The Walking Dead: Michonne – A Telltale Miniseries (PC)

Although point-and-click games have been around for years, the genre truly came roaring back into the spotlight with Telltale’s 2012 release The Walking Dead. They followed up their smash hit with The Wolf Among Us, another release based on a comic book (the fantastic Fables series).  Telltale’s ability to craft an emotionally resonant story has kept them well in front of their competitors and has kept their games engaging, despite a lack of gameplay variety in their titles. The nature of point-and-click forces a heavy emphasis on story and characterization, while the action suffers pretty much by design. Season 2 of the Walking Dead series, despite being mostly well plotted and paced, has grown a bit tired, showing more wear than expected. It was still a success, but Telltale was clearly looking for a much needed shot in the arm with their next entry.


Enter The Fan Favorite

With The Walking Dead: Michonne, Telltale has found a great way to side-step the fatigue that has been creeping into their series by basing the newest entry around the sword-swinging comic and TV show fan-favorite Michonne. Right off the bat I felt more invested and excited by the story, more willing to connect with the femme-fatale (the excellent voice acting is heavily responsible for this), and Telltale doesn’t waste any time re-investing us in Michonne’s character. We are almost immediately treated to a trippy flashback into Michonne’s past while simultaneously revealing to us the danger she’s currently in. It’s an effective tactic that gives us some much-needed backstory for Michonne while layering in the current time, place and emotional state the character is in. We are also thrust into a dangerous situation where Michonne’s mental state may be a bigger threat to her than the lurking walkers.


Adding some mental turbulence is a great idea, mainly because Michonne is a badass she-samurai and acts accordingly. Unlike previous entries to the series where the player rarely feels that they are in control or safe in a given situation, Michonne often offers players a feeling that has been all but absent from this series – carving your way through the hordes of undead like a walking lawnmower. Sure, it’s still a point-and-click, and there are still plenty of tense situations with life-saving, last-second button presses and quick-time events, but this is the first time (probably with the exception of the first-person pistol sequence from Season One) where you can basically go off on a bunch of zombies like the grim (re-)reaper. Controlling Michonne and her deadly blade, even via quick-time events, is as satisfying and grisly as you can imagine, and Telltale finds some interesting ways to keep situations tense.


Sword-Swinging Brutality and Tough Decisions

There are plenty of fun ways to dispatch the walking dead, and the slightly upgraded quick-time events help keep the action feeling fresh. They've also ratcheted up the brutality from the last few episodes, with a few kills that literally made me cringe and smile at the same time. There’s no doubt the action sequences have more polish and are a bit more fun this time around – definitely some of the best in the series to date.

The Walking Dead games have always presented brutal, intensely emotional, heart-wrenching choices; some of the decisions I made with Clem in the first season have stuck with me years later and affected me in ways that most films trying to elicit the same emotional response have not been able to. TWD: Michonne doesn’t disappoint in this regard, showing us a fractured character on the brink of suicide, riddled with PTSD, and having trouble connecting with humanity in any way that isn’t fueled by suspicion and violence.

If I have a gripe about the characterization, however, it’s the inherent problem with playing as a previously established character, especially one who has been around in the comic since issue 19 (the series is currently well over a hundred issues in) and has gotten a ton of attention in the show, especially of late. From an immersion standpoint, it’s harder to make the choices you would personally make when you know that Michonne most likely wouldn’t do what you are making her do. Many games avoid this by giving you a silent protagonist (Link, Chrono, Adrian Shephard, etc.) but Telltale obviously can’t do that. It was interesting to have Telltale make the big draw of the game be playing as Michonne, while at the same time trying to give the dialogue and choices variety without creating a bunch of situations where the player thinks, “Michonne wouldn’t say that” or “She would never act this way”. The writers do a good job of handling this for the most part, although often the supporting cast suffers as a result. Too often I felt like the “character-with-potentially-dubious-morals” or the “clearly sympathetic character” was lobbing softball decisions at Michonne, just so she could react or respond in a “Michonne” way. This is a minor gripe however, since walking the tight-rope between staying true to a character and letting the player react to situations how they see fit is a difficult thing to balance indeed.


Graphics and Sound

The graphics in TWD: Michonne are standard fare for the series thus far. They are starting to show their age, but they are still perfectly suitable. It would be nice to see a revamp in the coming seasons, but they still display the gore quite well and the comic-bookish slant is a fun throwback to the comic series. Facial expressions continue to be a bit over-exaggerated, but I’m used to that at this point in the series, and I’ve come to expect it.

The audio is exceptional, especially Michonne’s voice actor. The nuances in her voice are spot-on; a tremble here, a slightly panicked higher octave there – everything sounds rich and authentic, including the gory sounds of a Michonne’s sword slicing through bone and flesh.


Telling Tales

The story moves along well, despite mostly covering “been there done that” situations and characters. There’s the shifty survivors, the people from the new settlement, the untrustworthy argumentative type, the “putting up an obvious front” tough guy, etc. While I enjoyed this chapter (and obviously Michonne has to be the star), I was a bit disappointed at how little I connected to anyone but Michonne. Thinking back over my play-through, I’m not even sure I really liked anyone else. This is good and bad. Good, because you connect and empathize even more with Michonne; bad, because in a story driven title, I should be invested in more than just the title character. I am hopeful that the rest of the series will open up a bit more character-wise. After all, if Michonne connects with someone in the series, most likely I will too.

And obviously, it will make it that much more upsetting when that character has their face ripped off by the undead hordes.


All in all, The Walking Dead: Michonne is a pretty valiant attempt on the part of Telltale Games to create an immersive story with a character who's been explored inside and out in both the comic book series and the TV show. And I have to say they've done a great job. Add to that the characteristic visuals the series is known for, with some excellent voice acting and sound effects, and you have worthy spin-off title to Telltale's hugely successful franchise.

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The Walking Dead: Michonne Review
The Walking Dead: Michonne Review
The Walking Dead: Michonne Review
The Walking Dead: Michonne Review
The Walking Dead: Michonne Review
The Walking Dead: Michonne Review
The Walking Dead: Michonne Review
The Walking Dead: Michonne Review
The Walking Dead: Michonne Review