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The Walking Dead: Michonne – In Too Deep PC Review

It is easy to forget, or even be unaware, of just what Michonne has gone through in The Walking Dead, either because of the sheer number of comics or because some will be just fans of the television series. She mutilated the reanimated corpses of her boyfriend and his best friend in order to survive; she was alone for a great deal of time with only aforementioned corpses for company; when she joined Rick’s crew she was almost responsible for a suicide; she was brutally raped and tortured by the Governor; she has seen countless friends and lovers die in various grizzly ways and weighing on her conscience most heavily in this game: she feels she abandoned her children.  She is one of the strongest characters in the canon and although no one escapes unscathed in the post apocalyptic world, she is perhaps also one of the most damaged. She is a survivor in every sense of the word and a game from her perspective is intriguing.

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Aesthetically and thematically, this game is far more focused on the comic books than the previous Walking Dead games. For a start, it directly links to the comics in exploring Michonne’s disappearance between issues #126 and #139. More immediately obvious is the whole aesthetic: the opening titles feature artwork from the comics and the interaction notifiers such as Q and E buttons are far more artistic than in the main games. In addition, the whole style has elements of the abstract as a result of examining Michonne’s psyche. The opening switches back and forth between her pre-apocalpyse home with her children and the present in which she fights walkers relentlessly and almost tries to commit suicide. Her children also haunt her throughout the game.

The question then becomes, do you need to have read the comics or watched the TV series to enjoy this game? I think having some knowledge of Michonne does go a long way to explaining her character and where she finds herself, but I would say on balance, it is unnecessary. You may get less out of the experience, but the first episode is still engaging and explains much of the necessary detail.

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The gameplay mechanics are classically Telltalesque: click to explore and in action, spam Q and hit E. One new development is the introduction of chained keys in action sequences. This was included in Tales from the Borderlands to great effect, but here feels a little retro and more serves to try and engage the character in Michonne’s badassery. Watching Michonne dispatch walkers with grace and speed is a joy but, in a rather well repeated criticism now, it is hard to feel responsible for those kills through QTEs.

It might be said that nothing else can be expected from Telltale; this is their formula. The difference here however is that Michonne is a character focused on physicality and strength. Fans love her because of her skill with a katana and whilst I appreciate that Telltale wants to explore the more vulnerable side of her, it seems a shame not to have what will presumably be Michonne’s only dedicated game one in which the fights are only experienced through minimal interaction.

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That being said, I enjoyed the visuals of the fight scenes. They are inventive (one part features water based zombies) and tense, despite the QTE fundamentals. The voice acting is, as usual, very good and the story seems to be headed in an interesting direction with themes of guilt, motherhood and trust. Animation seems to have greater fluidity in this game with movement much more natural in both cutscenes and free roam. I was also happily surprised by how optimised the game was: the CPU on my PC snuffed out overnight and I had to play the rest on my sister’s laptop, which is very clearly not for gaming. Despite this it ran perfectly and I can confirm that this game, thankfully, supports cloud saves. I did encounter a few glitches in the pre-review copy but they were very minor and will almost certainly be fixed by launch.

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The ending of the first episode was mildly disappointing. Whilst it does end on something of a cliffhanger, the whole episode seemed to be building up to a far more climactic and critical finisher which it never quite reaches. One other frustration was that throughout the game, as soon as you select a dialogue option, the character speaking will cut off their speech straight away, usually mid-sentence. Annoyingly, in an effort to stay on top of the timer, it meant I usually lost chunks of dialogue I would have liked to have heard. There are fairly minor criticisms however, and did not dent my enjoyment of the first episode to a great extent.

However, the dialogue options in this game do serve to reveal an intriguing insight into Michonne’s character: in other Telltale games, I rarely, if ever, chose silence even though it was always an option. With Michonne’s character, however, silence almost always seems the right option. Telltale skilfully displays how Michonne is a woman of few words and I enjoyed painting her as the strong, silent type. 

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Just as an aside, it is interesting to note how Michonne’s story is almost indirectly reflecting Clementine’s: Clementine is a young, mixed race girl growing up in a world without a mother or, by the end of season 2, just a constant and rational adult to look up to. Michonne is a mother struggling to cope wth the overwhelming guilt of being unable to save her children. They are both wary of others, both doing what it takes to survive and you can’t help but wonder whether they might save each other should their storylines coincide. It is a comforting idea, but I suspect a little too optimistic and contrary to the comic books to ever come to fruition.

This brief journey into Michonne’s world of The Walking Dead has begun with a promising start and has the potential to be an extremely good game, exploring mature themes but maintaining a good degree of tension. Telltale have well established Michonne; now they need to show us just what she is capable of.

8 out of 10