Injured families. Backstabbing colleagues. Shattered friendships. Just another day in the downtrodden world of The Walking Dead, with season three protagonist Javier getting caught in the middle of it all.
This review will avoid episode three spoilers, but will mention events from earlier episodes and seasons. If you haven’t yet played through previous episodes and plan to, we strongly recommend doing so before continuing to read reviews.
A Tragic Reunion
Episode three, “Above the Law“, continues directly from where we left off, standing desperately at the gates of Richmond pleading for help from the New Frontier, only to be greeted by someone we had all presumed dead for years — Javier’s older brother, David.
Telltale received some early criticism when it was initially revealed that fan favorite Clementine would not be season three’s playable protagonist, but they’ve been making great strides to make Javi and his family both relatable and appealing, and Above the Law continues the trend well, opening with a somber flashback that offers more insight into how the family ended up on the road together. The scene is simple yet poignant, and makes great use of some smart metaphors.
Episode three also continues the slow drip of revealing what happened to AJ, Clem’s toddler companion from season two. While revelations here aren’t a surprise to anyone, there’s definitely a build-up to something dramatic knowing Telltale’s penchant for gradually setting up plotlines and building towards major events.
A fair number of new characters are introduced in Above the Law, though their limited screen time does mean that some feel little more than basic archetypes, making it difficult to be compassionate towards their point of view or expectations. That said, Telltale have done a decent job at quickly establishing the motives and character for each person, and I’m looking forward to seeing the inevitable clashing of egos later on.
One of the stronger points with episode three is fleshing out Javi’s thoughts and feelings, both towards his family and his general frame of mind. There are a lot of conversational opportunities to direct his feelings and priorities, and they go a long way to making the game feel more of a personal experience.
The episode also tests how Javi deals under pressure, being thrust into dangerous situations and struggling to cope with on-the-fly decision making in the worst conditions. As always in the the world of The Walking Dead, it’s tougher to judge the larger danger — the living, or the dead.
Above the Law does a great job at pushing the story forward, tangling together more character motives and agendas while also offering some much needed cartharsis. Telltale also continue to improve with character expressions and body language, making the world and its inhabitants a believable place.