Episode one of TellTale’s miniseries is here. How does it fare on PS4?
There’s an odd feeling of happiness whenever a new TellTale episode arrives. Well, I suppose it isn’t inherently odd, though it’s certainly difficult to not get excited about it. Upon learning that TellTale were going to kick off their 2016 output with a new series based in the world of The Walking Dead – an area they have tread to much success, let’s not be in any doubt – I was certainly skeptical. There’s no doubt that there was a longing for a new series, perhaps one that was carrying on the third series of their primary story instead of moving towards expanding the lore and exploring more of the comic books than we were perhaps expecting. Learning that it was Michonne that was to be the primary focus in the series however, our concerns waned, and we got all excited again about TellTale returning to a word they know so damn well. Enter Michonne.
The Walking Dead: Michonne then focuses on the traumatic past of the titular character, looking into a period when the ruthless survivor steps away from Rick’s group in order to focus on herself. The story builds from there though I’ll do my best not to spoil it in the duration of this review. Officially, we’re joining Michonne in a time that takes place between the canon lore of issues 126 and 139. We can look at it like a miniseries meant to fill a gap between season two and three, and despite the rather sombre ending of events in The Walking Dead Season Two, the action picks up almost immediately here.
‘I left so many people that I loved behind…’
Have you played a TellTale game before? Of course you have. Never fear, Michonne’s engine isn’t any different from what you’ve seen before. You’ll feel instantly at home with the games mechanics (quicktime events of which there are many, a couple of double button presses, throwing your analogue stick in the direction shown by an enormous arrow that flies across the screen) and visually, will be familiar to anyone that has played through TellTale’s previous Walking Dead seasons or The Wolf Among Us. Safe to say though that Michonne is certainly more action packed than your average TellTale, with plenty of vicious zombie deading, triple threat walkers taken down in a single swipe and mucho ass kicking from our kickass protagonist.
The dialogue options are of course present and correct here. As you progress through the game you’ll involve yourself in various conversations with limited time to answer at certain moments with a choice of how you want the conversation to go – certain responses will be remembered by the characters you’re talking to and will affect future moments in upcoming episodes. This is a staple of the TellTale formula and as ever works seamlessly. Which it should really, when you think about it.
Credit must go to our lead vocal performer, Samira Wiley (known best as Poussey Washington in Orange is the New Black) who brings the pain of Michonne’s brutal backstory front and centre through every word she says. Her steely determination is palpable, her darkness a shadow following her from beginning to end. She can see light in the world but chooses to ignore it somewhat, instead focusing on the job at hand, rarely cracking a smile. Although in this world god knows it would be a difficult thing to do. Her performance carries on a strong tradition of terrific vocal performances in The Walking Dead TellTale series. It can’t be easy to keep every story turn straight in your head, it must be far more difficult than your average voiceover job. Maybe I should ask one someday?
Credit to the whole cast of course, but we must mention the wonderful Cissy Jones. I’m not gonna tell you who she is if you don’t already know, just see if you can find that sweet, kind voice at the end of your radio in Firewatch dropped into the zombie apocalypse. I genuinely didn’t know it was Cissy until I saw the credits. She was actually terrifying.
There are moments in Michonne that will certainly stay with you. It’s hard to discuss certain moments in huge detail though the ‘boat attack’ is certainly something that I wasn’t expecting and was fantastic to play through. The slickness of the QTE’s mixed with the genuine peril the characters were in, I felt like I had a huge weight on my shoulders to ensure I got them out of there as quick as I could. It was a blisteringly tense sequence and one I’d wager will stick in the mind of many a player as the game wraps up. TellTale have always been great at throwing in the memorable moments, normally at the end of each episode. Here the boat attack stood out of me as one of those moments about halfway through.
Telling Tales! Our exclusive TellTale Games podcast is now live! (Review continues below vid)
FAIR WARNING – HERE BE SPOILERS IN THIS CAST.
TWD: Michonne continues the TellTale trend of creating impressive side characters and realistic dialogue in any given situation. Their greatest strength has always been their storytelling, and being able to flesh out any number of characters. Most get plenty of screentime here, although some are obviously more fleshed out than others. Whether we’ll see more of them in upcoming episodes remains to be seen, although so far Michonne has surrounded herself with interesting people. Well, ‘surrounded herself’ probably isn’t the best way to describe it, perhaps those she is stuck with. I hope in upcoming episodes we learn more about her crew mates Siddiq, Berto, Oak and how they came to be together as a team with the sole goal of simply surviving in this unforgiving world they inhabit. The brother and sister combo of Sam and Greg as young thieves are also a solid addition, a duo who only have each other and is doing whatever is necessary to survive, much like everyone else. Life seems to have dealt them a rough hand, and it was fun to get to know them and it will be interesting to see how they impact the narrative moving forward.
There are only three episodes, mind and one is already up. I hope I’m not asking for too much.
It’s about the moments that you capture in the corner of your eye sometimes in TellTale games, and Michonne is no different. After the opening credits (epic opening song FTW, TellTale, yet again) we find Michonne on a ship with her crewmates, and we see Oak drinking out of a World’s Best Mum & Dad mug. Naturally, this ship was commandeered by Pete and so we can assume it belonged to the original owners of the ship, and as such, brings a human touch back to this dark world and is a reminder that there was a real existence out there before the apocalypse. It’s those gentle touches which make all the difference, and it’s those moments I gravitated towards when you want to find something a little more human in this decrepit world of monsters. The universe of Robert Kirkman is treated with so much respect here you would think you’re reading the comic at times.
Visually as ever, the cel-shaded presentation of The Walking Dead: Michonne certainly showcases their unique engine at its best, although there is still the odd frame rate jitter here and there. It’s nothing gamebreaking and certainly doesn’t detract from the fun, though it should be mentioned these similar issues have appeared in various TellTale series and just doesn’t seem to be getting fixed. That said, the loading times are a huge improvement over previous installments (I love you, but I’m looking at you Tales from the Borderlands), with no freezing or impatient reactions to a dialogue choice here, which is certainly a step in the right direction. If the final few framerate issues and the odd stuttery character movement can be ironed out then it will begin to be tricky finding something inherently wrong with these series moving forward.
In Too Deep then is perhaps safe in the sense that it’s not pushing TellTale into any kind of new territory, despite the storytelling being as stellar as always. There’s little to no change in the mechanics, we were perhaps selfishly expecting Michonne’s combat to feel more natural considering her natural skill with a machete and the odd technical issue still grates. Though it’s hard to get too mad when everything else around it feels, looks, plays and sounds just so damn great.
So In Too Deep is a fantastic opener to a deeply exciting new series. Michonne as a character is flawed, broken and fascinating because of this. Lost in her own memories and struggling to find a reason to carry on, her plight is engaging and thought provoking, and brings to mind what exactly would you do if you lost everything and had nothing to fight for.
Bring on March, we can’t wait to find out what happens next.
The Walking Dead: Michonne Episode 1 – In Too Deep
Developer/Publisher: TellTale Games
The Walking Dead: Michonne Episode 1 – In Too Deep is available now for £11.99 on PS4 (reviewed)/PS3 as part of the full season pass which will give you access to all three episodes in the series. The second episode is due to be released in March, with the final episode in April.
Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a review code from TellTale Games.