This review contains minor spoilers regarding broad plot details of this series so far.
I think it’s telling that when I got the email to notify me of The Walking Dead: Michonne Episode 2’s release, my immediate reaction was not excitement. Not that I was actively displeased; I somewhat liked the first episode. It’s just that, in the intervening time between the original release and now, I seemed to have lost most of my anticipation for the next step in the story.
Michonne Episode 2 kicks off from the moment the last episode ended, moments after an unfortunate death. Michonne and her companions Pete and Sam must escape their captors and make it to safety while being hunted down by the psychopathic Randall. All the while, Michonne continues to deal with her flashbacks to the start of the zombie apocalypse, where she feverishly searches for her missing daughters.
I’ll cut to the chase: Michonne Episode 2 is rushed. While the first episode felt a bit thin, this one is skeletal, clocking in at about an hour. While previous Walking Dead Telltale games took a decent amount of time to let you spend time and forge emotional bonds with characters, Michonne seems like it just wants to plough through the story beats so it can end while teasing the next episode.
Perhaps this is intentional due to Michonne’s no-nonsense, standoffish attitude. She’s a woman hardened to loss and reluctant to invest emotionally in others’ lives. Not that that’s something people who haven’t read the comics or seen the show will know, and many will choose to have her act more sympathetically towards people. They’ll be rewarded with characters that feel as paper-thin as any Telltale characters have felt thanks to the game’s seeming need to plough to the end in the quickest acceptable fashion.
It’s frustrating because what little character writing and acting there is, is excellent. There’s a shock death scene later on in the episode that would’ve been much more affecting with a bit more time to get to know them. I was enjoying taking a break from the constant action (the parts of gameplay that aren’t interactive cutscenes are almost absent), but the game seemed like it was done letting itself breathe and lurched forwards, again, towards the finish line.
While I found it hard to care about characters other than Sam and Randall, the story is at least engaging as we rush through its beats. I’m invested in this story, but only just.
But I just keep thinking about how much variety was in the previous seasons of The Walking Dead and other Telltale games. Season 1 featured loads of memorable locations with their own fascinating stories from episode to episode. Michonne Episode 2 introduces one small location in the present (that we don’t even get to explore), and re-uses Michonne’s apartment from Episode 1 in the flashback scene.
I know that Michonne is being billed as a mini-series. But I was hoping for more than the meagre offering we’ve received so far. Compared with the price of The Walking Dead Seasons 1 and 2, Michonne is appropriately priced for three episodes. But I feel that the two episodes we have now, combined, only just add up to the value of a single episode from either of those games. With a creaking engine and a studio output that’s approaching saturation, Telltale needed to cram much more quality content into Michonne to justify its existence.