The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 4: Thicker Than Water (PC) Review

By Renan Fontes 18.01.2019

Review for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 4: Thicker Than Water on PC

It cannot be stressed just how much of a mistake Telltale made in splitting A New Frontier's opening across two separate parts. Although Episode 3 was more or less able to smooth over the introduction's rough patches by dividing focus between Javi and Clementine more evenly, this doesn't change the fact that The Walking Dead's third season needs to ready itself for a finale, after effectively only two episodes of story. Is Thicker Than Water a strong enough chapter that it can lead into a satisfying conclusion with so little material to work with?

If there's one thing Telltale's The Walking Dead has consistently done well across all three seasons, it's escalation. Time and time again, the developer has proven capable when it comes to raising the stakes in order to challenge their characters, and keep audiences from becoming complacent. The associated drama can, at times, fall into extremes, playing up the severity of the situation far more than the narrative actually necessitates, but this is a tool Telltale uses rather well for the most part.

Screenshot for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 4: Thicker Than Water on PC

Perhaps as it to be expected from the season's penultimate chapter, Episode 4: Thicker Than Water is all about escalation. As a whole, this is rather light on action, but the narrative moves far quicker and with more meaning than in any previous section of the season. While Javi was never going to be as developed a character as Lee or Clementine, in large part due to him effectively sharing the role of main character with Clem, Episode 4 spends a fair amount of time analyzing Javi's character, how he's grown (if he even has,) and what his family truly means to him.

For the first time in the entire season, it feels as if Javi's ideologies are being challenged by the overarching narrative. Not so much where this episode marks a low point or defeat for the character, but enough where the plot actually works in favour of his characterization, actively building him up into a suitable lead instead of the co-lead he's been to Clem for the previous two episodes.

Screenshot for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 4: Thicker Than Water on PC

Clementine herself gets a bit less focus this time around, albeit it's ultimately for the best. This season never should have been about her and, while her presence isn't harmful in the context of her own character, she's finally allowed to take a backseat to Javi from a story perspective, allowing their dynamic to grow more naturally, even if just a little.

Given the amount of focus David got in Episode 3, it's no surprise that he plays an active role in Episode 4's plot. Although he doesn't interact with Javi's greater plot as much as he could have (though not without good reason), it's his relationship with Javi that is set up to ultimately drive the rest of the season.

Screenshot for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 4: Thicker Than Water on PC

Given the theme of family that A New Frontier has focused on so heavily, it's only fitting then that David and Javi centre themselves as the emotional crux of the chapter. Of course, it isn't nearly as smooth as it should be, given how directionless season three feels as a whole. For as much good as this episode does, it's still the third major episode of the bunch meaning that nobody is as developed as they should be when setting up the final episode.

That said, Thicker Than Water does mark a noticeable improvement in writing quality over the previous set of episodes. Gameplay-wise it isn't as involved as it should be, but this has been an issue of the season as a whole and it didn't seem likely Telltale would change up the formula this late. If nothing else, Episode 4 ends with a rather strong, action-packed set up for the finale. It may not have as much emotional weight as season one's penultimate episode, but all the pieces are ready for a satisfying, if flawed, conclusion to A New Frontier.

Screenshot for The Walking Dead: A New Frontier - Episode 4: Thicker Than Water on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Although Episode 4: Thicker Than Water once again deprives players of all agency, it's actually handled relatively well in-universe, making for a second-to-last episode that actively marches towards the finale. Characters are finally reaching a point where they feel fully developed, the story has found a suitable emotional centre, and the stakes have been raised high enough where Javi and Clem will naturally find themselves challenged in Episode 5. It isn't as strong as it could have been - in large part due to A New Frontier's overall structure - but Thicker Than Water stands out as the strongest chapter in season three thus far.

Developer

Telltale

Publisher

Telltale

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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