The Walking Dead: Michonne Episode 1 Review

I  hold a very special place in my heart for The Walking Dead Season One video game by Telltale Games. It was gritty, emotional, and had a great cast of characters. It’s funny because in the TV show, I can’t stand anyone but Glen. My run ended at the start of season three, Michonne’s introduction and she was actually one of the reasons that I had to stop the torture. So actually, I knew nothing about Michonne but the fact that she’s apparently a bad-ass.

Having something of a soft spot for Telltale Games (although that may be starting to wane), I was eager to pick up their latest despite it being centered around Michonne. Having quit the show before getting to know her, I feel like I’m actually at an advantage. My favorite part of watching or playing something for the first time is getting to know its cast.

Episode 1 opens up with Michonne, haunted by her demons, as she carves up zombies in beautifully choreographed quick-time events, the scene switches back and forth between an open wooded area and an apartment building. The two scenes overlap wonderfully and introduces the very physically capable main character – there’s that bad-ass I had heard so much about. It’s not just machete-wielding, mindless zombie murdering action however, we’re also introduced to Michonne’s mental state. Clearly she is haunted by past events and on the verge of giving up entirely. Having no knowledge of her backstory, I was pulled in immediately, and can’t wait to find out what horrors she has suffered (morbid much?). One event in her past is spelt out fairly clearly in the first episode but it’s those gritty details that I’m really waiting for.

As the intro closes in typically stylish Telltale fashion (seriously, great music choices again guys), Michonne wakes up with a group of largely forgettable survivors. It’s here that I felt something odd, aware of Michonne as an established character, I really wasn’t sure how to play her. Even as someone who doesn’t really know her, at times I felt like some responses felt out of place for her. It’s a hard judgement to make of course, but I imagine that this feeling weighs more heavily on someone who has invested time into either the comic books or the TV series. From her new group, only one man really stands out. Pete is a quietly optimistic fellow, on the lookout for missing friends. He has a distinctly ‘Telltale’ feel to him – his delivery of comic moments took my straight back to my time with Tales From the Borderlands. There’s a sense that there’s a little more to him than that – or at least – a sense that the Walking Dead universe will bring more out of him but we don’t really find out much about him as he fades into the background during the second half of the episode. More to come, then.

In terms of game-play, we’re covering old ground, Telltale Games have a style and they don’t veer away from it by a great distance. Episode 1 felt like there may be a little more actual point n’ clicking than most Telltale Games early on but I’m not sure that that is something that’s going to bear fruit moving forward. As a hardcore point ‘n click fan myself, it’s actually something that I’d like to see more of from Telltale. Expect plenty of non-challenging quick-time events, a familiar dialogue system offering four choices, and some tough decisions.

As such, game-play is almost non-existent, just enough to keep you on your toes. So as usual, it all falls back to the story-telling and the characters. Michonne seems like a great choice for a spin-off, she’s not your average heroine. She’s clearly made mistakes in her past and her mental state is questionable – she’s the type of complex character that we should see more of, instead of the usual identikit characters that pervade modern video games.

The biggest achievement in episode 1 simply comes down to a feeling of doubt. There were times when I simply didn’t know who to trust, times where I was torn between being a good person or going down the ‘trust no-one’ route and looking after myself, showing no loyalty to people who I owe nothing to. It’s a feeling that soon started to turn on it’s head, especially as we see more of Bad Guy #1 Randall. He’s your typical asshole, aggressive to a fault with no real depth. He’s only a number 2 (ha!) however, ‘Stormin’ Norma’, his big sister, is in charge and she means business. I spent my time with her trying to suss her out, trying to draw out the real Norma and whilst I believed that I achieved some success in that respect, Telltale still managed to sow a few seeds of doubt there. I love those grey areas and I’d love to see Telltale keep that up, taking particular care not to take the likes of Norma down an all too familiar villainous path.

The episode came to a shuddering to a halt after just 90 minutes, leaving me wanting more but also cursing that it was so short.

The Walking Dead: Michonne Episode 1 does a good job of setting up the mini-series, it’s enjoyable – if short-lived – but not ground-breaking. Familiar ground is tread in terms of the group survival dynamics but despite this, it’s a typically well-paced and well-told Telltale story.