The Walking Dead: Michonne Review (Steam)
Developer:Telltale Games Publisher: Telltale Games
Consoles: PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, Mobile
Release Date: April 26th (Last Episode)
*Disclaimer* Reviewer was granted a review code for the game
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The Walking Dead, as a game franchise, and as a media empire has had its ups and downs. The Telltale games are usually great, but the Activision game was…less great. After two major releases in the Telltale series, as well as a DLC mini-episode, they’ve deemed fit to create a three part mini-series based on the popular Michonne character. While I can applaud some of the very small technical improvements over this game, I have to question the entire point of the exercise from the get go.
TWD: Michonne starts you off as you are fighting zombies and hallucinating about your daughters. This hallucination aspect becomes a recurring theme and really brings the game down the more it is used. You are alone, but are quickly befriended by a guy named Pete and brought onto his boat of nameless characters. While scavenging for supplies and seeing if another ferry has people on it, you are beset by a brother/sister duo, and then later captured by a group of (you guessed it) bad people, and the rest of the game’s two episodes deals with them and the fallout that incurs. I won’t get into specifics of who dies, or what really happens, because that would pretty much defeat the whole purpose of buying the game.
The nuts and bolts gameplay of Michonne is exactly the same as the earlier Walking Dead games, but for some reason feels a bit more forgiving. You still have dialog options and “So and so will remember that” popping off in the corner, but it is muted somewhat by a flaw I’ll get into later. The action sequences feel a bit snappier though, and you have a longer window of opportunity to deal with the QTE’s that pop up to attack zombies or people.
On the plus side, at least for me, is that I ran into no issues when playing this game. I had my save wipe when I played the first Walking Dead game, and there are still a lot of troubling reports of progress lost in Walking Dead Season 2, The Wolf Among Us, and so on. For me, the game ran well seeing how I had no problems at all.
There is a weird, fundamental issue when trying to talk about this game though, which makes it hard to articulate properly. Walking Dead Seasons 1 and 2 introduced you to Lee (and Clementine) and gave you reasons to care about the people you were with, to get you emotionally invested in the story. Over the five episodes, you saw those people grow, sometimes dies, got saddled with new people and you could probably gauge who they are.
Michonne has none of that. The game literally drops you into situations that feel unexplained… well because they are. In my example above when Michonne is on the boat with Pete, you find out one other person’s name on there (Oak). Meanwhile, there were at least two other people on said boat who I didn’t know/didn’t care about.
Later on, one of them got killed in my game and my reaction was: “Who cares?”. Compare that to the loss of Duck, Kenny or even Lee at the end of the first game, and there’s zero emotional attachment at all. This issue rears its ugly head further when you’re dealing with certain dialog sequences and the game will go “John will remember that”, only for you to not have a single clue who John is in the first place.
A second conceptual problem is that I literally have no idea who Michonne is. I don’t read the comics or watch the TV show, so none of that baggage came in with me. Her sole defining characteristics in this game is being good with a machete and having visions of her (likely) dead daughters, which causes her to occasionally flip out. Michonne was never in the games before, so devoting an entire arc to her character seems needless. Especially since this is only a side-story of what the comic character did when she was gone for about a dozen issues.
The game offers no contextualization for her character, which makes it extremely hard to empathize with her at all. The times when she would have hallucinations did make me wonder what the other characters were thinking when she was flipping out. Like, were they just watching her “Is she going to kill us all in her sleep?”, things like that. From a newcomer standpoint, TWD Michonne leaves us stumbling in the apocalyptic dark.
On the flip side, at least the voice acting is fairly decent. Samira Wiley (Poussey from Orange is the New Black) voices Michonne and does an adept job at it. Malik Yoba (Vernon Turner from Empire) voices Pete and handles that role greatly, while a cast of other actors handle the remaining characters.
+ Game ran without any technical problem
+ Good voice acting
+ Some of the story was passable
– There’s no introduction or understanding of Michonne as a character
– A lot of cookie-cutter, underwritten characters surround Michonne
– Not much of substance actually happens due to no emotional attachment
If you are heavily invested in the comics or TV show, then you will likely enjoy it, even if it seems only tangentially related to either of those things. If you like the prior Walking Dead games though, I’d have to say no. There’s not much meat in the story to make you care and the choices put in place are fairly weak. Also, the characters are almost completely forgettable, or not even mentioned, save for Pete and that’s just because Malik Yoba is rad.
Mild, but only if you’re a fan of Michonne.
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