The Walking Dead: Michonne – A Telltale Miniseries Review – PC

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Originally reviewed on March 4, 2016

Thanks to a wealth of pop culture source material and an outstanding group of talented writers, Telltale has pretty much created their own printing press for cash. With amazing hits like The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones, and most recently, Tales from the Borderlands, there is no foreseeable end in sight for the future of interactive narrative adventure games.  With two successful seasons of The Walking Dead already in the history books Telltale decided to branch out this year with a miniseries based primarily on one of the franchise’s most beloved characters, Michonne.

Fans were delighted when Michonne joined the TV series in the third season. Apparently the character has quite the following in the comic books, and the timeline covered in this three-part miniseries is going to explain her absence between issues #126 and #139, which means fans of the comics are probably going to have greater insight into the narrative than those who just watch the show.

As with any and all Telltale games I’ll avoid any spoilers in my review and keep things fairly generic.   We meet up with Michonne as she is fending off a small horde of walkers in some sort of bizarre hallucinatory flashback sequence that switches between the real world and events from her past involving her two daughters.   After killing several walkers in typical quick-time fashion Michonne is left emotionally and physically exhausted just as a fresh wave of undead approach.  Loading up her last remaining bullet she must choose how she wants to go out.

Thankfully, Pete shows up to save the day and the next time we see Michonne she is part of Pete’s crew on a sailboat searching for supplies and survivors along the coast. Michonne is still very much the outsider with Pete and his group, but they recognize her for the skilled warrior she is, and she manages to fit in nicely.  A radio distress call sends them searching a derelict ferry that has been abandoned just off shore and that is where things really get exciting…which is also my cue to stop typing.

So, a few things bother me about The Walking Dead: Michonne. The first thing I noticed was the controls were glitching, but thankfully only in the first chapter on the sailboat.  Normally, you can move the cursor over a hotspot and click a command and if the character isn’t close enough they will move to the location and then perform the action.  For some reason, while on the sailboat, Michonne had to walk up to every location before the command would actually work.  Everything from talking to Pete to looking at plants or examining a bag of rice to using binoculars to scan the horizon was hit and miss.  Thankfully, once you make it to the ferry the command system starts working normally again.

My second issue with the game; and this is major to the point where I am deducting a full point from the score, is that when you pick your response to any dialogue you immediately interrupt the person talking to speak your replay. In every Telltale game prior to this your response was politely queued and conversations flowed much more naturally.  Now, if you want to let the other person finish speaking you must wait for the conversation timer to get dangerously in the red zone and make your selection at the last possible second.  If you don’t have subtitles turned on and aren’t reading faster than people talk you can easily miss entire parts of conversations. Not cool for a game that is mostly about conversations.

The Walking Dead: Michonne features the classic cel-shaded art style from the past games only this time things look a bit cleaner and more refined. Animations are smoother and the combat sequences for Michonne are totally badass.  They even throw in a three-button combo move in one sequence.  The voice acting is equally topnotch, even without Danai Gurira (TV’s Michonne) performing her character for the game.  Instead, they got Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black) to do the video game version of Michonne and she nailed the part.  Her overall attitude fits the established TV character perfectly and the conversations in the game sound natural.  The sound effects and score are perfection and the opening number, Gun In My Hand by Dorothy is perhaps my favorite title sequence for any Telltale game to date.  I was totally having flashbacks to HBO’s True Detective.

The Walking Dead: Michonne is already off to a great start. I was a bit surprised by how short the first episode was and how little actually happened.  Even as a character introduction episode, there wasn’t a lot of exposition during the two hours of gameplay, so I’m hoping the remaining two episodes are about double in size.  I’m also hoping they fix the conversation flow, so I’m not always interrupting the person I’m talking with.  I’ll be happy to adjust my final score when we revisit the miniseries in our final review after episode three releases later this year.

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Until then, if you love The Walking Dead or just want to play another great interactive narrative adventure, The Walking Dead: Michonne promises to deliver everything you expect from a Telltale game. Definitely worth checking out.

Complete Series Review Update – April 27, 2016

Well, I just finished the third and final installment in the Michonne Miniseries, and I wanted to give you my final non-spoiler impressions and update the final score. Sadly, this whole series was a bust for me.   All three episodes were super-short to the point where you can finish all three of them in 4-5 hours.  From a marketing perspective, this should never have been broken up into parts, but rather simply released as a single title like the 400 Days DLC that bridged the first two seasons of The Walking Dead game.

In my previous review I commented on some technical issues. Those are no longer present in parts two or three, and the game runs without a hitch right up to the bitter end.  As far as new characters and situations, nothing really grabbed me like most other Telltale stories have.  I actually disliked most all of the secondary characters in the game or at best felt nothing.  The only significant event in the final two chapters was when Michonne must decide to “execute” a prisoner and some brief sense of dread on the results of my decision in the final chapter.  But when it was all over I knew that I would have arrived at the same conclusion no matter what I had chosen.

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That is my biggest complaint with this Michonne miniseries. Nothing seems to matter.  Conversation choices all lead to ultimately the same response.   The half-dozen binary choices you are presented with only alter the flow of the narrative superficially at best.  There just wasn’t a lot to do and nothing I did seemed to impact the story.   Both episodes two and three have the customary action sequences that require timed button/key presses or navigating the cursor to a hot spot to fire a weapon.   Timers are forgiving and the experience isn’t terribly challenging, making me feel that all of the gameplay is superficial icing on a storytelling cake.

The story itself is quite engaging, although by the end of the game I was getting pretty sick of the increasing amount of Michonne PTSD flashbacks; none of which fuel the emotional gravitas of that final decision you make at the end of the game like they are supposed to. And once again, kudos to the great cast who voiced the characters and the amazing music in this game – I actually listened to all three credit scrolls – something I never do.

What stated off to be a promising game ended up being no better in content or quality than a half-baked DLC drop.   The Walking Dead: Michonne is definitely worth experiencing if you are a hardcore Walking Dead fan, but definitely wait for a Steam sale before you dive into this on-rails, less-than-interactive graphic novel.

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