Hit The Road
Acting as both a spinoff as well as a continuation; Ties That Bind is one of Telltales best episodes to date. Within the first episode, new players are introduced, a fan-favorite returns, and a new villainous group emerges.
One of the things Telltales episodes get right are its openings. From the beginning, the introduction of a new playable character named Javi is one of emotional depth and terrifying repercussions. In the initial opening sequence there are moments of brilliance in its direction. The buildup escalates into a fierce disturbing nature, and in some ways reminded me of the frantic opening found in The Last of Us.
Fast forward in time and Javi is accompanied by what remains of his family. Though the explanation as to what happened to the previous members remains to be seen. Javi and the remaining members include his brothers ex-wife Kate and her step-kids Gabe and Mariana. This small group creates a dynamic that’s quite interesting, mostly because toward the beginning of the episode Javi gets ostracized by his brother for not always “being there” when the family needs it and how he should “man up.” Now he is doing just that; taking care of what remains of his family.
Javi has to step up his game though, as a new enemy group known as “The New Frontier” is causing trouble not only for him but surrounding settlements as well. The sudden introduction of this new group and their motivations may be unknown at the moment, but that’s exactly what episode 1 feels like. Serving as only an introduction, it will be interesting to see the true intentions of this new group. After all it’s in their conflict with Javi that we get introduced to a fan favorite character.
It’s no secret that Clementine is in this episode. Her introduction is convenient-yet appropriate-with how it connects to Javi’s. Once again Clem is on her own and there is an added depth to her character. Since she is a bit older, she’s wiser in her decision-making skills. As a player its fascinating seeing how far Clem has come from her earliest days with Lee to the badass she is today.
While on a trip down memory lane players may recall how clunky some of Telltale’s mechanics have been over the years. With Ties That Bind everything feels well-polished. The game runs well, especially in cutscenes. As for the gameplay new button prompts and easier shooting mechanics make tense moments less stressful. It could be due to a slightly longer window of opportunity to execute these prompts. I actually enjoyed these moments more than I previously had in any Telltale series.
The overall direction in which the season is heading is unclear. What is clear is that Telltale has a solid episode on their hands. If the quality is any indication, then the wait for forthcoming releases will be hard to bear. Especially considering the shocking ending.
A strong move in the right direction for the season. Ties That Bind is a polished, well-directed episode introducing new characters and improved game mechanics.