With the abundance of zombies in entertainment, surprising people with the undead is challenging. Blood is shed, fragile mental states break, lives are lost, and somehow people press on despite the worst of circumstances. Telltale's The Walking Dead has tried to make things feel different by focusing its zombie adventure on relationships, making tough choices, and allowing the player to role-play different characters. A New Frontier continues these efforts, and they usually work, but sometimes déjà vu creeps in, making scenes less impactful. You can only see so many deaths and safe havens before it all feels the same.

In season one, we took control of Lee Everett, a man who formed a touching bond with a little girl named Clementine. Season two allowed us to step into Clementine's shoes and experience the situation from a child's perspective. Telltale's third season puts us in the role of Javier, a man whose life has been on a downward spiral, with Clementine becoming more of a sidekick in his journey. In many ways, A New Frontier is about the mysteries surrounding the pair, and that's how Telltale keeps you intrigued.

The opening two episodes set the stage for the new adventure. They have everything you've come to expect from The Walking Dead: shocking deaths, intense betrayals, and split-second decisions to second-guess. Ties That Bind mostly focuses on familial bonds - the risks we take for the people we love and how far we're willing to go to put another's life above our own. The story begins with background on Javier, who comes home after taking a wrong turn in his life, but Telltale keeps the secret lingering as to exactly what happened. Then time skips ahead to Javier on the road with his niece, nephew, and sister-in-law, fleeing from a large swarm of walkers. Javier is a likeable protagonist; you can tell he cares about his family and will do whatever he can to keep them safe. However, we don't know the secrets that lurk in his past. He reminds of me Lee in that way - something feels inherently good about him, but you know he hasn't lived a perfect life.

Season three has flashback sequences which slowly provide more information about the past, including Clementine's. At the end of season two, she could end up in three different scenarios depending on your choices. These choices are addressed in the flashbacks, allowing you to see what's happened to Clementine since we last saw her. I won't spoil anything, but Clementine has definitely seen some hard times, and she's a different person because of it. I enjoyed this character development, as it's clear the apocalypse has taken its toll on her over time. However, I wish my season two ending choices mattered more than they appear so far.

Once Clementine and Javier meet, they get in bigger trouble when they encounter a dangerous and mysterious gang. The plot kept me invested enough, despite some eye-rolling scenes (like when Javier and his sister-in-law smoke pot while the kids are asleep). Be prepared for a slow drip of information; the plot setup takes awhile, but it makes the bigger reveals pay off later.

If you've played previous seasons, you know what to expect from Telltale's gameplay. QTEs execute all melee actions, and you need to aim your gun and click a button to fire at zombies. Searching the environment for objects to solve problems and chatting with characters to build relationships remains a big element. To Telltale's credit, searching is a lot better thanks to the interactive objects standing out better. I never felt like I was wandering around aimlessly just to find the next object to advance the plot. The best choices still come when you've got very limited time to respond, causing you to second-guess what you've done in the heat of the moment, especially when your options are to try to talk it through or reach for your gun. I was constantly juggling the feeling of wanting to be peaceful, but worrying if I didn't strike first, something even more awful would occur.

My biggest complaint is that some dialogue options don't lead where you intend them to. For instance, I chose to stand up for a certain character, but that led to Javier exposing one of that person's secrets and straining the relationship. It may add unpredictability, but it's a problem when characters act the opposite of what you intend.

Everything leads up to a hell of a cliffhanger, making me intrigued to see what happens next. I just hope Telltale doesn't disappoint with its result, as in the past some of the cliffhangers have had unsatisfying resolutions, not altering the story as much as I expected. While some things remain predictable, like needing to constantly look for resources or evil people showing up at the worst times, Telltale does a good job with its reveals and twists. As long as they continue to lead to interesting places, I'm on board for the rest of season three