It’s been a long time since Telltale brought us into the world of The Walking Dead. Since the Clementine-starring Season Two in 2014 the only Walkers we’ve seen from the studio have been the White (Game of Thrones) or Robotic (Tales From The Borderlands) varieties. But now in 2016 they’re back with something special: a three-part miniseries based around arguably the best character from the comics, namely sword-wielding badass Michonne. Does she kick ass in Telltale’s Choose Your Own Adventure format? Well, what do you think?
"You don't know what I can do."
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Set during the time in the comics when Michonne had left Rick Grimes’ group, In Too Deep sees a near-suicidal Michonne (haunted by her past and beset by walkers on all sides) picked up by a guy named Pete and his friends. Together they travel by boat down the river, scavenging for supplies, meeting allies and finding new folks. It’s an idyllic existence that, this being Walking Dead, gets shattered approximately two minutes after the superb opening credits. After getting their boat stuck Michonne and Pete head to an abandoned ferry to search for the parts they need and maybe some grateful people who need help. Three guesses on whether that goes to plan or not.
While not spoiling anything I will go right out and say that I was hugely impressed by the quality of the writing in In Too Deep. Despite the inevitable bad s**t going down there’s a sense of mystery maintained throughout, and rather coolly it’s debateable whether any of the characters are actually bad or not. Everyone is suspicious of everyone else, but there seems to be no obviously evil characters. Someone caused all the problems, and someone is clearly lying, but who is it? There’s an ambiguity to all these characters that The Walking Dead in comics, TV or games never really goes for (at least not with everyone) and it’s quite refreshing, plus the entirely water-based setting is definitely unique to the series. Finally there is actually humour here which came as a great relief to me, especially after the ultra-serious Game of Thrones that entirely missed the point about why people like that show.
I bet she doesn't kill a single walker with it. Nosirree.
As per usual with Telltale and Walking Dead it’s your choices that are the main source of gameplay. As this is only the first episode it’s hard to tell which ones are going to bite you in the bottom later, but that’s a good thing - I have no idea how things are going to go down from here on out. There’s a small literal “go left or right” decision early on that sends you to a different location for a few minutes that’s neat, and I really want to see more stuff like that from Telltale since that type of thing encourages replays more than dialogue or action choices. After that you can basically decide who to side with between two shady groups of people, although we’ll have to wait until Episode 2 to see whether the game will make the final decision for you. The only downside to all these choices is that the player always knows that Michonne herself is never in any danger and won’t so much as lose a fingernail.
There are 3-4 mini-adventure moments where you can explore, but otherwise QTEs as usual are the main way of getting through action moments. Fortunately since their frankly poor showing in Game of Thrones, which were nearly invisible and didn’t give the player much warning, Telltale have revamped them considerably for Michonne. The button prompts are now much clearer, and rather nicely now fit dynamically with the action. There’s not just a static letter ‘Q’ taking up a quarter of the screen, instead as the camera moves the letter will move with it. There was even one instance of a multi-button “special move” that Michonne could pull off which was both impressive and neat. QTEs are still the spawn of gaming Satan but if you’ve gotta have ‘em Telltale seem to have got them right. Let’s hope the Game of Thrones: Season Two team are taking lessons.
Oh. Guess I lost that bet.
Graphically, well, it’s still the Telltale Tool that’s eleven freakin’ years old but the slightly cel-shaded look used by The Walking Dead still suits it well and feels like it’s received an extra coat of paint this time - it just looks nicer than Walking Dead: Season Two in my opinion. Still we’ve had Life Is Strange show up Telltale’s aging engine rather definitively since then so it’s nothing to write home about. Fortunately the voice acting remains excellent, with Samira Wiley doing a particularly superb job as Michonne. Telltale decided not to go with the TV version as played by Danai Gurira and we support this decision, if nothing else than to remind people that Telltale’s series is set in the very different comic universe.
THE WALKING DEAD: MICHONNE EPISODE 1 - IN TOO DEEP VERDICT
Despite being shorter than most Telltale episodes (I clocked it in about 90 minutes) The Walking Dead: Michonne is off to a great start. To be honest I wasn’t blown away by anything in the story but I’d definitely call In Too Deep “a good episode”. While nothing jaw-dropping happens plot-wise the excellent ambiguous writing and the original water-based setting kept me completely entertained. The wonderful acting helps to sell the cool writing further, and although the aging engine really needs putting out of its misery it at least supports the game well. Finally on the gameplay side (remember that?) the QTEs have been much improved since Game of Thrones and there were a few good choices along the way. Now roll on Episode 2 to see if they actually matter.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The voice acting I’d say, although more setting-altering choices please.
Excellent ambiguous writing with wonderful voice acting as always.
Some compellingly tough choices and the QTEs have been sorted out.
Only 90 minutes long? That's short even for Telltale, especially for a mini-series.