Her name is in the title, but Michonne is the star of this series in more ways than that. She has always been a fan favorite, and now we get to see more character examination than ever before. Michonne is haunted by her past, that much fans of the series in any form already knew. Playing through that mental anguish makes her pain feel all the more real. In this first episode’s opening sequence, Michonne sees flashes of her past during an attack by very real in-the-moment walkers. The scene leads into the opening titles, and the decision left for the player to make, one option specifically, is emotionally devastating.
Experience Not Required
If you have no knowledge of any backstory, be it Telltale’s Walking Dead seasons or otherwise, you can still play this game and get the full experience. Michonne, from the outset, is clearly fighting personal demons from a traumatic event, and players are not left hanging as to what causes that. She typically has everything together compared to many Walking Dead characters, stoic and level headed, so riding along with the nightmare she is living makes choosing Michonne as the principal a captivating choice.
The bulk of the story takes place after Michonne has met up with a group of sailors. Pete seems to be in charge, and is the only character whose name you’re likely to remember outside of the pair presented as villains. We’re essentially just dropped onto a boat with a bunch of random people, briefly, before leaving almost everybody behind to go off with Pete alone. It is evident that Pete cares for Michonne, that and his desire to seek out and help people make him a sympathetic character to the audience, but none of that applies to anybody else. Early on an event gives you the chance to save one of the sailors from being struck by a sail that has broken loose, and given our lack of interaction with them it’s hard to determine whether or not Michonne would be putting herself in harm’s way for these people.
Rehash of a Rehash
The broad story beats of Chapter 1 will feel new only to players jumping into The Walking Dead as a franchise for the first time. Living people are more dangerous than the dead, as an idea, has been a persistent theme, and a fascinating one, across all Walking Dead media. A clash between our protagonist and the leader of a different group of survivors is a plot that has worked well. The prison group vs. The Governor and Alexandria vs. Negan are some of the best story arcs The Walking Dead has produced, but it is something we’ve seen play out again and again. We’ve even seen a similar scenario in Telltale’s own The Walking Dead Season 2 with Carver’s group living out of a hardware store. The story here is still enjoyable, but there must be different ways to create conflict within this universe. This is the first entry of a three part series, so hopefully, Telltale has found a way to flip the script going forward to create a fresh take on what has become a franchise trope.
Quality Quick Time
For my taste, the Telltale formula is the way to implement point-and-click adventure games. These titles are more story driven than gameplay, but there are some stylistic changes here that are nice additions. Seeing a three-button prompt appear in the middle of a chaotic fight against the undead pleasantly surprised me. Rather than pressing one face button, I had to press three in progression to have Michonne perform another kill. Not especially challenging, but it was a subtle twist on my expectations that kept me more focused on the action.
What action is here is among the best that can be found in a Telltale series, as fighting walkers is an intense, graphic affair. The visual shots are cinematic and full of stand out choreography. One skirmish introduces a walker’s head to a cash register. Another portion reminds us that walkers still walk even when underwater. This logic reaches an intelligent conclusion as we are shown the new community, Monroe, which exists as boats tied together in deep waters to, at least theoretically, remain safe from the zombie hordes.
The Final Say-So
The Walking Dead: Michonne, for better or worse, is all about Michonne. She makes for a great character to lead us through the fast-paced, approximately ninety minute story, but so much so that the events happening around her are far less interesting. I doubt I will care what happens to the leaders of Monroe, or even Michonne’s new traveling companions, but I do care what happens to Michonne next.
The Walking Dead: Michonne – Episode 1 was reviewed on PlayStation 4 using a review copy provided by Telltale Games.