The Walking Dead: A New Frontier episode 5 review – All falls down

Telltale Games
Telltale Games /

It all comes to a head in The Walking Dead: A New Frontier episode 5, with a mixture of good intentions and bad execution capping off a rocky season.

Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platforms: PC (version reviewed), PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android
Release Date: May 30, 2017

This review will lightly mention events of the previous episodes of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier to give context to the story.

You know when you have a piece of meat that is a day or two past the expiration date, but you try to pepper it with seasonings to hope it covers up the foulness? That’s quite comparable to what Telltale Games did with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier episode 5, “From The Gallows”; try to make up for a rough product by capping things off with flavor.

This episode kicks off right from where the previous episode ended, with Richmond in chaos and you trying to put the pieces back together. Depending on your choices, you will need to make amends, fight for your company’s protection, come face to face with death and escape the hell you’ve found yourself in.

Telltale always likes to remind its players that, “This game series adapts to the choices you make. The game is tailored by how you play.” In The Walking Dead: A New Frontier episode 5, this is a double-edged sword, as players will find plenty of “wow” moments coupled with “wait, that didn’t happen” question marks.

The Walking Dead A New Frontier Episode 5 screenshot
Telltale Games /

For the first time in a while, the development team actually made it so endgame stories would take into account the actions you’ve made across the entire Walking Dead graphic adventure franchise. Without jumping into spoiler territory, I found it quite refreshing to see characters wrestle through their options based on your interactions with them, providing a fork in the narrative.

It’s been the biggest pet peeve of mine to see people equate “adapting the story to your choices” with “this is a choose-your-own-adventure title,” and Telltale takes risks with their concluding episode. Bravo for finally recognizing that Javier, the player character, should be driving the story, and not the other way around.

The problem with this, however, is that everything that happens in the story preceding the episode must work towards a suitable conclusion. The pacing of this episode of The Walking Dead is quite bizarre, if not bordering on absurdism, with character acting out of turn or even out of stated interests. One particular tense scene ended up being tonally all over the place.

The Walking Dead A New Frontier Episode 5 screenshot
Telltale Games /

Even worse, there are characters I interacted with at the end of this episode that had died in a previous episode, based on my choices. Furthermore, an ending “choices” screen just straight-up didn’t appear to me, leaving me to make up my own conclusions for a crucial story beat.

I wish that the entire season had such a focus on characterization and building up its main character…

The Walking Dead: A New Frontier is an engineering disappointment, complete with incorrect subtitles, awkward framing and sudden shifts in camera angles. It’s really distracting to find yourself fighting off herds of walkers only to see some odd sliding animations break your immersion.

It makes it harder to appreciate the season-end efforts made by Telltale, wrapping up loose strings as best they can with a gripping episode. I wish that the entire season had such a focus on characterization and building up its main character, as for the first time all season, I felt like the story served me and not Clementine.

The Walking Dead A New Frontier Episode 5 screenshot
Telltale Games /

More importantly, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier finally builds upon the themes it’s been hinting at all season long, albeit abruptly. There is an emotional payoff, but the build-up has seemed haphazard at best and forced at worst. The lives of some are inherently more important to the player than others, and it becomes almost hilariously clear (depending on your choices).

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Ultimately, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier episode 5 is too little, too late. The interesting approach to choice-based dynamism removes some agency from the player’s storytelling ability. It’s so oddly paced, seemingly thrown together to run through the emotional gamut with no regard for creating a cogent tale.

Telltale Games. . The Walking Dead: A New Frontier Episode 5. 6.5. What worked in this finale did not make up for the flimsy story, lack of character development and general lack of focus throughout The Walking Dead: A New Frontier. Instead of going forward and telling a gripping story that focused on a brand new bunch of characters, I couldn’t help but care about just three. “From The Gallows” does as best a job as it can wrapping things up in a neat little bow, but the overall quality makes me fearful for the future of the Telltale narrative adventure.

A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.