Telltale returns to “The Walking Dead” well once again with a new game based on the hugely successful “Walking Dead” franchise. This time Telltale is leaving behind their original take on the series and instead exploring an established fan-favorite character. Does this third trip to the well produce some refreshing water or have things gotten a bit stale?
In “The Walking Dead: Michonne” players take on the role of sword wielding (or machete in this case) badass Michonne in a story that takes place at a specific point in the comic series (starting at issue #126) where Michonne left the main group and had a solo adventure. This is a dark period in Michonne’s life as she is forced to deal with the psychological scars left behind after the death of her daughters.
However, Michonne isn’t alone in her new adventure. She eventually hooks up with a seafaring crew led by a man named Pete who lets Michonne tag along as they sale the seas. While on a supply run they discover that something is amiss with their usual supplier and learn that a new colony, called Monroe, has taken its place. Can these new people be trusted? What happened to the suppliers that used to be there? And can Michonne handle these new challenges while grappling with her own demons?
Overall the story is a bit of a roller coaster. The game is at its best when we’re allowed an insight into Michonne’s psyche to see how this horribly traumatic event affected her. If you were already invested in Michonne’s character from watching the TV series, this will give you another reason to appreciate her. However, she’s the only member of this new cast that I found myself caring about.
The game is incredibly short, less than 90 minutes for me, so it doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for meaningful character development. Everyone you meet comes with a big bright label so its clear to see who they are straight away. You got your troubled teen, evil jerk, nervous guy who will probably die right away, and so on. Of the entire cast of characters the only one that struck me as being interesting was a character named Norma and that’s because they did an excellent job of making her nature extremely ambiguous.
The biggest downside to this issue is a lack of urgency in the story. In these Telltale “Walking Dead” games you’re supposed to feel a bit of pressure in your choices because the wrong choice could potentially lead to death. However, with Michonne being the only character I was invested in, I really didn’t care about my choices. When a new character was threatened I didn’t feel any sort of pressure to try and save them. In a way it was nice because it freed me to play my character in a more stoic badass way rather than try and be a hero.
Coincidentally, playing as a character you know can’t die also takes away a lot of suspense in a zombie game. There was one moment where you have to stick your hand into a hole and you can either have Michonne do it or another character. In my head I knew if I picked the random character something could possibly happen to them. However, if I pick Michonne she’s completely immune to any bad outcomes because of her plot armor. As a result I never felt nervous about picking a risky path, even when other characters were at risk.
As far as gameplay goes nothing has changed since the last Telltale game. Which is especially unfortunate since Michonne is such an action heavy character. I know they weren’t going to build a combat system just for Michonne, but I wish they had done something different than just button prompts. I got one button prompt that looked like a combo and that made me excited that maybe there’d be more to the gameplay, but it was just a one time thing. I know the real focus of this game is the story, but when you have a character like Michonne who is known for her amazing skills, it takes a lot of “oompf” out of her big combat moments when you’re just doing quick time events.
And, yes, the dialog options are still the same. You’ve got a set amount of time to pick an option and characters will still “remember that.”
The thing about episodic content is that it’s hard to judge the complete package until the whole thing is released. However, as it stands, “The Walking Dead: Michonne” just feels like more of the same. And with the sparse amount of content in this episode and month long wait between the next ones, I feel like you’d be better off waiting until the entire series was out there before diving in. Because, as it stands, it’s hard to tell if this is going to get better or worse by the time it all wraps up.
But if you’re a fan of Telltale’s formula and if you love Michonne then I can see why you’d be eager to dive into it. And I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but I am saying that you should expect a smaller package than what you might be used too.
“The Walking Dead: Michonne” is currently available on PS4, PS3, XBox One, XBox 360 and PC for $14.99.