Developed by Telltale Games
Available on PC, Mac, PSVita, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Android, and Apple devices
Rated M for Mature
Well, here we are. End of the road for the little cross-promotional experiment that is The Walking Dead: Michonne. All three episodes are out, the story is told, and all that’s left is for the audience to collectively decide if it was worth the asking price. In a lot of ways, I wish that I had a more hearty response than, “eh…” There is certainly a lot to like about Michonne. It’s violent, entertaining, and full of those special “Telltale” moments that make your playthrough feel meaningful. So why am I still just sitting here, shrugging my shoulders, forcing myself to find things to say about it?
*WARNING! THERE WILL BE SPOILERS! THIS IS THE REVIEW OF THE THIRD PART OF A GAME! DUH!*
This final episode, titled “What We Deserve,” picks up right where “Give No Shelter” left off. Having either just killed Randall or inexplicably deciding to let him live, the characters all rush in and give their stock opinions on whether killing a murderous psychopath is okay or not. Apparently no matter how much time goes on, some people in The Walking Dead, knees deep in zombified humans and an inch away from endless bandit rape-torture, will still be a bit squeamish about the concept of killing. After everyone says their piece, bad lady Norma calls and reveals that thanks to a magical plot device, she has captured all of Pete’s crew, and the only way to get them back is to give her Randal! Oh no, time to see if I can play Humpty Dumpty with skull bits and send him on his way.
Luckily, this is a world where everyone becomes zombies, so a bag over his head does the trick. It’s a hilariously bad cover-up of what should have been a pivotal choice, but that’s kind of par for the course in this episode. After deciding whether or not to antagonize or play it smart with the armed psychopaths at your door holding your friends hostage, you go around the house and listen to the three pivotal characters debating whether to stay or go. You also talk to some kids, because it wouldn’t be dramatic without children at stake.
Bad lady Norma shows up, and a standoff ensues. This was the best part of this whole game. I was genuinely unsure of what to do. In my playthrough, it ended violently. Considering that one of the five pivotal choices in this episode is whether or not to “put Norma out of her misery,” I highly doubt it could possibly have gone down better. Bad guys storm the compound, Michonne slays a bunch of them, and then the good guys have to escape.
A running theme in this miniseries was Michonne’s guilt manifesting itself in the form of her children, and we finally get a conclusion to all of that silliness. Straight up, I don’t know what it’s like to have estranged children in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, so I’m not sure exactly what I’d do. I’ve read the comics, and I doubt I’d start hallucinating dead kids during the fourth-fifth story arc into my life as a survivalist. If shit like this was going to go down, it would have been after The Governor. Regardless, closure is found one way or another, and your band of survivors rides off into the sunset. Credits.
For all of the blood and tears, that’s basically all that Michonne wound up being. There’s plenty of skulls to smash and friendly bodies to cry over, but not nearly enough time to care about it all. The writing is still solid, with compelling characters delivering poignant lines expertly, but again, I couldn’t find a fuck to give.
The biggest problem is the level of drama compared to length of the game. For all I wanted to care, I just couldn’t given the timeframe. I only have a few scenes to get to know these characters before a crucial junction, so every decision was more about what was best for me and not about what was best for the cast. The original The Walking Dead game masterfully crafted a scenario where your needs and the needs of the group were constantly interwoven. They were always simultaneously parallel and yet at odds, making every step feel like it meant the difference between two equally compelling paths. It wasn’t only life or death, good or evil, paragon or renegade, but a journey between two greys as the world descended into total black.
*A FEW MORE SPOILERS*
To its credit, Michonne does try to make every decision as grey as possible, but with no real consequence. No matter what you choose, it basically shakes out the same. I predict this is largely because the comic book storyline already dictates that Michonne lives, so every decision I made was constantly tinted with the glaring backlight of “none of this really matters!” Compounding that, it seems like I was right in predicting that none of the decisions have lasting consequence. Did you decide to save Zachary? He just offhandedly gets shot in the face. Did you decide to pick up the phone? Who gives a shit?! Did you decide to be diplomatic? Sorry, crazy lady makes everything go to shit.
*END OF EXTRA SPOILERS*
There are plenty of other games like this. It’s a series of decisions to change the flavor of a single, unalterable storyline. These games sink or swim on the illusion of choice, but this generally at least lasts through a single playthrough. When I was pretending a zombie was a real person, the illusion revealed itself to be a bunch of tinsel and some pinecones pretending to be a snowman.
As I’ve said, there’s a whole lot to like about The Walking Dead: Michonne. The staff creating the characters, action sequences, and pivotal moments were the same level of Telltale brilliance that has rightfully won award after award. Unfortunately, the structure of the game is flawed, with an overall planning and clipped presentation that undermines the entire endeavor. What could have been poignant feels trivial, and what should have been nail-biting feels banal. You can basically see the numbers over which they painted the big, emotional colors, but there’s no meat to hold it all together.
You’ll likely have kind feelings towards The Walking Dead: Michonne. Just not exceptional ones. It’s above average in every way, and even exceptional for a $15 title. What it isn’t, is a worthy The Walking Dead game. Even in their single episode, “400 Days,” Telltale delivered a more compelling product. Michonne is 70% flash and 30% substance. The flash and substance are both great, but it’s just a terrible ratio for a game that is supposed to be narrative. It’s definitely worth the cost, but don’t expect the next must-have installment.