Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The Walking Dead: Michonne Episode 1 Review

While part of the studio is working on The Walking Dead: Season Three, another part of Telltale has decided to break from their original characters and explore a popular character from the comics.  The Walking Dead: Michonne explores the titular character, after she leaves Rick's group following the events of All Out War.  In doing so, they've managed to make the character and situation enjoyable even without knowing the source material before hand.

The game opens with Michonne having flashbacks about the traumatic events that happened to her at the start of the zombie apocalypse.  She is then brought back into the present by Pete, a fisherman who she befriended sometime after leaving Rick's group.  The game focuses on Pete and Michonne after they hear a distress call on the radio of Pete's ship, The Companion.  Of course, this being the universe of The Walking Dead, deciding to help people isn't always an easy choice.  At this point in the story, it's a few years into the zombie apocalypse, and as explored in Telltale's The Walking Dead: Season Two, the constant threat of death has brought out the worst in many people.

The story is the best part of The Walking Dead: Michonne.  It's exciting, and the characters are all entertaining in their own right.  There's a mysterious nature to each of the characters, but unlike the second season of The Walking Dead, there isn't an overabundance of characters.  The layers of mysteriousness for each character are slowly pulled back, revealing more about each of them, even in the first episode.  With this being a three episode miniseries, hopefully Telltale will manage to continue this.  This episode is quite short, but there is a lot of story packed here in that short playtime.

The presentation is also top notch.  The team has come a long way in terms of presentation, with Tales from the Borderlands being a real turning point for the studio in this regard.  The Walking Dead: Michonne continues on this trend, with excellent choreographed action scenes and a fantastic opening sequence.  The voice actors are also excellent.  The voice actress for Michonne, in particular, is a real standout.  Michonne is a character who has been hardened by the events of the apocalypse, and it really comes across in her performance.  The rest of the voice cast compliments her performance just as admirably.  The musical score is also excellent.  The choice of music for the opening number is fantastic, fitting the scenario of the game excellently.  The original compositions are also equally fantastic, helping to set the tone of the game beautifully.

Unfortunately, the game play itself doesn't shine quite as much as the story and presentation.  It's a shame that after Telltale had shown that they could improve their formula with the direct controlled combat in Minecraft: Story Mode, they are right back to being solely driven by quick time events as in The Walking Dead: Season Two.  It also lacks the branching locations of The Wolf Among Us, or the optional puzzles of The Walking Dead: Season One.  The presentation of the quick time events is given a shiny new makeover, making them look nicer than ever.  However, when they are the crux of the gameplay, with no alternative offered, they begin to become tiresome.  The choices and consequences do seem like they might be interesting this time around though.  There's already one major choice that can be made at the end of the episode that has immediate consequences.  Time will tell for the other choices, but the intense situation that Michonne and Pete find themselves in could definitely make for some major consequences in future episodes.

Telltale manages to tell a fantastic story in the first episode of The Walking Dead: Michonne.  They backed that up with a fantastic presentation, excellent voice acting, and fantastic music.  There is already one major consequence to the choices in this episode, and while there aren't too many others, the intense story could mean that there will be more major consequences as the mini-series continues to unfold.  Unfortunately, while the story and presentation really shines, the gameplay itself is a bit lacking.  The action scenes are choreographed beautifully, but when the sole means of action is solely prompted button presses, it quickly becomes quite tiresome. It's a shame that Telltale has gone back to relying solely on quick time events after showing that they can do so much more.

Final Verdict:

3½ out of 5

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