A while back, I wondered if Telltale Games had spread itself too thin. At that point in time, it had The Walking Dead, The Wolf Among Us, Game of Thrones and Tales from the Borderlands in the works. Since then, they’ve added Batman and Minecraft to their lineup along with this TWD miniseries before the upcoming The Walking Dead: Season Three.
The first episode of The Walking Dead: Michonne certainly seemed like evidence that Telltale had finally overwhelmed itself and its quality was slipping. Episode Two: Give No Shelter is an improvement on the first episode but we’re still a long way from the peak of Telltale’s ability.
Spoilers: As per usual for our review of these episodic Telltale games, the details of the episode being reviewed will be kept as spoiler-free as practical. The details of the previous episode is fair game for discussion.
TWD: Michonne – Episode Two picks up right at the end of Episode One. Sam and Michonne have to escape from captivity and rescue Pete on the way.
Now stop me if this isn’t news to you but that decision you made at the end of Episode One has absolutely no bearing on how the rest of this episode proceeds. There are a couple of differences in the upcoming scenes but the end results are the same. It’s the standard Telltale helix story design. There are branching paths but they converge down the road anyway. In fact, the preview for the next episode tells you that too. My decision shouldn’t have resulted in the previewed outcome but my decisions don’t actually matter in this narrative.
What this episode focuses on is Sam, the girl who Michonne and Pete stumble upon in the first episode. The last episode saw her brother Greg get killed by an inept guard. This episode’s primary focus is on the fallout of that with Sam’s family and ties Sam’s family life back to Michonne’s daughters and her flirtation with a revolver at the beginning of Episode One.
Indirectly, this is character development for Michonne. She re-lives the death of loved ones almost vicariously through Sam’s family in a way that makes it seem like Michonne never really had a chance to grieve for her loved ones. Watching Sam and family deal with Greg’s death brings her back to the presumed death of her children. The flashbacks from the first episode are no longer out of place but actually fit in the context of this episode’s plot.
So while we do get a little character development and done in a clever way, the problem remains that the second episode of The Walking Dead: Michonne that’s supposed explore what happened to Michonne when she wasn’t in the comics isn’t actually about Michonne. Well, it is and it isn’t. Michonne is the player-character and we get to see a small sliver of her backstory but this hasn’t been her story. The first episode was Pete’s story. She was saved by Pete, served on Pete’s boat and got dragged into a this misadventure on Pete’s orders. This second episode is Sam’s story. Michonne is superfluous in her own eponymous miniseries.
Let’s move on from the story because I’ve given it more thought than Telltale. Stop me if you’ve heard this before but this is a Telltale game made in the Telltale Tool so you know how this is going to look. I think they an even better job of putting an action movie coat of paint during the combat QTE sequences. Even if the QTE inputs are nothing to write home about, the action on-screen is the coolest that Telltale has done to this point.
That being said, even though the Telltale Tool is over ten years old, there are still struggles with it. I found that my control inputs were occasionally unresponsive. My favourite moment is when you’re slowly walking away from a pack of zombies towards the screen. At one point, pushing the down (S in your WASD configuration) button didn’t let you walk so I had to scramble to find which button kept me walking. With no prompt or change in perspective, I was supposed to hit the W (up) button to keep walking at the screen and away from the zombies. It wasn’t a one-off glitch. I died twice at that part. Did Telltale even do QA testing on this game?
There were the other usual Telltale Tool issues this time out. The game has a lot of lengthy loading screens. For the first time, there was the usual auto-save indicator in the bottom-right of the empty black loading screens and other loading wheel above that. I’m not sure if there’s something to read into that but it doesn’t look promising.
And to top it all off, I have to mention the episode’s run time. The first episode ran about 75 minutes which is shorter than the typical 90-minute length of a Telltale Games episode. This episode of TWD: Michonne ran a paltry 65 minutes. I confirmed that with HowLongToBeat. Remember when episodes of The Walking Dead were between two and three hours long?
At some point, I have to go back and play episodes two through four of Minecraft: Story Mode. After playing two episodes of TWD: Michonne, I’m not sure I can motivate myself to do so. There is something wrong at Telltale HQ. Either they’re spreading themselves too thin and quality is slipping as a result or they’re not picking the right stories to tell. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.
We’re all of two-and-a-half hours into this miniseries and we’re just along for the ride. Even with the quasi-cliffhanger ending, I’m not itching for the next episode to drop (likely) later this month. Telltale can always salvage something. The final two episodes of Tales from the Borderlands was a great finish. I gave Episode Five of The Walking Dead: Season Two a rating of 9.5/10. They’re certainly capable of greatness. I’m not seeing any of it here.
The Walking Dead: Michonne – Episode Two: Give No Shelter was played on Windows PC but is also available for OS X, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, iOS and Android. The review code for this game was provided by Telltale Games. Your impressions of the game may change depending on platform played on, PC specs and if you want a video game about Michonne to actually be about Michonne.