The Walking Dead: Michonne
The Walking Dead: Michonne is a new three-episode “mini-series” from Telltale Games. It explores what happened to the title character Michonne when she disappeared from the comic books between issues #126 and #139. This might be an exciting premise for the literary fans of The Walking Dead, but for the rest of us who only know the setting from Telltale’s games and the AMC television series, it’s not as much of a draw. So is the game any fun if you don’t know who Michonne is? Keep reading to find out.
The mini-series starts with you in control of Michonne on a boat. Boats seem like a good idea during a zombie apocalypse, but pretty soon the zombies are doing their Pirates of the Caribbean impression, and Michonne gets captured by a shady group of survivors. Meeting the new characters is the best part of the game because you don’t know who’s telling the truth — or, really, who’s lying the least — and you don’t know what their motivations are. So there aren’t any “right” or “wrong” answers, and you just have to play every situation by ear.
Of course, the shady survivors end up being the bad guys, and so much of the game involves Michonne escaping from various predicaments. Luckily, Michonne is a demon with a machete — I lost count of the number of zombies she decapitated — but there’s only so much you can do with a machete when everybody else has automatic weapons.
Controlling Michonne is simple. You use the WASD keys to move her around, and the left mouse button to interact with people and objects. Then when action sequences spring up, you use the WASD keys to dodge, the Q and E keys to grapple and perform actions, and the left mouse button to target. This is the same interface that Telltale has used for a while now, which means it’s easy to jump into the game and start playing — but just like I mentioned last week in my Minecraft: Story Mode review, it’s also starting to make Telltale’s games seem too familiar. Telltale really needs to think up something new for players to do.
About a third of The Walking Dead: Michonne involves exploration, another third has you talking to other characters, and the final third sees you fighting against zombies and evil survivors. There aren’t any puzzles at all, and I don’t think there are even any inventory objects. So your entire goal in the game is to navigate Michonne through a series of the dangerous situations using whatever role-playing strategy you think suits her best. Even though Michonne is a known character, you can play her as violent or diplomatic, optimistic or pessimistic, or companionable or aloof, so I’m not sure how much she relates to her comic book version.
So the focus of The Walking Dead: Michonne is to role-play Michonne through a short story. Luckily, the story is written well enough that the game always remains compelling, and it helps that the game is so short, so there isn’t any fluff to wade through. The basic premise of “good” survivors trying to get away from “evil” survivors isn’t exactly new or exciting, but the characters are well-drawn and interesting, and they carry the game. For example, you get flashbacks from Michonne showing that she’s haunted by what might have happened to her daughters at the start of the zombie apocalypse, and she sees their “ghosts” all the time. Other characters are just trying to survive in the new, alien world they find themselves in, and the bad guys are bad enough that you can take a rooting interest in seeing them defeated.
And so, overall, The Walking Dead: Michonne is a worthwhile game to try out. I didn’t have any idea who Michonne was when I started playing, but the game develops her predicament well enough that you care what happens to her almost right away. In fact, the story as a whole has enough quality writing to keep you invested in what’s going on, and it helps to make up for the game’s complete lack of puzzles. Still, The Walking Dead: Michonne is very short — I completed its three episodes in under five hours — so you might want to wait for it to go on sale before picking it up.
Reviewed By: Steven Carter
Publisher: Telltale Games
This review is based on a digital copy of The Walking Dead: Michonne for the PC provided by Telltale Games.