Telltale Games has already delivered two superb ‘seasons’ of their episodic The Walking Dead adventure games, and their hit post-apocalyptic adaptations will continue with The Walking Dead: Season Three later this year. Promising a closer connection to the universe of the Walking Dead comics that Telltale’s games share, it’s fitting then that Telltale would begin building that connection to the source comics early. Enter The Walking Dead: Michonne, a three-episode ‘miniseries’ unfolding from the perspective of one of The Walking Dead’s most beloved and iconic characters in both the comics and television series, Michonne.
Aiming to fill in the story gap of Michonne’s formerly unknown arc between The Walking Dead #126 and The Walking Dead #139, at which point her comic book incarnation temporarily abandoned Rick Grimes’ trusted group of survivors, The Walking Dead: Michonne addresses just what Michonne was up to when she briefly ducked out of the comics’ storylines. It’s a story of grief, helplessness, courage, determination, and heartbreak, and it’s a story that continues to prove why this character is one of the coolest personalities in the entire Walking Dead franchise.
Unfortunately, The Walking Dead: Michonne is also a disappointingly lightweight tale that feels more like a brief side-story than its own fully-realized adventure. Perhaps that’s the idea, given its billing as a miniseries, but the short episodes and diminished scale make The Walking Dead: Michonne feel dwarfed in comparison to Telltale’s two other The Walking Dead games, even when it stars such a big character from the Walking Dead comics. Fans of The Walking Dead, whether the original comics, the AMC television series, or simply of Telltale’s previous two Walking Dead games, should still play The Walking Dead: Michonne, which is still beautifully presented and full of emotion. They should do so with adjusted expectations however, as Michonne’s journey is more of a passing fancy than a grand quest.
Telltale’s Telltale Tool engine continues to be put to outstanding use, and is actually put to even greater use in The Walking Dead: Michonne, which feels like the developer’s first game that is properly designed around current-gen hardware sensibilities. Now finally animating at a full 60fps clip on current-gen platforms, and boasting the same incredible cel-shaded visuals that Telltale is famous for, now with even more detail and polish, The Walking Dead: Michonne is gorgeous and striking, perfectly echoing the atmosphere and feel of the Walking Dead comics, just like Telltale’s previous two Walking Dead games!
Of course, as with any Telltale game, your visual fidelity, performance and stability may vary a bit, depending on which platform you’re playing on. The Walking Dead: Michonne looks very visually polished on every platform, but it’s definitely at its smoothest and prettiest on a high-end PC, though even lower-end PC’s and Mac’s are able to render the game with consistent stability and strong visuals, due to the very modest system requirements. As per usual with Telltale, The Walking Dead: Michonne feels like it’s most crafted around the PC platform, with its mouse-controlled interface once again echoing a classic throwback to old point-and-click adventure games.
Out of the console versions, the PS4 version seems to be the most smooth and stable, making it the most recommendable if you have a choice, and prefer not to play on a computer. The PS4 version of The Walking Dead: Michonne is also the most able to maintain a steady 60fps framerate, running at crisp native 1080p resolution to boot, with the Xbox One version also able to achieve native 1080p resolution pretty easily, though at the cost of running slightly less smoothly than its PS4 counterpart at times. The Xbox 360 and PS3 versions of The Walking Dead: Michonne predictably cap at a lesser 720p resolution, and have framerate performance that’s noticeably more suspect, with some hard freezes even occurring at rare occasions on last-gen consoles. The mobile versions on iOS and Android devices also have a few framerate hiccups, along with a predictably downscaled resolution for smartphones and tablets, but they do compensate with their portability.
In the case of the PC, PS4 and Xbox One versions especially however, it’s great to see Telltale finally elevating the flexibility of the Telltale Tool engine a bit, going for upgraded 60fps performance in particular this time, even on consoles, last-gen hardware aside. As a result of some of these noticeable technical upgrades, Telltale’s games seem to be gradually shedding optimization for Xbox 360 and PS3, and lower-end mobile devices definitely won’t have an easy time running The Walking Dead: Michonne perfectly smoothly either. On the plus side though, at least the system requirements of the PC and Mac versions are still very small, even if higher-end gaming computers will grant you the most appreciation for some of these technical boosts.
