The Walking Dead: Michonne, Episode One: In Too Deep Review
The Walking Dead: Michonne, Episode One: In Too Deep Review
There’s one villain that even this katana-wielding badass can’t overcome - lackluster writing
Posted: 03/03/16 | Category: Review | Developer: Telltale Games | Publisher: Telltale Games | Platform: Android, Ios, Xbox one, Windows, Playstation 4, Mac

Genre: Point-And-Click Adventure
Release date: February 23, 2016
Review Platform: PS4

The Walking Dead and Telltale Games are a match made in heaven, but even the perfect couple can produce a few duds here and there. Telltale’s latest attempt to recapture the magic of Season One and TwoThe Walking Dead: Michonne. Episode One: In Too Deep showcases the strength of a complex character like Michonne, but in the end there’s one villain that even this katana-wielding badass can’t overcome - lackluster writing.

When Does This Take Place?
 

For followers of The Walking Dead (either the comic or television show), Michonne is a character with whom we're intimately familiar. In the previous seasons of Telltale’s Walking Dead the stories had a tenuous grasp at best on their source material. We visited the Greene family at their famous farm and spent a little while sneaking around with pizza delivery boy extraordinaire, Glenn. But what allowed the earlier games to thrive was their focus on new characters that didn’t constantly dredge up comparisons to the other media in which the franchise has been presented.

That being said, when does Michonne take place? In Telltale’s own words, “The story explores the period in the comic book timeline where Michonne leaves Rick, their group, and her katana behind, in order to deal with emotional demons from her past."

Great Character and Subpar Story
 

Do not read Telltale’s official synopsis for the game. Just don’t. For some reason the description they provide ruins several of the few small surprises of the game.

Speaking of surprises, there will be some mild spoilers below.

The story starts with Michonne fighting walkers while flashing in and out of reality. Sometimes she’s battling them in the woods, and other times she’s in her home attempting to reach her two daughters. It’s an impactful way to open the story and immediately establishes Michonne as a much more haunted protagonist than characters from the other games. At the end of the opening scene, Michonne gets to choose whether or not she wants to kill herself.

Things get pretty dark.

Of the two incarnations of Michonne currently running, Telltale’s Michonne is much closer to the comics than to the television show. Despite her talent for incredible carnage, her guilt is her driving trait. The death of Michonne’s daughters haunts her, and this is manifested throughout the game by the appearance of children’s toys and specters of the girls themselves. It’s freaky stuff that really helps the player to get inside Michonne’s head.

The problem then is not with Michonne, a character proven to be successful, but with the disappointing story in which she finds herself. As in dozens of previous Walking Dead story arcs, Michonne and her righteous friend find themselves up against a morally ambiguous leader, Norma, who’s willing to make tough decisions to protect her people.

It’s not that Norma and her brother aren’t perfectly fine villains; it’s just that we’ve been here before. We’ve seen it with William Carver and with The Governor and with the Hunters and with Negan. Once they enter the cycle of fighting these morally grey leaders, the story ends up dancing to the same beat.

Swords and Puzzles and Stuff
 

Michonne is a notorious zombie slayer, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that the game starts with an excellent action sequence. Telltale appears to have picked up a thing or two from the action heavy sequences in both their Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands series. In one particular scene, the player will have to hit a series of buttons in a row in order to complete a single action. While this gameplay has shown up in plenty of other games (specifically fighting games), I don’t believe Telltale has ever utilized it in the past. It works well as a means of adding an extra flair to the action sequences.

The action settles down quickly, though, and the majority of the game focuses on more traditional point-and-click gameplay. It’s fine stuff that is elevated by Michonne’s comments about her surroundings.

The dialogue options leave a little to be desired. In what is probably supposed to be a tense interrogation, the big bad villain appears to react in frustrating ways with some of the same tired dialogue we’ve seen in the past:

“Tell me the truth and no harm will come to you” – Villain
“Here’s my whole honest life story” – Michonne
“I don’t believe you” – Villain

If Michonne lies correctly then the interrogation goes a little better, but the experience is irritating either way. Though it’s difficult to say until we’ve seen the whole picture, Michonne appears to offer very few impactful decisions thus far.

Audio and Visuals
 

For better or worse The Walking Dead: Michonne utilizes the same Telltale Tool game engine that has been in use for ages. Despite various tweaks over the years, the engine has not undergone enough change to justify its continued use. In the end, those players who have called on Telltale to update their graphics will continue to be unimpressed.

There are some visual cues referencing previous games as well. A locker with ‘Logan’ written on it appears as a reused piece of environment, but the appearance of Clementine’s drawing of a cat from Season One is of more interest. At this point it’s tough to say whether this is just lazy designing, or a deliberately placed item.

Following Tales from the Borderlands, it appears that Telltale has decided to include stylized introduction sequences to all of their games. In Tales, these were some of my favorite segments, so it’s nice to see them continuing to be utilized.

And as is par for the course in Telltale Games, Michonne features a generally successful voice cast. Michonne herself is brought to life by Samira Wiley, an actress currently appearing in Netflix’s Orange Is the New Black.

What Must the Series do to Succeed?
 

It wouldn’t hurt for the next episode to take longer than ninety minutes to complete, but a short running time and an ancient game engine can be forgiven when paired with an engrossing narrative. For once I’d love to see a Walking Dead story that didn’t feel compelled to focus on a wide cast of characters and instead could dive into the intricate thoughts of a single individual. Michonne’s guilt is a tougher villain than Stormin’ Norma, and keeping the story attached to that focal point would give it the potential to set itself apart from the tried-and-true stories that have come before.

 

Grade: C
Michonne’s complexity carries the game
Use of introduction sequence
 
 
Cliché villains
Story feels bland and recycled
Lack of impactful decisions
 
 Logo
 
 
Trailer:
 
 
 
System Requirements
 
MINIMUM PC:
OS: Windows XP Service Pack 3
Processor: Core 2 Duo 2GHz or equivalent
Memory: 3 GB RAM
Graphics: ATI or NVIDIA card w/512 MB RAM
DirectX: Version 9.0
Storage: 3 GB available space
Sound Card: Direct X 9.0c sound device
Additional Notes: Not Recommended for Intel integrated graphics
 
MINIMUM Mac:
OS: Lion (10.7.X)
Processor: 2.3 Ghz Intel
Memory: 4 GB RAM
Graphics: 512 MB NVIDIA or ATI graphics card
Hard Drive: 3 GB available space
Additional Notes: Not recommended for Intel integrated graphics or Mac Minis or early-generation MacBook
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