While I’m a big fan of everything zombies and have a great appreciation for how The Walking Dead franchise approaches the post-apocalyptic rise of the dead, there are only so many stories that you can tell.  Part of what’s made Robert Kirkman’s zombie epic so popular has been its focus on the people that populate it.  While Michonne marks the first time Telltale has borrowed directly from Kirkman’s stable of characters, it is the third time they’ve set a season of content – mini or otherwise – in this grim universe.  The results are what you would expect.  The first episode of the Michonne miniseries is effective, but the fact that Telltale is mining familiar territory prevents it from being impressive.

The biggest difference between Telltale’s previous Walking Dead efforts and Michonne is the main character.  While we’ve seen the zombie apocalypse through the eyes of Lee, a man trying to make sense of a new world-gone-made, and Clementine, a girl struggling to find the strength to protect herself in what has become her reality, Michonne is a fresh narrative perspective.  Tormented by the loss of her daughters, the titular protagonist is a person struggling to reconcile her existence.  She’s perhaps the most capable hero Telltale has followed in their series, wielding blades with deadly efficiency and never backing down from from zombie killing, but Telltale manages to stay away from turning the whole thing into Dead Island by constantly revisiting Michonne’s internal struggles.

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Aside from the deft hand used with the main character, the writing isn’t Telltale’s best effort.  Again, the material being mined in this first episode is derivative of material explored in the second season of Telltale’s Walking Dead series.  A group of travelers are waylaid by a community of survivors whose violent ways hint at dark secrets buried beneath a seemingly thriving community.  The situation digs into testing the resolve of the characters and pitting them between doing what is difficult and doing what is violent.  It also features the standard two-person argument about the fate of the party – one filled with optimism in face of adversity, the other countering that optimism has made them soft.  At some point it’s worth asking when these conversations and plot points start becoming cliche.

However, there are moments when Telltale inevitably sucked me into their story in the way that they so often do.  The opening action-sequence was engaging, exciting, and perhaps one of my favorite ways Telltale has ever started a game.  There’s no slow build of an introduction, the series assumes the players are well-enough acquainted with The Walking Dead that it just drops you right into the action.

There are also some style points that are earned by Michonne.  Telltale has taken a page from their success with Tales from the Borderlands and use licensed music with creative graphics to give the series an enthralling title sequence.  Sure, it’s just a few moments of flash, but keeping these little moments maintains an attitude within Telltale’s stable of series.  It’s a stylish bravado that obviously can’t solely account for the quality of the game, but adds a sizzle of artistic flair.  

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The game also marks a highpoint for the Telltale engine.  The refinement seen in Tales from the Borderlands and Game of Thrones has continued to Michonne (at least on PC).  The game looks smoother, the animations don’t look so robotic, and more details are given to character reactions.  There were also few issues with any bugs;  no stuttering frame rates, no long loading screens.  It’s probably the most stable I’ve ever seen a Telltale game.

For those who are fans of the studio or fans of The Walking Dead, the first episode of the Michonne mini-series is rock solid and you’re likely to find plenty to love.  Telltale has always done a good job recreating the universe of Kirkman’s zombie apocalypse and now they’ve done a good job bringing one of the series’ beloved characters to life.  As the series moves forward, I hope we find unfamiliar territory for Telltale, especially in this zombie world.  “In Too Deep” feels like it’s retreading old thematic territory and thus the writing sags.  It will be interesting to see if Michonne can find a narrative arc that feels fresh.

About The Author

The Glorious Predecessor

As I write this, I am listening to Striking Matches and eating a blueberry muffin. The music is good, the muffin is even better. I dance when I drink and have been known to occasionally free-style rap, none of which benefits society.

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