After a short couple of months, Telltale’s The Walking Dead: Michonne miniseries reaches its conclusion with Episode Three: What We Deserve. If you’ve read reviews of or played the first two episodes, you would know that Telltale is really struggling to capture the essence of one of The Walking Dead’s trademark characters. That’s still apparent in the final third of TWD: Michonne. To use an in-universe metaphor: It’s stumbling home like it’s a walker.
Spoiler Alert: 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.
As was the case with Episode Two, Episode Three picks up right were the last one left off. And like the last episode, your decision at the end didn’t matter. I assume that regardless of your decision, your “next time on TWD” teaser involved a shootout at Sam’s place. I ended Episode Two by picking the option that wasn’t going to guarantee a shootout. Turns out that was a waste of time and that I should have offed the guy myself to save everyone some time.
Most of this episode featured Michonne trying to be a parent figure to Sam and her two brothers while being haunted by her own personal demons. It’s the closest that we’ve come to really tying in Michonne’s current situation with her past. Previous episodes have been closer to things are going along and then surprise hallucination! Here, the hallucinations actually worked in the context of the story. By the end of the episode, Michonne’s actions with Sam and family look like atonement for her past.
That being said, we don’t really get any closer on Michonne’s children and her husband/boyfriend/ex/whoever that was with her kids. We’re probably left with more questions about why Michonne left them seemingly permanently but that could just be the hallucinations talking. Maybe it’s clarified in the comics (and it probably is given how little context there is for non-readers) but it’s certainly not in the game.
This episode was built a little differently than we’re used to. There were very few quick-time events compared to previous episodes. In fact, I would suggest that there were fewer dialogue options available over the course of the episode. It felt like Telltale decided that this was a story that you were being told rather than one that you played. I’ve never had a problem with those sorts of games (see Life is Strange) but if Telltale is going to insist that your decisions matter, they damn well better do as advertised.
That all might explain why the episode was so short, though. From booting up the game to the start of the end credits was 60 minutes. Take out the main menu, the previously on TWD, load times and game overs and you have an episode that ran comfortably under one hour. It’s probably closer to 50 – 55 minutes of actual content but we watched this series’ episodes shrink in length from 75 minutes to 65 minutes to 55 minutes at its conclusion. Remember when $5 bought you a three-hour episode of TWD? Remember when it bought you a 90-minute episode?
If there was one question that I could ask of Telltale, it would be how many of their game sales are episodes a la carte and how many are the season pass up-front. I’d imagine that people buying the whole season in one go far outweighs the number of people dropping $5 to play each episode as they come along. Do purchase trends affect the effort they put into writing or programming a game or episode? Does the anticipated sales impact the work that goes into a series? It feels like Telltale completely missed the mark with Michonne. I just can’t rationalize the thought process behind this series. They expected TWD fans to buy it and it probably works for those familiar with the comics and maybe the TV show but as someone not into either, I feel left out.
I’m also starting to wonder if it’s possible for a game engine to run like it’s on its last legs. This episode of TWD:M had astronomically long loading times. The engine is ten years old and it seems to be slowing down. You’d think an engine designed for older machinery would get faster with more powerful hardware backing it but I would be wrong. Instead, there was long loading times and stuttering between scenes to the point where I thought the game was crashing or frozen.
It’s all a shame because the acting was so good. Everyone performed their roles well despite how little the script gave them. Nobody sounded out of place. No one stood out above anyone else, though.
So The Walking Dead: Michonne ends not with a bang but with a zombified groan. It’s a shame because TWD comic fans are generally so positive about Michonne and this didn’t really do her justice. She supposed to be a badass with a katana but it never came off that way in this game. Good characters are complex and deep and something like Michonne’s trauma over losing her daughters should work to make her a better character. Without any context or answers, it doesn’t add anything to the character. It really feels like Telltale went for pure fan service with TWD:M and ignored the rest of us who didn’t read the comics.
The Walking Dead: Michonne – Episode Three: What We Deserve 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 an episode of a video game should be longer.