Review: The Walking Dead: Michonne – Episode 1: In Too Deep

Despite being based on the hit comic book of the same name, Telltale’s first Walking Dead game divorced itself from any direct connections to the comic’s story quickly. Hershel and Glenn popped up in the first two episodes, sure, but after those cameos, the game realized that it had more to offer in its original characters such as Lee and Clementine. Now, though, Telltale Games has decided to devote an entire game to the most legendary badass the series has (in the comics, at least), Michonne, and explain what had happened to her in between issues #126 and #139. Even if this game was to be shorter than the others, it still has the potential to be something epic. So I booted up the first episode, In Too Deep, and eagerly anticipated the next thrilling chapter in the Walking Dead saga. Then I blinked, and the first episode ended.

I knew going into this that things would be shorter than usual, but not only is the first episode over quicker than the original game’s 400 Days DLC, you can easily complete it in a mere forty minutes or so. You can actually beat it quicker than it would take you to watch an episode of the TV show. Mind you, I’m not one who complains about game length so long as the experience as a whole is still fulfilling, but even in this case I found myself going “that was it?!?” when the credits rolled. Of course, it doesn’t exactly help that as a first episode, In Too Deep is rather lacking in substance.

The setup is that after wandering the wilderness and being tortured by her past, Michonne eventually hooks up with a new crew of fellow survivors on a boat. Eventually they go looking around, and the usual checklist of Walking Dead/apocalypse clich├ęs comes up for us to go over. Injured person and the fear that they’ll turn into a walker? Check! Person who argues that they can’t afford to be kind to others? Check! Confrontational standoff between two groups of people over supplies involving guns? Check! Ramshackle post-apocalyptic society run by some sort of tyrannical dictator? Please, that’s basically a prerequisite for any story in the franchise by this point. It was checked off several times before the game even began.

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Yes, the writing quality of the first episode isn’t exactly that of the highest caliber. This is particularly evident with the game’s first big moral choice, which may have been something that makes for a powerful image in the comics, but is something I felt was downright laughable from a gameplay perspective. Occasionally the game flirts with a bit of psychological horror via hallucinations, which is a nice addition, but at the moment it’s taking a backseat to everything else and doesn’t appear often enough.

As for the gameplay, it’s the exact same quality as it was in the previous titles. Still nice and smooth with an emphasis on quick decisions, despite some moments that feel like a desperate attempt to pad out the game’s length, such as a bit where you sharpen Michonne’s machete. Speaking of which, Michonne’s skills do get highlighted quite nicely during any sequence where you fight off walkers (complete with cinematic letterboxing), although this does result in the oddity of the having the game’s highlight so far being the quick-time events. Not that Tales from the Borderlands and The Wolf Among Us didn’t have epic QTE moments as well, but when moments like those vastly overshadow the story, something just feels off. On a final note, the cel-shaded graphics are still a treat as always, and the soundtrack sets the mood perfectly, so at least everything looks and sounds incredible.

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Closing Comments

In Too Deep isn’t bad, nor does it fully suggest that The Walking Dead: Michonne will be a letdown. But if this helping were any indication, it would appear that splitting this side game up into an episodic adventure was a bad idea. As a first episode, this lays the groundwork for the rest of the game, but it doesn’t find the time to do anything else significant as well. Hopefully Michonne’s journey picks up some steam next time, but for now you’d probably be better off waiting for the whole shebang to assemble itself.

Summary
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The Walking Dead: Michonne - Episode 1: In Too Deep
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