Telltale’s Michonne The Walking Dead spin-off picks up the pace and blazes across the finish line after a lukewarm first episode and a largely phoned in second chapter. Episode Three titled What We Deserve, in contrast, is a thrilling ride as the events leading up to the final showdown all come to a satisfying, but not at all flawless close.
The Walking Dead: Michonne. Episode 3: Windows PC [Reviewed], Mac OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Android, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Release Date: 26 April 2016
Price: 14,99€ (entire season price) [Disclosure: Game Copy Provided by Developer/Publisher]
The Walking Dead – Illusion of Choice
Those of you who are more observant and have played through the latter-day Telltale games once or thrice have probably noticed how little choice there really is in the series. While your actions do have some impact on the finer points of the story, the broad strokes remain the same and the story hurtles towards its predetermined conclusion. The true brilliance of Telltale’s approach in storywriting is in letting you decide enough fine details as to give you a satisfying illusion of choice. You may affect the fate of a secondary character, decide that someone dies a bit later (noticing that they remain discrete until their untimely demise) or squeeze a line or two of extra reaction dialogue out of them. This comes from a very pragmatic place, as it’s unfeasible for a studio of Telltale’s size to create assets and scenes that a part of their playerbase will never experience unless they replay the game.
This, however, is very egregious in What We Deserve as the game gives you hope against hope that conflict and bloodshed can be avoided in the climax of the story and while you can certainly trigger the hostilities early, even playing the diplomat is fruitless as outside factors will inevitably cause a fight to break out. This is made evident by how elaborate the ensuing battle is and how heavily the latter half of the episode leans on it. This is where the flaw is, in my uninformed, untrained opinion: the game actively telegraphs that, for once, you have a say in the main plot events, not just in the details and nuances of the narrative and then just as actively crushes your hopes and efforts.
On a positive note, I consider this to be What We Deserve‘s single biggest flaw. The action is worthy of a Michonne story arc finale and the moments leading up to it were tense enough that I panicked a few times while trying to choose an answer or an action. The ensuing fight and action sequences are epic (and I do not use that term liberally) and Michonne’s own battle against her own inner demons is masterfully woven into the real-world events.
The characters and their motivations return to their more realistic moral grays after their brief dip into cartoony extremes the last time around. Everyone seems to have an actual stake and their actions fully reflect this. What bothered me, though it’s definitely not going to be off-putting for a lot of people was that knowing the context of Michonne’s current situation and what the main group from the comic and TV series is up to at that very moment some of her dialogue seemed out of place. Without going into it too much, I’ll just say that a few problems should have had very clear solutions given the knowledge that I (and other characters) possess.
While I managed to awkwardly hack my way around Telltale’s issues with my controller by forcing the game to run with administrator rights (???) I did notice that most of my Telltale games stopped working with my controller sometime after Michonne’s first episode. Add to this the fact that they arbitrarily decide that my bumpers are triggers and viceversa (happened with this game) and that left trigger is right trigger (happened with Wolf Among Us) and I think I can say that Telltale should look into their controller compatibility in addition to their other engine problems, and I know for a fact that I’m not the only one who had issues with this.
I won’t lie: after the previous episode I was worried that the series was irredeemable and that What We Deserve was doomed to fail. My criticism with the mishandled Illusion of Choice paradigm notwithstanding, I must say I’m quite happy to have been wrong. It might have been a bumpy ride, but the third installment manages to stick the landing, delivering on some great set-pieces and poignant character development. Maybe Telltale still have it in them to deliver a good Walking Dead season and I’m glad to be thinking this.
But seriously please do something about the engine.