Reviewed on: PC
And just like that, the Telltale miniseries The Walking Dead: Michonne has come to an end with episode three, “What We Deserve”, launching earlier this week. We now know the demons Michonne has been dealing with throughout the apocalypse and have lived through the conflict between Sam’s family and the people of Monroe. While there is not much more for me to say that I haven’t covered in my write ups of the previous two episodes, the finale packs some punches and finally lets us view the miniseries as a whole, which is what I’ll be doing here in this review.
Let’s start with the most important and sought after part of a Telltale game: the narrative. Despite a rather lacklustre first chapter, The Walking Dead: Michonne did manage to bring the goods in the second and third acts once it had established the cast of side characters a little more. As Michonne and Pete are characters from the comics, and ones seen in the comics beyond where this story is placed, we knew they were safe from harm from the outset, so the miniseries needed to make us care for the others around us in order for the Telltale brutality to work. They didn’t necessarily get there with all of them, particularly the crew of Pete’s boat who are used to pull some heartstrings despite never really earning it to begin with, but when it comes to the house defence of the final act, the threat of harm to Sam and her family was certainly enough to get the adrenaline pumping. Sure, Sam’s younger brothers were clearly stand ins for Michonne’s daughters, and non-family member Paige seemed like a non-essential means to an end, but the series did enough to engage my sense of empathy in some of the heavier moments.
And speaking of Michonne’s daughters, the pay off to that story was not at all what I was expecting. Where I was expecting a zombie movie cliche like “she saw/killed her kids as zombies”, Telltale instead presented a different scenario that I won’t spoil but really hit home why she was so guilt ridden and haunted by their memory. The final moments of that storyline involve a choice that was really a no-brainer (well, if Telltale’s global decision stats are anything to go by), but given the whole point of this miniseries was to explore this side of Michonne, I’d say overall it was quite the success.
As for the rest of the choices, in true Telltale fashion they were able to make room for some massive decisions that still fit within the framework of the overarching story. I played through the entire series twice making the opposite choices, and despite getting essentially the same plot, there were smaller, unique moments that came out of the bigger choices. For example, a certain character can die needlessly at the end, or perhaps earlier and soon discovered by their lover. Ultimately the character dies, and they have little impact on the story, but some players will get that horrific image while others may spare them. This is how Telltale’s choice based system should work: not so as to warrant repeat playthroughs to see all the options, given the overall events are the same, but rather the first time through will be unique to the player.
The only really new aspect of The Walking Dead: Michonne came from its new visual style. The game took some huge cues from last year’s Tales from the Borderlands and packed some more cinematic flair into their trademarked quick-time-event filled, interactive movie gameplay. For starters, the visual quality of Telltale’s game engine, while a long way from cutting edge, has been greatly improved. The level of detail has increased and the characters themselves are more expressive than in previous games. We’re still a long way from the uncanny valley, but the overly blank faces of some of the earlier Telltale works are certainly no where to be seen here. They’re truly gunning for that animated film quality look, although we won’t truly get there until they update the graphics engine.
On the action front, QTE button prompts were presented within the action itself, floating near the heads of zombies Michonne was about to stab or up against objects needing some smashing, rather than just appearing at the bottom of the screen. The new prompts also worked really well with the slow motion combat visuals, spinning the buttons into view as Michonne would slice and dice her way through some walkers, making each one hit with more weight and feel more involving. Granted, QTEs are very much a “love them or hate them” game mechanic, but Telltale has always been one of the best at using them within a dramatic context to make them more engaging. Although, as my fellow Telltale PC players will be able to attest, I think my Q key could use a rest from the rapid tapping sometimes.
But with all the cool cinematic styling there comes a visual blunder I cannot forgive: alternating aspect ratios. The Dark Knight started this trend with its precious IMAX shots and it’s the worst. Now OK, this is probably not a huge problem for a lot of people, but switching in an out of aspect ratios, creeping those black bars in at the top and bottom of the screen only to remove them later, has always ground my gears. It especially grinds my gears when there is no real reason to be doing it, they didn’t add anything to the scenes they were in and they didn’t signify anything in particular. It really takes you out of what’s going on sometimes when you suddenly notice everything looks bigger because the screen has returned to normal size. If you take one thing away from this Telltale, please let it be to never use this aspect of visual styling again.
But I think we can agree they should keep that kickass opening sequence trope: