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The Walking Dead: Michonne Episode One Review

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Michonne, the African American female member of Rick Grimes’ group of survivors, is one of, if not the most complex characters in Robert Kirkman’s best-selling comic book series as well as AMC’s television show; and Telltale has managed to capture her brooding, stoic personality to near perfection in the opening episode of the miniseries. 

At times it left me breathless with the powerful emotions brought forth, holding my attention until the final scene faded to black.

(Warning: This review contains a timeline spoiler for the television show in the first paragraph below, if you haven’t read the comic books, start reading at the second paragraph.)

A haunting past

My journey as Michonne takes place in a time where she decides to leave Rick Grimes’ group and heads off to the Oceanside to face her inner-demons. The game sets out to explain her absence from the group from issues 126 to 139 in the comic books. For those of you who watch the AMC’s The Walking Dead, her absence should happen in the next season according to the canon lore.

(Spoiler ends).

The game’s opening scene is the most powerful, panic-inducing sequence I have ever experienced in my nearly two decades of gaming. It is a surreal, dream-like scene which bounces back and forth between Michonne’s past and the present, all whilst she tries to fend off Walkers with a machete.

In that opening moment, I became Michonne. My heart raced as I desperately tried to change the unchangeable events in my past, clinging onto the hope that maybe, just maybe, I could do better this time.  

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The opening scene only showed bits and pieces of how I lost two children, leaving unanswered questions that filled me with doubt and remorse. I felt a real sense of loss, one that is impossible to simply walk away from. I was left completely dumbstruck; in utter disbelief of what I just went through, and right then and there, I lost all hope.

The first time I heard Michonne's voice, it gave me chills. Samira Whiley, the voice actress for the game brings Michonne to life brilliantly. She portrays the character in such a way that I felt powerful playing as Michonne, a strong-willed force the any Walker should fear. However, as soon as her voice had the slightest hint of a tremble, I felt chills running down my spine; her emotional state got to me, crept under my skin and didn't let go. 

But I had to go on. In the words of German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche: "To live is to suffer, to survive is to find meaning in the suffering". I found my meaning in new acquaintances, those desperately in need of help, the living I could still save.  

Dead in the water

I joined a group of survivors on a ferry, who scavenge for supplies and look for others in need of assistance. Michonne’s interaction with the new group of survivors was a challenging affair. Although some conversations I had felt like they had little to no impact, the other survivors'  varied personalities and reactions to my depressingly realist approach left me wanting to distance myself from them even further; but I knew they needed my help, more than I needed theirs.

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I found it hard to build relationships or even care about the supporting cast (unlike what Telltale accomplished with The Walking Dead), with the exception of Pete. I thought it was a flaw in the game’s design, until I realized that is exactly how Michonne is supposed to feel towards most (but not all) of her allies. Her brooding, distant nature and inability to trust most of the people she meets is exactly what makes her so unique.

Throughout the first episode, I engage in close quarter combat with a machete, via Telltale’s Quick Time Events (QTE), delivering some of the most brutal scenes in any Telltale game to date. The limited time to perform an action adds a sense of desperation and fear of death to the already tense situation I found myself in. In one moment when fighting off three Walkers, I just wanted the fighting to end and gave up; allowing the Walker to bite me and end the game. The tension was too much to handle at that moment. 

The game gave me a real sense of hopelessness at times. I did not know why I even kept fighting; until the realization that I could still make a difference kicked in.

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The game touches on one of the most interesting subjects in The Walking Dead universe; that the living is more dangerous than the dead. The game shows how the apocalypse affects people in different ways; some become overwhelmed with the situation they find themselves in, others become hardened killers, and a few use humor to mask their tragic past.

Pete, the leader and the only person I really felt connected to from the beginning has a nervous little laugh after a close-call. His attempts at humor while we talked caused me to question his motives at times, as I asked him if he thinks the situation is funny. Our chats are one of my favorite parts in Episode One, with my all-hope-is-lost attitude clashing with Pete's ability to mask his fear in humor.

I honestly don't know if I made the right choices; I might have been to hard on him. What makes this game so special is that it made me care about his feelings, even though I didn't exactly show it. 

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There are a couple of small issues with the game. First of all, I experienced a lot of stuttering in a couple of dialogue scenes, which breaks a bit of the game’s immersion.

Having to pick up and use some items feels like a menial task, for example, you have to pick up a machete and sharpen it. The animation of Michonne’s machete sharpening skills is bugged and looks downright silly. In a short first episode, one would think Telltale could have polished out the bugs mentioned here and a few other graphical glitches.

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You can pick up The Walking Dead: Michonne miniseries (which includes all three episodes, two of which are yet to be released) for R159 on Steam. The game is a must-play for fans of Telltale’s story-driven experiences as well as anyone who enjoys The Walking Dead television series or comic books.

Although the first episode is only one and a half hour in length, the opening episode pulled me in so deep that I dreamt about Michonne and her haunting past last night before writing this review. Further, I went over my decisions, fearing i might have made some wrong choices and how those choices might come back to bite me in the next episode. It is, without any doubt, one Telltale’s most powerful opening episodes. I simply cannot wait to see what comes next.


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