The Walking Dead: Michonne is a three-part mini-series from Telltale, which, rather than building upon the strong narrative foundation of their two previous series’ of The Walking Dead, elects to explore new pastures. Below you'll find spoiler-free coverage of all three episodes, as well as an overall rating.
Events throughout eerily parallel Michonne's haunting past, which intensifies her unenviable trait of hallucinating at the most inopportune of times. Despite it being clear that these visions are exactly that, when posed with choosing between them and reality, the seemingly obvious decision is actually anything but. Denying Michonne precious, sought-after time with her beloved children, in whatever form, isn't a decision that can be taken lightly. This side of the narrative isn’t wrapped-up quite as neatly for the player as the more overt one playing out in reality, but Michonne is at least provided a degree of solace. That, for us, was more important than satiating our own selfish curiosity.
Brutal, affecting and engaging - it's left us chewing our finger-ends whilst we endure the wait for Season Three.
What We Deserve again clocks-in on the shorter side, taking around an hour to complete. It looks as though Telltale are aiming to cut content in order to match the runtime of their televised franchise counterparts, mirroring the TV-inspired presentational changes. Whilst this is fine, we aren’t seeing any decrease in price to offset getting less bang for one’s buck.
Technical issues persist, mostly still related to pauses whilst decisions are processed and appropriate scenes load based upon those decisions. The other foible we’ve continually noted is the repetition of familiar circumstances and events, leading to an encompassing sense of déjà vu. Whilst that’s still somewhat the case, the return of AMC’s Fear The Walking Dead helped us realise that there are only so many ways you can approach a post-apocalyptic, human-centric story in this universe. Yes, you’ll have a feeling of been there, done that, but that’s TWD’s reality - get past it and you’ll have exponentially more fun whilst along for the ride.
Despite these issues, the mini-series is a must-play for fans of both Telltale Games and The Walking Dead. It elevates Telltale’s work to previously unseen presentational heights via some clever cinematic tweaks, improved graphics and menus. It’s brutal (did we mention how great the grisly action sequences were?), affecting, engaging and left us chewing our finger-ends whilst we endure the wait for Season Three.
Episode 2: Give No Shelter
As ever, we open with with an accommodating "Previously on..." segment to get players back up to speed, before picking up directly where the first episode left off. Opening with another bang, Michonne and company set about escaping their precarious predicament.
We feel it necessary to reiterate just how exhilarating the violent action sequences in this series are; the stylised TV presentation persists with some scenes that are genuinely uncomfortable to watch, whilst denying you the ability to tear your eyes away. We’re quite the hardened veterans, so it isn’t often a game can achieve this result.
As well as housing some shockingly graphic moments, there’s a jaw-dropping narrative swerve, which undeniably serves its purpose, but doesn’t help shake the preceding episode’s sense of déjà vu. There are numerous more familiar scenes that we’ve seen before in Telltale’s The Walking Dead proper, including tentatively traversing a dubious structure, performing grisly medical procedures and more.
Some scenes are genuinely uncomfortable to watch, whilst denying you the ability to tear your eyes away.
The mini-series’ length also becomes somewhat questionable, as the supposed meat in the trilogy sandwich only just sees us begin to warm to established characters, whilst the interesting new ones are met with the ever present nagging feeling that the same can't - and likely won’t in the time frame - be said for them. It’s asking a little much to expect any deep character investment at this stage, which is in fact precisely what’s required of a penultimate episode.
Whilst we'd have liked more time to get to know everyone, when focusing solely on the story arc, it does feel as though TWD: Michonne is approaching a satisfying conclusion. Hopefully the former can be counteracted with the introduction of some familiar faces in this year’s third season.
Michonne continues to face tormenting visions of daughters Colette and Elodie, whereby you’re drawn into tragic memories of their disappearance, running parallel to the present day story. Their fate is yet unknown and we’re as eager to learn of it as we are to wrap up the engaging main narrative path.
Unfortunately, some more significant technical issues start to creep back in throughout the duration of the episode. There’s relatively frequent framerate stutter and occasional pauses, which we perceive to be the game frantically checking our choices and loading the according segment - it’d certainly explain the issue’s previous absence.
On the topic of choice, there are some difficult ones to be made, which can seemingly have a real impact on events, rather than just offering the illusion of choice. Obviously that’s still the case to an extent, but it’s unreasonable to expect the necessary glut of content to accommodate anything but that reality. The community are significantly divided in their stance, evidenced by the post-episode summary screen, which just goes to show there are no definite ‘right’ answers.
Whilst one of the shortest we've played - which is a bit off in a three-parter - Give No Shelter is ultimately a satisfying episode that drives the player towards a conclusion they’ll want to be a part of.
Episode 1: In Too Deep
You fill the boots of the titular Michonne, a brooding loner, familiar to fans of both the comic book and television serieses. Those only acquainted with the Michonne of the latter might find it somewhat jarring that elements of the character’s past don’t ring true, and that actress Danai Gurira forgoes the role in favour of the no less stellar Samira Wiley (Orange is the New Black). The miniseries is firmly set in the comic book universe, specifically between issues #126 and #139 in order to fill in the events during Michonne’s absence.
Having replayed seasons one and two back-to-back in preparation for this release, an opening that got right to the point was exceedingly welcome. Michonne is a badass and you’ll immediately feel it; soon to be signature cinematic widescreen bars slide in to let you know shit is about to go down - and go down the shit absolutely does. Grindhouse-esq ultra-violence kicking in with a satisfyingly stylised thud, slice and chop. We've seen the early days of the outbreak and, thankfully, that ground isn't re-trodden.
Awe for Michonne’s walker-dispatching prowess soon gives way to a deep sympathy. It becomes apparent she’s a tortured soul, her past so haunting it physically manifests to taunt her in the present. Struggling mentally, a helping hand arrives at the most apt of times and it’s here the real adventure begins.
Awaking on a functioning boat with a likeable cast of new companions - special mention goes to burly and bearded cockney bloke, Oak, the world's best mum if his mug's to be believed - it’s easy to assume it isn’t real. We spent the entire first season striving for this life, how could it be offered so readily now? When things start to go south that feeling dissipates, danger permeating life at sea just as it does on land.
An opening episode that’ll most likely hook you into seeing the series through.
Avoiding giving away too many juicy story details beyond this point, you’ll quickly find yourself in dire straights, separated from your group at the hands of a living antagonist and forced to strike an uneasy alliance to overcome the situation. There’s a slight feeling of déjà vu both in relation to narrative and character roles, but the episode remains engaging nonetheless.
On the technical front, presentation is noticeably improved in all departments thanks to sharper graphics and menus, as well as the added cinematic flair. The on-screen point & click HUD elements now offer a better indication of what each action involves, thanks to expanded text explanations, whilst quick time event prompts are kept more in line with the aesthetic so as to not pull you out of the experience.
Gameplay, or the interactive segments for those opposed to calling it that, remain(s) entirely unchanged. That isn’t an issue, the old adage if it ain't broke, don't fix it applies. Something that did need fixing, and Telltale thankfully have, at least in part, are the litany of technical issues that often plague their games. There are still slight and unintrusive niggles, but don’t expect long pauses or missed dialogue here.
Improved scheduling has us eagerly awaiting the final two episodes in the the coming couple of months, rather than wondering when we’ll be reunited with the world of The Walking Dead. Telltale continue to wield mastery over the interactive narrative experience with an opening episode that’ll most likely hook you into seeing the series through.