One of the standards I have for myself when reviewing someone else’s work is, I try to find something nice to say about it. This may sound like lame, post-millennial “everyone gets a trophy” hogwash to you, but I do this for two reasons. First, because I know how hard it is to create something, and that doesn’t change no matter how well-funded or talented you may be. Second, I don’t know the full situation behind the creation of the work I’m reviewing. It’s too easy to declare that no one involved in the project cared about it, beyond the vast profits they would make once that project was finished. That statement speaks volumes of disrespect and only shows the speaker’s ignorance. For myself, I will always have at least a modicum of respect for those who work to create versus those who only criticize the work of others; as far as I’m concerned, those who create have earned it.
I feel I should mention this because I haven’t been kind to Telltale Games’ latest adventure serial thus far, and now that I’ve played through the third, and thankfully last, chapter of the newest foray into Robert Kirkman’s take on the zombie apocalypse, I find I have little else to do but vent my proverbial spleen once again. I suppose I just want to be clear that my disdain for this series isn’t for lack of trying. Call it conscience.
Oh, and just to get this out of the way, spoilers ahead and such.
I have played a great many of Telltale Games’ adventure serials over the last few years. True, I haven’t played their entire catalogue, but still, for me, The Walking Dead: Michonne is the worst of the bunch. Telltale’s main Walking Dead series has worked very hard to create a narrative separate from that of the comics/TV show/novels, and so has given you time to get to know the characters and reasons to care about them. Michonne took one well-known character, set her in her own story shoe-horned into a convenient gap in the greater narrative, and filled it with generic redshirt supporting characters whose only job is to act out tired zombie-movie tropes. In place of a compelling story, we’re presented with vague concepts wielded like blunt instruments to force an emotional reaction from us. That is just lazy storytelling. “Family! Community! Safety! A child in danger! YOU WILL CARE, DAMMIT!!!” No, screw you; I’m going to let that child burn to death, simply because you told me I shouldn’t.
Everything about this chapter seems built to force a gut reaction out of us in the clumsiest way possible, and for me the whole thing just falls flat. Michonne’s little “crazy time” moments of hallucinating about her dead daughters come with a frequency that’s distracting, then annoying, and finally “unskippable cutscene” maddening. There’s a long one towards the end where you have the opportunity to speak to them, to … maybe get more backstory, I guess? I really have no idea, because by that point I was so sick of the whole affair that I made sure Michonne stayed stone silent through the whole thing, in the hopes that it would make the moment pass a little faster. The take home point here is that I don’t respond well to forced emotion.
The rest of the story isn’t much better. If you’ve played the first two chapters, and watched a zombie movie at any point in your life, then you know how this chapter goes. But if you have played the first two chapters, then that means you bought the season pass — no individual episode purchasing for us this time. So you might as well see how Amateur Night at the Inventory ends; at least you’ll get some trophies/achievements out of the deal, though it’ll be an hour of your life you’ll never get back.
But there are positives, few though they be. The best part of this series was the opening theme song, “Gun in my Hand”, by Dorothy. Telltale has gotten much better at creating openings for its serials, and Michonne‘s opening is no exception, with a song that’s “I must have it” good. Also, this is the first Walking Dead serial Telltale Games has produced that ran for me without a single glitch, and whether that’s to the credit of the developers who support the Telltale Tool, TTG’s proprietary game engine, or the technicians who worked on this series specifically, it tells me that at least several people involved in this project cared enough to produce the best product they could, and I say thanks. I just wish there was more to like beyond the technical.
The Walking Dead: Michonne, Episode Three: What We Deserve is is rated ‘M’ for Mature for Intense Violence, Blood & Gore, and Strong Language.
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