The Walking Dead: Michonne’s music suite feels a bit more spirited than Telltale’s prior two The Walking Dead games, possibly reflecting Michonne as a stronger, more hardened protagonist in contrast to Lee and Clementine. Most noticeable is a lyrical single over some all-new title intros at the start of each episode, “Gun in My Hand”, a catchy and effectively violent tune sung by European indie band, Dorothy. There’s a few other great lyrical singles over some of the ending credits as well, and all of them work in selling both the violence and emotion behind the game’s trio of episodes.
Naturally, the effectively squeamish sound effects that define Telltale’s The Walking Dead games so well are back in force in The Walking Dead: Michonne, especially for a protagonist that is so much more adept at fighting Walkers and living people alike. The violent punch behind the audio work continues to shine well, selling the brutal world of the Walking Dead comics effectively, with players able to feel the pain and danger behind every action and every choice.
Amidst the other impressive audio though, the voice acting continues to stand out most, with Telltale’s panache for personality continuing to make The Walking Dead: Michonne a consistently compelling experience. Orange is the New Black’s Samira Wiley portrays the comic book incarnation of Michonne exceptionally, creating a character that is tormented, strong, courageous and vulnerable in equal measure. Wiley’s Michonne also plays exceptionally off of the other well-defined personalities in the game, who don’t quite manage the same level of depth and character from the other recognizable personalities from the Walking Dead comics, nor many of the personalities in Telltale’s former two Walking Dead games, though they still make for flawed, unpredictable personalities that nonetheless make The Walking Dead: Michonne a compelling, dramatic tale in its own right.
The Walking Dead: Michonne continues to follow the same gameplay stylings as Telltale’s prior two The Walking Dead games, and most Telltale games in general. The game’s decreased scale means that the gameplay has also been rather streamlined, even for Telltale standards, with only a couple of sequences allowing players to actually wander around and explore larger environments, though this also means that no knowledge of gaming is really required to enjoy the experience.
As you can imagine, The Walking Dead: Michonne is very dialogue-driven, and frequently requires players to make choices that affect dialogue and the story at large, whether using a mouse, a controller, or taps and swipes of your finger, depending on which platform you’re playing on. Depending on how you choose to define Michonne’s personality, honesty and actions, the story will be changed, affecting the course of future episodes, and possibly even dictating whether characters may live or die, even if most major character deaths seem to be set in stone this time.
The game’s quick-time events have been updated a bit, involving more intricate stick/mouse/finger movements sometimes, which helps to give them a smoother feeling of thrills and action, even though the gameplay is still passive and ultimately proceeded with simple movements. One doesn’t play a Telltale game for the action of course, though obviously, if you were turned off by the story-driven style of Telltale’s former The Walking Dead games, The Walking Dead: Michonne doesn’t mark a change from that, even with some of its more detailed quick-time events.
Fans of Telltale can rest assured however that The Walking Dead: Michonne is very much a similar gameplay experience, even if it unfolds on a smaller scale this time. Sadly, this does come at the cost of making the episode lengths shorter though, on top of there being fewer of them in contrast to Telltale’s main The Walking Dead games. It’s entirely possible to blow through this whole miniseries in about four hours, and maybe you can stretch that to five if you take your time poking around the larger environments and interacting with everything that you can. For the full price of $14.99 for a Season Pass that grants you access to every episode though, barring sales, that might make players wish for a bit more meat to the experience.
The Walking Dead: Michonne also doesn’t really add in any real puzzles or challenges, beyond sometimes figuring out how the game wants you to proceed a dialogue prompt by interacting with the right parts of an environment. The decreased gameplay interruptions that have become more common in recent Telltale games are still in effect in The Walking Dead: Michonne, which may disappoint some, though it also means that those who are firmly coming for the game’s storyline don’t really have to worry about many interruptions to their narrative-driven experience.
