Episode 3: Above the Law has the unfortunate task of following up the double feature finale that took us through many different kinds of emotions and was still able to end on an interesting twist. Ending on such a high note understandably leaves your expectations high, and while Above the Law has a couple narrative high spots, it ultimately falls flat with an overall slower episode and cliched antagonist plot.
Above the Law opens up with another Javi flashback throwing us back 3 weeks after the outbreak has happened, providing us with an important insight on how the Garcia family survived and how Javi had to step in and protect his family. Cleverly using these flashbacks gives another dimension to the Garcia family as you gain an understanding of the tough decisions that had to be made. At this point I really have to commend Telltale’s decision to begin with another protagonist. While I thought I wanted to continue only Clem’s story I’m now finding myself becoming attached to Javi and the Garcia’s journey.
Once the flashback concludes, we come back to where Episode 2 left; with everyone on their knees, Kate about to bleed out and the big twist reveal of your older brother David. After a not-so-welcome invitation to enter, you finally meet up with David and go check on Kate’s condition. It’s apparent during the scenes with Kate that we shouldn’t feel comfortable in this place, as we are reminded by her of the type of person David is. This scene does its job well getting the player to second guess their actions with David to the point where you’re waiting to the last second to evaluate every conversational decision.
Unfortunately you are granted no freedom to explore The New Frontier taken Richmond. I was hoping to explore, talk and generally poke my nose around where it shouldn’t be to learn some new secrets about The New Frontier and maybe the bloody truth of their take over of Richmond. To my dismay our journey to Richmond felt hollow, we jump from conversation to conversation that ultimately leads to Javi, Jesus and Tripp getting kicked out regardless of your choices. However, all is not lost as David’s involvement gives us some hope in our situation.
Given instructions from David to head out to a far away warehouse where he will meet up with you gives us a nice break from all the talking to release some tension on some Walkers. During this sequence we meet back up with Clem and are introduced to a telling flashback that finally lets us understand why she has left The New Frontier and why there is such bad blood between them. While it’s nice to go back to these sections to experience what happened to Clem, I feel like what we are given is something that could have happened just between a dialogue with Javi. Given the fact that the flashbacks don’t offer much gameplay, and we already know where she is at in the present, the conversation decisions just don’t feel all that important. That being said, the inclusion of the flashbacks don’t actually hurt the flow of the episode.
In the final act we finally get to some intense Walker moments when we arrive to the warehouse. Walkers are closing in around us, threatening to push over the fence and overtake us while the player has to figure out how to get inside since the door is locked. The “puzzle” awaiting us is in typical Telltale fashion, find item A and B to unlock C. What’s frustrating here is that the puzzle was so simple and so plainly laid out that I knew exactly what to do before actually triggering that sequence. Before I could collect items A and B, apparently, I had to interact with item C first and then given a clue to find items A and B. This sort of puzzle layout only leads to frustration. It shouldn’t matter what items I interact with first to solve this situation. Once inside we finally get a look into some behind the scenes power struggles going on in The New Frontier and it’s unfortunate Telltale couldn’t have come up with a less cliche way to instigate this. What we’re given is a cookie cutter plot line of betrayal that’s predictable.
Above the Law continued to sell its characters in the over-arching story line, providing well crafted flashbacks that got us closer and more attached to our new character, but it’s a shame that the main reveal was such a cliched and predictable plot line. While this episode certainly has the ‘calm before the storm’ feel, that build up is hampered by the uninspired antagonist plot and the complete dismissal of the decisions made earlier in the episode.
Also available on: PS4, PC, iOS, Android
Be sure to check out Episode 4, Thicker Than Water, and its review: