The Walking Dead: Michonne (episode 2 review)

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Michonne’s miniseries got off to a strong start, with sharp writing married to a grim and brutal atmosphere befitting The Walking Dead. Michonne herself, while acted extremely well and handed lines just as good as anybody else’s, struggled to mirror the character in either the TV series or the comics. With just three episodes in the series, a lot rests on the shoulders of this second entry. Does it buckle under the pressure?

No matter what you chose to say or do, episode one ended with Greg’s death, and episode two picks up directly afterwards. Michonne, Sam, and Pete make an immediate bid for freedom – and this is where the experience starts to get a little shaky.

First of all, in terms of gameplay, there seems to be a higher proportion of moments where you have direct control over Michonne in terms of movement and QTEs. The shonky pseudo-combat is unfortunately more grating here than it usually is in Telltale games, and we suffered several deaths across the same few encounters that didn’t entirely feel like our fault. The one saving grace is that, thankfully, checkpoints have been placed sensibly close to anywhere you might die. You can retry any failed events almost immediately.

Talking specifically about the escape which kicks off this episode, the polarising of your choices is disappointing. You try to follow Pete’s pacifist lead by allowing him to try giving himself up, or you allow Michonne to cleanse the community with fire and injure anybody who she might possibly be able to reach; that’s it. Keeping Pete with you and trying to sneak out undetected is not an option. Frustratingly, such an attempt would actually fit snugly with Michonne’s depiction both on the screen and on the page.

Not many people could look that cool with somebody else’s bum next to their face.

From the beginning – on Xbox One as we played it, at least – the game is noticeably less stable on a technical level than the first episode was. Juddering as the game tried to finish loading a new chapter or scene was common, and even the (awesome) intro song stopped for a full five seconds or so before the credits were allowed to resume. On top of all that the second episode is even shorter than the first, about an hour from beginning to end.

So why did we walk away so impressed?

For all its undeniable faults, the second episode proves this miniseries (and the developers) a creative force to be reckoned with. Yet again the writing is strong, with acting to match. For the most part everybody talks and acts like people, both good and bad, rather than like characters in a videogame. Again, how Michonne replies and reacts to people is up to you and, again, it’s possible to leap from one extreme to the other. Any potential for inconsistency of character is significantly lessened here, however; partly because these opportunities seem less in number, and partly because they tend to occur in stressful situations where other characters, too, might bark out things that they ordinarily wouldn’t. That’s what people are like.

Michonne’s mental state is also explored again, and things are clearly getting worse. One of the highlights of the episode in fact is an extended reliving of that fateful day in her apartment, which is unsettling yet not, interestingly, resolved; hinting at a forceful and dramatic conclusion to come in the third and final episode.

Speaking of forceful and dramatic conclusions, that’s certainly an apt way to describe how episode two closes. The episode’s final choice is (intentionally) signposted many minutes before you actually have to make it, but we didn’t use that time to consider which was the right choice, or even if there was a ‘right’ choice. We had already become so emotionally invested, it was immediately clear which choice we would make, and taking the other road didn’t even seem like an option, really. It’s a rare game indeed that can have that effect on a person.

The second episode of The Walking Dead: Michonne almost seems like some kind of meta commentary on the world in which it is set. Noticeably rough and broken around the edges, yet somehow holding together firmly in a mesmerising and horrifically beautiful way.

critical score 8

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Written by Luke K

Luke plays lots of videogames, now and again stopping to write about them. He's the editor in chief at Critical Gamer, which fools him into thinking his life has some kind of value. Chances are, if you pick up a copy of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine or GamesMaster, you'll find something he's written in there. Luke doesn't have a short temper. If you suggest otherwise, he will punch you in the face.

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