The Walking Dead: Michonne – Give No Shelter PC Review
The Walking Dead: Michonne continues in Give No Shelter, relentlessly plunging Michonne from one unfortunate experience to the next. It follows her escape and chase from the psychotic Randall and his sister Norma.
One difference with the first episode is the weight of the decisions Michonne must make. Whilst the first had really only one decision that seemed significant, the second episode had decisions with moral weight – do you attempt to bargain or take the less risky strategy of killing instead? Do you kill someone, who could go on to harm others, or do you use them to bargain? Although by now it is clear that in Telltale typicality, the story divergences are very small, the decisions reflect on both the player and Michonne. That being said, judging by the ending statistics at my time of playing, there were clearly ‘right’ answers. The player base was not particularly torn over the many decisions throughout the episode with the one exception of the final cliffhanger choice. This is not necessarily bad but the whole choice based system is really reliant on, if not consequences, that those choices be difficult to make.
As with the first episode, it is clear that the central theme of Michonne’s game is motherhood. I am personally very glad that a video game about zombies is attempting to wrangle with such important ideas but the implementation of this is not ideal. The flashbacks and use of her children are very well done but in other areas the story sidesteps into the ham-fisted. One character outright asks ‘But what if you just found out your daughters were dead and you weren’t there?….How would you feel?’ The question had already been asked of the player throughout the two episodes, with Michonne’s inability to let her children, and the guilt associated with them, go. The question seemed totally unnecessary. As in my last review of a Telltale game, the subtlety of narrative found in the original Walking Dead game has been lost in some of their later ventures. Telltale needs to again trust that players can experience the themes in the story without being led to them. Consequently, the whole scene with the above character felt so contrived and shoehorned in to make an explicit point to the player that had already been made repeatedly.
A further narrative disappointment is the failure to explore the whole character of Michonne. At present, whilst she is certainly of some character, everything is dominated by the theme of motherhood. Michonne is so complex in the books that it would have been far more ambitious to explore both her guilt over losing her children and the other highly traumatic experiences which have dramatically affected her character in the comics: she has murdered and tortured to survive, she is a torture and rape survivor, she frequently used to have imaginary conversations with her deceased boyfriend, she falls in love too easily and has seen each of her partners come to brutal ends – but none of this is playing on her mind in the events unfolding. I can understand how this may have been a conscious decision so that players unfamiliar to the comics did not have to absorb a great deal of background information in the short miniseries but it does seem such a shame that a character with the depth and complexities of Michonne is reduced to only a grieving mother.
This is not to say that Michonne is a bad game. It is not and I rather enjoyed playing it. The comic aesthetics are still very appealing and there are some great cinematographic scenes. Some beautiful work of boats burning on water and fantastic visual action for Michonne who uses a machete just as elegantly as her famous katana. There was also a great sequence of several characters climbing a disintegrating structure whilst being chased which was tense as hell.
The voice acting is also brilliant. After finishing this episode I examined the cast and noticed that it is the incredibly talented Samira Wiley of Orange is the New Black who very effectively lends her voice to Michonne and in addition, Derek Phillips and Cissy Jones of Life is Strange are great as the unhinged Randall and the unnerving Norma. The voice work makes the story textured and believable even when the narrative may misstep.
This episode seems a slight disappointment on the first, mostly due to the narrative hand-holding. Telltale games, by virtue of their mechanics, are about narrative not about action and this episode seemed to tilt in the wrong direction. All the action appears to be building up to go somewhere but I fear that this denouement is not leading to a satisfactory conclusion; three episodes seems the perfect trilogy for a snapshot look at Michonne, but perhaps not to tackle the themes Telltale wants to in a mature and concluding way. The overall game could be very good or it could be sadly disappointing – it all hangs on the last episode.
I guess we will have to wait and see.