I like the idea of Telltale doing shorter mini-seasons. Game of Thrones was stretched out too long and I was bored long before the sixth episode, whereas three episodes over three months could offer more space for experimentation. We perhaps might even see the return of such favourites as Strong Bad, Puzzle Agent, The Wolf Among Us or Tales From The Borderlands. Imagine a brand new miniseries featuring Sam & Max or a prequel to Borderlands focused on Fiona and Sasha! But first, more Walking Dead. Joy.
Perhaps a bit mean, but The Walking Dead: Season 2 was a bit lacklustre and it’s rather hard to go back to yet another grim zombie fest. Nevertheless a three-part miniseries featuring arguably the best character in the comics or TV series, Michonne, could be something special. I was quite impressed with the first episode but now it’s time to judge the season as a whole. Does it stand up or does it writhe around with a machete through its face?
I knew we'd get Jaws 19 eventually.
The story is at the heart of Walking Dead: Michonne. Machete-wielding badass Michonne has left Rick Grimes’ group and at her lowest point was picked up by a man named Pete, who sails down the river with his crew looking for supplies. A chance encounter with a couple of young thieves named Sam and Greg gets Michonne and Pete into deep trouble, and it only gets worse. Episode 2 “Give No Shelter” focuses on their daring escape from a floating community, and Episode 3 “What We Deserve” sees them make their final stand and everything slides further into hell.
The best part about the story is that it’s not entirely predictable. I mean yes, it’s pretty obvious Michonne isn’t going to get out of the scrapes she gets into without a lot of things going wrong, but there were a few truly shocking moments and even more where I guessed something was going to happen and it didn’t go that way at all. On the other hand there are a few really silly moments too, like a flare shot from miles away perfectly landing by Michonne’s group or them trying to escape from people with machineguns by walking very slowly through an area with no cover.
My favourite part of the series though, and what makes it stand out from all the other iterations of The Walking Dead, is Michonne’s nightmare sequences. Throughout the miniseries Michonne is plagued with visions of her presumably dead daughters, to the point where the game gets almost Silent Hill-like. These can actually be quite scary, but most importantly make a great change of pace since you never know when they’re going to happen.
Cue the Twilight Zone music!
Telltale are the current experts of the Choose Your Own Adventure format, but I feel the smoke and mirrors are beginning to drop a little. Everyone knows by now that the overall story in a Telltale title will not change, only the attitude of characters or how quickly a character dies. In Michonne there are a few choices that feel like they have some worth, like whether you take a dangerous shortcut or a possibly equally dangerous longer route. There are a few characters who might actually survive to the end if you make the “right” choices, although one of the things I do like about this miniseries is how ¬every choice feels like the wrong one. That’s The Walking Dead I guess. The final major choice of the season is a real gut-puncher too, but no spoilers.
While there are very few moments where the player gets direct control, they’re still there and are getting more and more pointless. I liked The Walking Dead: Season One where they had some occasional puzzles or at least some optional moments that you’d only find by exploring. Now it’s like one of those kiddie games where you click on a picture and things light up. There are also QTEs of course, rampant and all over Michonne like a bad case of walkers, but at least I can say that they’re the best QTEs Telltale has made. They’re obvious, well timed, animated and interactive, not just static images that blend into the background if you’re watching the action instead of expecting a QTE.
Performance & Graphics
OS: Windows XP SP3
Processor: Core 2 Duo 2GHz or equivalent
Memory: 3 GB RAM
Graphics: Nvidia or ATI card with 512 MB RAM
Storage: 3 GB available space
The one advantage of Telltale’s aging engine is that anyone can play their games with a minimum of fuss. Nevertheless I did encounter some overlong load times which disrupted my flow of play a bit and I’m not sure they were necessary. Talking technically though the most frustrating thing about Walking Dead: Michonne is the countdown of achievements as you play through the game. As you progress huge numbered achievements pop up in the corner of the screen and let you know just how long you have to go, and that really does break immersion.
Wow, you really took the idea of burning bridges literally!
Graphically this is still the Telltale Tool. Supposedly Telltale’s upcoming Batman will finally update the engine but for now Michonne is saddled with this iPad-friendly throwback. It’s acceptable and the cel-shading hides a multitude of sins, but the over-simplicity of the animation now can’t be disguised and nor can the tiny environments with its limited amount of characters. Don’t expect anything truly epic to happen, at least not without a lot of cuts.
Audio / Voice Acting
I may complain about the graphics but Telltale at least always nail the audio. The sound effects are great and really help to bring the player into the story in a way the visuals often fail to, and the same goes for the hugely atmospheric music with some neat song choices. Voice acting too Telltale regularly knocks out of the park. Samira Wiley is particularly superb as Michonne, embodying the character as well as or better than her TV counterpart. The rest of the cast do a great job too, especially Devery Jacobs as Sam, who accurately and excellently portrays a young girl experiencing her life and family getting torn apart.
While I generally enjoyed my time with Walking Dead: Michonne I can’t say the experience left me too satisfied, probably down to the briefness of it all. While I appreciate having a Telltale miniseries there’s not really enough time to get to know all the characters, particularly the “villains” Norma and Randall. Worse though, I can’t see why Telltale couldn’t have been more adventurous with the choice/consequences on offer. It’s not like there’s going to be a Season Two of a miniseries.
Of course this is probably down to the one really annoying thing about Michonne: the immortality of the titular character. You know Michonne will come out of it in one piece, as she has to get back to Rick Grimes and co eventually. This robs every dangerous moment of the danger as well as stopping any choice from having universe-ending consequences.
She's cracked, dude.
Nevertheless in terms of story I really liked how the running theme of the series seemed to be that no one was evil. Randall’s a dick but he’s just tired of thieves, and Norma’s just looking out for her community and her brother. If any of the characters is a bad guy it’s probably Michonne, who gets people killed all over the place and destroys several communities (and least in my playthrough).
THE WALKING DEAD: MICHONNE VERDICT
While the idea of a Telltale miniseries is a welcome and novel one The Walking Dead: Michonne suffers because there’s already too much Walking Dead in the world, and also the invulnerability of Michonne means you never worry about her the same way you did Lee or Clementine. Nevertheless the story has some good shocking moments, the Silent Hill-like hallucinations add some much-needed spice, and there are some interesting choices despite Telltale not really going far enough with them. It’s a welcome diversion for sure, but let’s hope Telltale have something more imaginative for their next miniseries.
TOP GAME MOMENT
The Silent Hill-esque nightmare sequences.
Spooky nightmare sequences add a lot to make the game unique.
Some great choices, interesting story, and morally ambiguous characters.
Quick Batman, save us from this ancient graphical hell we're trapped in!
Very passive and not really adventurous enough with the consequences.