Back again with the franchise that elevated their good name, Telltale Games’ The Walking Dead: Michonne offers us a 3 episode- long miniseries telling the story of what happened to Michonne during a leave of absence between issues #126 and #139 of the comic book.
Michonne’s always been a fan favourite with her no-nonsense persona and accomplished fighting skills, so it makes sense to set a spin-off side story around her exploits. She’s also the first protagonist of a Telltale The Walking Dead game that’s established in collapsed civilisation and capable of dealing with the physical threats of the apocalypse right from the get-go, since we met Season 1’s Lee right at the dawn of the dead and Clementine was still a child in Season 2. People who haven’t read the comic books needn’t worry about getting up to speed with Michonne as a character; the game takes the time to establish her as the badass-with-baggage that she is.
Michonne’s gameplay and visuals remain unchanged from past Telltale efforts, with all of the good and bad things that entails. Simply put, if you’ve become bored with Telltale’s games and are frustrated with their seeming lack of engine iteration, Michonne isn’t doing anything to change your mind. The game progresses via linear box-ticking adventure-game-lite segments, QTE combat, and Telltale’s signature branching dialogue. I don’t really mind, though; Telltale’s strength lies very firmly in writing, and the QTE combat and short walkabouts do their job okay to add variety to the gameplay while the compellingly written story and characters drive us forward.
The writing, then, is as strong as ever. The cast of characters are distinct (it helps that each person has an individual, expressive visual design, another strength of Telltale’s) and well-acted, the decided villains of the piece are interesting beyond being threatening, your relationships start to develop nicely and the plot begins to pick up…
But then the episode kind of ends. The buildup that had been nicely ticking along for the duration of the experience fizzles because the episode feels like it ends too early. Despite the stakes continually rising for Michonne and the last scene depicting a somewhat climactic event, when the game cut to black and ran the “Next Episode…” video, I was genuinely shocked and confused.
The Walking Dead: Michonne Episode 1 suffers from being maybe 20 minutes too short. With more time it could’ve played more with certain important characters who at present feel more like an effort to retread old ground than fresh and original people. Threats could have been given more time to exert themselves. You could spend more time with your companions, which would make you feel more inclined to protect them. As they are, none of the relationships or narrative threads feel like they’re well developed enough for what’s ostensibly one third of a story. Even if the episode ended in the same place plot-wise, more time could’ve been plugged into making it actually feel like a satisfying conclusion.
I’m all for a miniseries to tell a succinct story, but if the next two episodes don’t make better use of their time then Michonne will be remembered as a missed opportunity. Episode 1, like the titular walkers, doesn’t quite have enough flesh. Sadly, it falls just short of feeling like a justified, fulfilling, self-contained episode in the 90 minutes it takes to play through. It does its job to hook you into the story and invest you in its characters, but at this point we’ll have to see whether the next episodes will fulfil what promise Episode 1 presents us.
Image credits- telltalegames.com