‘The Walking Dead: Michonne’ is Dead On Arrival
The Walking Dead’s latest episodic series is nowhere near as charismatic as the last.
Telltale’s The Walking Dead series drew attention back to the adventure genre in a big way. Though set in the same zombie apocalypse as the comic book, The Walking Dead Seasons One and Two were concerned with their own cast of characters. Lee and Clementine were as fully developed as Rick or Carl, and The Walking Dead universe was made more rich and vibrant by their inclusion. By making The Walking Dead Seasons One and Two separate in setting from the comic book, Telltale had the license to sculpt the plot any way they wanted. That’s why The Walking Dead: Michonne seems like a misstep.
The first episode of The Walking Dead: Michonne, “In Too Deep”, takes place between issue 126, when Michonne departed Rick Grimes’ group, and issue 139 when she returns. In an attempt to start a new life, Michonne left her group and joined a new group of boat dwellers, who stay safe from walkers by keeping on the move along the coasts and only casting anchor when they need to scavenge supplies. After hearing a distress call, Michonne and her boat-mates move to investigate, and the plot kicks off from there.
It’s hard to talk about any Telltale game without spoiling the story. In general The Walking Dead: Michonne has some glaring issues with pacing and plot. In The Walking Dead’s first season, you played as Lee, who was basically a blank slate of a character. Sure he had a past, but his personality was the players to create with their responses and role-playing.
By Season 2 when Clementine took center stage, you had gotten to know her through Lee’s eyes, and for the most part, her attitude was an extension of your own. The supporting cast of both seasons were people you met on your journey. You got to know them in an organic, realistic way. This made the successes and failures of your groups hit home because you felt you’d built a relationship with these people.
In stark contrast, The Walking Dead: Michonne has you controlling a character that’s been firmly established in both The Walking Dead comic and the TV show. When you take control of Michonne, you’re surrounded by people Michonne knows, but you don’t. There is no sense of urgency when anyone is in danger, and nothing drives you to care about their survival other than basic human kindness.
With The Walking Dead: Michonne spanning only three episodes to The Walking Dead Season One and Two’s five episodes apiece, the pacing is a bit too brisk to establish a setting before you’re thrown into action. Along the way you meet people you are supposed to care about for some reason, a group that is supposedly your enemy, and horribly underutilized sets. The pre-existing establishment of Michonne’s character also precludes you from making any actual decision.
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Whereas in the previous entries it was somewhat ambiguous what type of person Lee and Clementine were, in The Walking Dead: Michonne you can only end up making the kinds of decisions that Michonne would. So shortly after meeting two groups of people, one of which is accused of theft from the other, you’re expected to just randomly side with the thieves. There’s no choice here, even though the game does nothing to establish the thieves as characters, or explain why exactly the people they stole from are terrible (until nearly the end of the episode), you have to eventually take the thieves’ side.
In the end, it feels like The Walking Dead: Michonne was a marketing move. The entire first episode feels like recycled material, as though they were making a The Walking Dead game and in mid-production decided to make Michonne the star when previously there was no intention to include her.
This is definitely the weakest of Telltale’s The Walking Dead games so far. I hope that the quality of writing returns to the peak of The Walking Dead Seasons One and Two.