There’s nothing pleasant about being trapped inside your own head, dwelling on your life, the past, the difficulties that you face, but Michonne is trapped more than most and haunted by her regrets from the start of the zombie outbreak that swept the world. Finding her way onto a sail boat that goes from one coastal trading post to the next, it all goes predictably wrong as Michonne and Pete, the ship’s leader, find themselves caught up in a fight between a ruthless town and a nearby family.
Set during a period in The Walking Dead’s story that saw Michonne head off on her own, this miniseries is an interesting bridge for Telltale to explore a prominent character from the universe, yet it’s also hamstrung by that same point. Especially if you’re a fan of the comics, you know that her character can’t really develop and change over the course of the three episodes. What it can do is let us explore this one moment in her past that continues to weigh on her mind, while showing just how much of a badass she is.
The opening moments find her battling through a horde of zombies single handedly, with the visceral wielding of her machete. So often in The Walking Dead, fighting the walkers is done in desperation with whatever happens to be to hand, but even when Michonne’s machete becomes stuck in the flesh and bone of an arm, she always seems to be in control. The game loves to dwell on the rapid pace with which she can dispatch a threat and her skill at removing heads and limbs in a single sweeping move.
Yet at the same time, these moments of horror burrow under Michonne’s skin. She has this steely outward persona that rarely shifts, even in the most relaxed or most frantic of moments, except for when she starts to hallucinate. Small items capture her attention, or she’s wholly transported back to an apartment from her past with her children shrouded in darkness and never within her grasp. Over the five to six hours that the miniseries offers, these same beats crop up time and again without really advancing or resolving them until the final moments.
Though it speaks to how we can all find ourselves dwelling on the same memories, the fact that her character can’t really move beyond this hampers the potential closure you can gain, and this can come to dictate the choices that you make. I often found myself thinking “What would Michonne do?” as I picked dialogue options, but even if I let myself colour her words into a slightly more open and talkative version of the character, the fact that she’s struggling with her own demons is rarely aired in any real depth.
At the same time, there’s not really much room within the miniseries’ run to really build new characters around her. Pete is the only one who I feel is given the chance to evolve through the three episodes, with your choices and actions colouring his outlook on the world and whether he remains the kind of optimist who will always look to find and help people. The young teenager Sam is suddenly given an awful lot to deal with, but beyond that, we see characters that neatly slot into various archetypes and are only given a few short moments to bounce off one another.
Where The Walking Dead and Telltale’s graphic adventures excel in general, though, is in providing you with moral quandries. Each episode’s key set pieces stand out from the more incidental moments, and I found myself being very cautious as I tried to work my way through some particularly tense confrontations.
However, some moments are undercut by a game engine that is really showing its age. There’s certainly ambition for some grand moments to feature within the game and there are scenes that are delivered with a lot of style and panache, but it can often come off feeling rather rickety. The sooner that Telltale can move on to the next iteration of its engine, which will first appear with the Batman series later this year, the better.
Michonne’s closed off personality can make her a difficult character to empathise and relate to, but that one extreme is counterbalanced by highlighting the painful past that torments her day and night. It’s on the nose at times, but it can be quite effective, and the same can be said of the series as a whole. Its brevity allows for a single, fairly simple story arc that’s punctuated with a handful of well played set piece moments, but it doesn’t allow for the new characters to breathe and grow. It’s great to explore the background of one of the comic’s more popular characters, but doesn’t significantly push Telltale’s games on from their previous highs.
Version tested: PC