Exploring The Possibilities Of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier
Telltale has just announced the official release date for the third season of its point-and-click, story-based adventure The Walking Dead: A New Frontier (which begins December 20), and while it feels like Season Two was ages ago, I'm already excited for what lies ahead.
For now there aren't a lot of details for the new season, but we already know it takes place four years after the last one. Clem returns, but a new playable character – Javier, a man who has lost his family – is introduced. Art for the game also shows a woman. Could this be Jane from season two with a new hairstyle? Judging by some of her facial features, I definitely think it could be.
Having played through two seasons and 10 episodes of the series (as well as some side content), we certainly know what to expect from the franchise as a whole. However, with a new season comes new possibilities. Here are some thoughts on what I hope is in store.
Note: The text below references the previous seasons. If you don't want to know anything about what's happened in the series, then I suggest you stop reading.
We all love Clem, so her sharing the spotlight with Javier likely isn't what most people wanted. However, his introduction doesn't have to push her to the side. I'm hoping it does just the opposite. In previous seasons Clem was very much a child in a world of adults, but now that she is becoming one herself, all her experience, values, skills, and judgement are at the fore. She's still a main character in the season, and now that she's older she'll be judged differently than if she were a child. Perhaps instead of seeing events orchestrated by others swirl around her, she'll have more agency in her own situation and what's happening in the story.
Playing as Javier and understanding his point of view makes us see Clem and her actions from the outside. Other characters have certainly commented on her choices and actions before, but by switching to another playable character, we should be able to see her differently. For instance, if you play as Javier, how does that make you feel about Clem and her decisions when you're back in her shoes? Will you play the two from a different mindset? Introducing a new character you hope fans will become attached to is no small feat, but regardless of our thoughts on Javier specifically, he could have a big impact on how we view Clem.
Finally, and I hate to even bring this up (but I'm going to anyway), but what if A New Frontier represents the switch over to Javier as the series' main character? What if Clem dies? I certainly don't want that, but I think if Telltale handles it well, and doesn't just do it for shock value, it could be a good decision. As we've already seen, anything can happen to anyone, and I respect the right of the creators to take the story where they think it needs to go, even in a choice-based game. Death also can define a person as much as their actions in life.
The die is largely cast with The Walking Dead's gameplay, and I don't necessarily think there will be or even should be any major surprises here. However, as we've been calling for all along, I really hope A New Frontier improves all the technical hiccups. There's no excuse these days for the bad framerate, the jarring cuts and pauses when you have to press a button and make a decision, and the overall slapdash quality of the production.
Speaking of the timed button press format, I'd love it if there was a new way to represent the action. While the series isn't an action game, it would be nice to get some variety in this department. What if there were other gameplay mechanics added like puzzles? From a story perspective, perhaps different avenues could open up thanks to more flashbacks or even flashforwards. The latter could be particularly interesting if it gives players a look at how baby AJ grows up. This could create time paradoxes with players decisions, but then again player choice in Telltale titles (for better or worse) doesn't always create a direct cause and effect.
EMBRACE THE SUBTITLE
The new season is called A New Frontier, and I think there are already-used elements it should avoid. As surprising as it is to see some old characters return, I'm kind of hoping this isn't a plot calling card for A New Frontier. It's been done already.
Even with new characters being the focus, I hope the game keeps their introductions restricted. Season Two overflowed with characters, and I don't even think they were all effective – especially when they're jumping out of the woodwork towards the end. New people often create new drama and tension in the world, but I think you can get just as much tension from focusing on and smoldering with a smaller set of people, especially if they've been developed over multiple episodes.
Lastly, I'd like Telltale to retire the device of players avoiding zombies' attention by smearing themselves in zombie blood. I know it's a classic zombie staple, but it's a get-out-of-jail card for which there should be other solutions (perhaps even gameplay-driven ones!). Since it's already been used, to know it's an easy out when the story demands it sucks out some of the drama and pressure of those supposedly do-or-die situations.
I'm very excited for a new season of The Walking Dead, whatever it holds. I expect it to be just as good as the others, and perhaps even better.
For a tiny bit more on the new season, take a look at this teaser video.