Telltale games have built a solid reputation with their episodic storytelling game format and, in 2012, became a household name in gaming when they released the critical and commercial success The Walking Dead series. Since then, Telltale has stayed true to form, branching out and releasing quality episodic titles like The Wolf Among Us, Tales From the Borderlands, and just last year, a series based on the mega hit TV show Game of Thrones. Here, they return to the series that catapulted them and episodic games into the mainstream with The Walking Dead: Michonne, and as expected, they deliver exactly what we’ve come to know and love them for.
For those of you who have not played the previous Walking Deadwalki series, the gameplay harkens back to old point-and-click adventure titles, but with more interaction and choices. There are sections where the player will have full control of Michonne and can explore relatively small areas which contain various points of interest that the player can interact with. These points can be anything from objects to pick up for later use, to things that affect the environment, to path choices that are crucial to your survival. At other times, the characters will be stationary and the player will have several dialogue choices, and said choices are not merely there for show. Your choices will carry consequences throughout the entire episode, and sometimes beyond, making the times when the player is not moving about just as important as when they are.
The dialogue sections, however, are what really bring the game to life, as we experience the different characters trying to bond over their mutual trauma and trying to adapt to a world without an ounce of stability. You’ll meet characters who, like Michonne, are struggling to keep their moral compass amid the complete collapse of society, and you’ll meet others, who have seemingly cast aside all pretense of goodness and settled into a permanent state of fight or flight. Even the characters that seem evil at first will have moments where the player could understand their motivations. While this might not excuse their actions, it adds depth to characters that would otherwise be one-note psychopaths.
Although action takes a secondary role in this series, players can expect it to be a nerve-wracking experience when it’s time to kill or be killed. Walkers are the most common adversaries, and they are never to be taken lightly. Players can be swarmed, ambushed, cornered, and find themselves in any number of disadvantageous positions when battling them. Players have a narrow window, sometimes a very narrow one, to execute a quick time command in which they can kill or escape, if the situation calls for it. These commands range from simple button presses, to analog stick pulls, to rapid button presses. No matter which it is, you will likely find yourself holding onto your mobile device with a white-knuckled grip as the tension is high, thanks in part to an excellent soundtrack that really knows how to turn it up when necessary.
This series is based on The Walking Dead comic series, not the TV show, and the graphics reflect that. I remember reading when the first Telltale series came out that they had considered making the game in black and white, like the comics. They chose not to, which worked out very well. The character models and environments are rendered beautifully, eschewing the finely tuned details of most games for a classic cel-shading that makes the game look like a comic come to life. The art style is effective and is more fitting for the experience the player gets from this world than a more detailed and realistic style would be. Points in the game where the player has a moment to take in a wide shot of a coastline or landscape really add to the bleak tone of the post apocalyptic world, serving as excellent break points between the tension by amplifying the hopelessness in which these characters live.
What makes this game more than just another episode in the series is that this time it focuses on one of the series best characters. Michonne is beloved in the fandom, and although her origin story is slightly different than that of her show counterpart, the player will experience her trauma in a way that readers and watchers haven’t yet. She is haunted by the ghosts or her past, and will periodically hallucinate them, being unable to reconcile her decisions from the early days of the outbreak. How she is able to come to terms with her guilt and cope with her growing sense of nihilism will be a journey any player will find compelling.
The game’s first episode comes at the price of $4.99, and the option to buy the bundle of all 5 episodes for a 20% discount. Buying the first episode is highly recommended because it won’t set you back much at all and is an excellent gauge for deciding if you want to continue your adventure. Whether you are a fan of the comic, show, both, or not at all, The Walking Dead: Michonne provides an interactive experience that any gamer will find engaging. Telltale Games continue to impress, and I recommend it for anyone who is interested in a narrative-driven game.
Is it Hardcore?
This is a must play for any fan of The Walking Dead franchise, as we learn for the first time about some missing pieces in the story of Michonne. I can’t say enough good things about this title. A stellar achievement for the already accomplished developers at Telltale.