The Walking Dead: Michonne Review
The Walking Dead: Michonne is by no means a bad game, but it isn’t a very good one either. It is the definition of a low expectation met, and while I don’t want to sit here and diminish the game, the reality is that the game is simply a nothing less, and certainly nothing more situation.
Right off the bat, Telltale dug themselves a deep hole by focusing on an already established character: Michonne. The three-episode miniseries takes place between issues #126 and #139 of the comic book series, a time where Michonne went missing and was long expected to be dead by fans. Fortunately for us, she came back, but unfortunately for Telltale, we already know the fate of our main character.
One of the best parts about the last two seasons of Telltale’s The Walking Dead were the blank slates of protagonists that starred in the game. With both Lee and Clementine the player was able to make choices that ultimately defined different personality traits of the character. My Lee cared about nothing but Clementine, he wanted to make the world a better place for her, and make sure that she lived long enough to see what it could become in the process. But the important thing was that I had an option. I could tell Clementine to screw off if I wanted to, but I didn’t. With Michonne, I felt pigeonholed into making certain decisions because I already knew who Michonne was as a character. I wasn’t playing to make my own choices, but to make the same choices Michonne would.
And on top of that, I knew with 100% certainty that Michonne would survive whatever I put her through, a liberty that wasn’t there with Lee or Clementine. It alleviates all of the personal risk in making decisions. With Lee, I was afraid to sacrifice myself or Clementine to help the greater good, but in this game I had no problem throwing Michonne into harm’s way, so long as nobody else got hurt.
But even that didn’t mean too much to me, because very few of the characters really felt worth saving. In the end, I’d say that I really only cared for four, maybe five characters. Half of them were kids, you can’t not care for kids, but the other couple of decent characters felt genuine. They were unique. One character was just a down-to-earth friend of Michonne’s while another was a single father just trying to help out his kids. Unfortunately, those characters were either gone for a majority of the game, or died for no reason, before we could even really get to know them.
The rest of the game’s cast falls into boring stereotypes that have already been played out, if not in the Walking Dead, then everywhere else. A good majority of characters fell into the whiny teenager trope, and the rest just don’t do anything to distinguish themselves from the crowd of already bland characters.
The same could be said for the villains. Traditionally The Walking Dead has had some of the best villains in recent fiction. Characters like the Governor and Negan stand out from typical “bad guy in an apocalypse” because they’re smart, or their witty; they’re more than just bad dudes that kill people. Michonne’s villains couldn’t be more bland. They aren’t smart, or funny, or even really super bad, they just kind of kill people. It’s a let down, especially considering The Walking Dead’s strong pedigree of great villains in the past. Even season one of Telltale’s game had a clever twist on the villain character.
Ultimately the story doesn’t do much without characters that I cared about or villains I was afraid of or interested in. It panned out to be no more than a predictable waltz through some tense scenarios that were weakened by the game’s lack of risk for Michonne. The story could have still been amazing even though there wasn’t any real risk for the protagonist, but the lack of any real great supporting cast, and even worse villains, left me bored.
On the upside, the game dared to explore Michonne’s past, a subject that hasn’t really been touched upon in the comics (I don’t watch the show). I was genuinely interested at first, Michonne has always been confined to being the silent, badass with a sword, so it was a welcome break to see how she started off in The Walking Dead’s world. But in the end even that was sullied. Flashbacks crossing with reality played out like a horror game, and without going into any detail for spoilers, they ended up feeling tropey and predictable, a running theme with the game.
The only true plus throughout the entire three episodes was, surprisingly so, the game’s combat. Now, say what you want about quick-time events, but Telltale totally nailed Michonne’s machete-wielding badassery. Button combos weren’t a cake walk, but never felt too difficult, and the fight scenes themselves were wonderfully choreographed.
I hate to use the phrase “fans of the genre,” but it couldn’t ring more true than with The Walking Dead: Michonne. If you haven’t played a recent Telltale game yet, this definitely shouldn’t be your first, and if you have but didn’t like it, move along. But if you’re a fan of Telltale and everything they’ve done with the Walking Dead up until this point, this game’s just more of the same thing, albeit a bit worse.
At the end of the day, it’s safe, the very opposite of what made the first season so great. There aren’t any risks taken with characters, the villains are more than bland, and it just doesn’t do anything to distinguish itself from the rest of “zombie storytelling.” The first season went above and beyond everything we had already seen from the now hundreds of comic book issues and television shows of The Walking Dead and somehow managed to create something unique. The Walking Dead: Michonne is anything but unique.
The Walking Dead: Michonne receives a 5 out of 10.
This game was reviewed on a retail PS4 with a copy of the game bought by myself.
Caleb Cajthaml is a 16 year old who set dreams so large he needed to get started on them now. Passionate about making people happy, Caleb loves to write about all things entertainment. You can find him on twitter @Caleb_Talks tweeting about the latest happenings in the Star Wars cannon and why the Vikings are the best team in football.