took Clementine two games to get over killing Lee, and there are still subtle references to Lee in this season, but Gabe is chill about shooting his dad in the face already. Then again, Clementine is more emotional about Lee than her own parents so maybe it’s just a thing that people don’t like their parents in this universe.

It’s just- I don’t know how to communicate this to you.

This review is probably more a of a personal dislike for the events of the game than it is a objective. My review of Life Is Strange, I feel, was objective because I didn’t feel utterly betrayed by it. But episode 5 of A New Frontier is a betrayal. Don’t get me wrong, episode 1, 2, 3 and 4 all have flaws too; They’re not perfect. But they’re good and entertaining, and well written enough to keep me hooked, like most Telltale games are, in my opinion. So why did episode 5 feel so bad? Because it literally felt as if the developers stopped caring about the game. Like they didn’t care what happened, they just wanted it over. It makes no sense.

But, like I said, I have only experienced one ending and my views are probably more personal and emotional than logical and objective, so take my highly negative review with a grain of salt. This episode was, however, bad enough for me to think it ruined the game as a whole because, rather than have a dramatic finale between either David and Javier or the two united against the walkers, I got an off screen death with some condescending exposition.

You could blame my bad experience on the choices I made. But just because some choices will always be better than others doesn’t mean the player should be punished for choosing one over the other.  That’s how I felt about this game. I felt punished by the end. I felt punished because it built up this exciting adventure, but ended on a less that satisfactory note.

What on Earth were Telltale thinking?

 

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