You really have to be coming for the story too, since the gameplay, while functional, is still very careful to never intrude on the storytelling. You never face any real obstacles beyond your own choices in The Walking Dead: Michonne, which completely negates any potential barriers of entry for even the least initiated of players, though also doesn’t really ever truly challenge you to be a survivor. Michonne is already a survivor, after all. It’s just up to the player to decide exactly what kind of survivor she is.
Telltale’s games are a bit eccentric, in the sense that they’re among the only video games that you don’t approach by prioritizing gameplay. Instead, the storyline is what really makes or breaks a Telltale game, since they’re mostly devoid of actual gameplay obstacles, and are all about being pushed forward by the player. Fortunately, considering the fantastic character of Michonne in both the source comics and the separate AMC television series, The Walking Dead: Michonne is definitely at an advantage when it comes to crafting its plot, since it’s centering it on a character that is already appealing to many people. The added hook of enticing fans of the Walking Dead comics, who can now fill in a gap in the comics’ canon with The Walking Dead: Michonne, is all the more promising.
So how exactly is the story of The Walking Dead: Michonne then? Well, it’s good where it counts. In terms of highlighting Michonne’s torment, and how she must face and overcome grief in an effort to accept her place in the new world, these three episodes tell a satisfying tale. Most of the worthy payoffs are in the second and third episodes, with the first being a bit of a slow starter that needs to be slogged through to get to the good stuff, but overall, The Walking Dead: Michonne is an interesting and emotional story when taken as a whole miniseries.
There’s no denying however that The Walking Dead: Michonne still fails to compare to both its source comics, and the former two Walking Dead games from Telltale. The emotion, shock and horror that the story strives for is achieved in satisfactory doses, even if the first episode is significantly more dull, but the miniseries overall is less memorable and less powerful than Telltale’s main two The Walking Dead games released so far. Despite the enormous appeal of its titular protagonist, the brevity and rapid pacing somewhat undermine the power of Michonne’s solo adventure, and this makes The Walking Dead: Michonne smack a bit of being a tide-over game while fans wait for The Walking Dead: Season Three towards the end of this year. That certainly doesn’t equate to a bad game, but like I said, this is a game that should be approached with adjusted expectations, especially in terms of the story’s length.
The Walking Dead: Michonne doesn’t manage to fully compare to Telltale’s main The Walking Dead games, but when taken as a brief, but satisfying tide-over game, it’s still pretty good, and pretty heartbreaking. Michonne herself is the most appealing part of the package, naturally, and the story’s promise to better tie in The Walking Dead: Season Three with the canon of its source comics is one that should have fans excited for what’s to come.
With that said though, the lack of real meat in the package is a disappointment, since The Walking Dead: Michonne can be completed quickly, and while it’s still emotional, it doesn’t fully achieve the same outstanding emotional highs as Telltale’s former The Walking Dead games did. It does contain a very slight air of disappointment, though that isn’t to say that the adventure isn’t worth it. It just deserved to be a bit more than what it is.
Fans of The Walking Dead, and especially of Michonne’s character, will still find plenty to like here though. Gamers that are parents will probably also get a bit more dramatic weight out of the story, which shows the more vulnerable and tormented aspect of Michonne, as a mother and a breadwinner in her former life before the Walker apocalypse. All in all, The Walking Dead: Michonne may not reset the bar for Telltale’s games or their storytelling, but it still proves that Telltale’s The Walking Dead offerings are still among the best when it comes to tugging at gamers’ heartstrings.
- Samira Wiley realizes Michonne wonderfully
- Boosted game performance (on current-gen platforms) adds to the immersion
- Grief-fueled storyline with great themes of overcoming loss
- The whole miniseries can be completed in just a few hours
- Doesn't fully replicate the same emotional punch from the mainline games
- The first episode is less interesting and slower-paced