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Thursday, 5 May 2016

The Walking Dead: Michonne.

The Walking Dead: Michonne.

"When will Murphy stop reviewing games he's just finished Let's Playing?" I hear the people cry. "When will we see the light of the sun once again?" The answer, of course, is 'not until this and Always Sometimes Monsters' is done, so we've got a few weeks of these shenanigans yet. 

Covering a period where Michonne, The Walking Dead's resident machete-wielding badass, was absent from the comics for some thirteen issues, The Walking Dead: Michonne by Telltale Games follows its titular character as she's dragged into a conflict between a vicious colony of survivors and a small family. Working on a boat owned by Pete, a gentle-hearted sailor, Michonne's life is plunged back into violence when an excursion onto shore leads her to meeting Sam, a young thief. Before long, she, Pete and Sam are captured by Norma, leader of Monroe, a colony of ships, thus beginning a feud that can only end up with a lot of blood and fire. To make matters worse, Michonne is haunted by hallucinations of her two dead daughters, and they're getting worse.

I admit, this game managed to put me off more or less in its first five minutes, as you're plunged immediately into a prolonged and unreasonably finicky quicktime event. After that, it was difficult to muster much enthusiasm for anything that happened thereafter, because nothing could quite justify the forty minutes of watching the same cutscene repeat again and again that I had done to actually get to the rest of the game.

The crew.

Making matters worse is that the game's loading times are appalling. I don't usually rag on loading times, not even long ones, because ultimately they're a necessary function of games and there's not much getting around them, and because I don't mind doing a bit of waiting. But when every single episode has at least two, sometimes three loading screens that take twenty minutes, you have a loading screen problem, especially since I was playing it on a pretty good computer.

Beyond all that, there is a good game here. 

Well, there's a typical Telltale Games game here, at least: Telltale has not bothered to innovate or change their formula at all, so you're still making mostly meaningless choices and doing quicktime events. The gameplay will be entirely expected to anyone who has played any of Telltale's games before, and unlike games like Tales of the Borderlands or Minecraft: Story Mode which attempted a tiny bit of variety (even if it's only a tiny bit), you'll pretty much always just be button-mashing and being given horrible reminders of the inevitability of the game's predetermined story.

Fire is fun.

(It's also shorter than most Telltale Games' games, not just in that it's three episodes instead of five, but also in that those episodes are substantially shorter. Most of Telltale's episodes come in at one and a half to two hours - most of The Walking Dead: Michonne's episodes are forty-five minutes to an hour.)

Rather, when I say there's a good game, I mean there's a good story. It's small and self-contained and it feels perfectly pitched for being so, whereas a longer series might not have been able to spin Norma and Monroe out into being a convincing threat.

Michonne's a compelling character, and it didn't take me long at all to start liking her and empathising with her - nor can I imagine it took anyone long to start liking her. Her relationships, both with the rest of the crew and her slowly forming big sister type relationship with Sam, always feel very engaging and real, and I was invested in trying to keep those relationships stable and happy, or at least as happy as they could be under the circumstances.

Norma, be reasonable.

So too are the supporting characters pretty well-pitched: I did find myself genuinely concerned for Sam's safety, and it didn't take long for Pete to start growing on me as well. Norma and Randall come off as genuinely scary villains, which is a considerable feat given that they're essentially just regular people with warm clothing and guns and poor self-control, and Norma's feud with Michonne even feels oddly epic for taking place over, essentially, about two hours worth of game.

So, I did kind of like this game, but it never gripped me, and I could never really work myself up to being excited or enthusiastic about it. That's largely down to a handful of little problems, like loading screens and such, but it's also partly because The Walking Dead just doesn't grip me anymore. Zombies aren't that interesting (I once heard someone refer to them as the best thing in all of fiction and I will never forgive that guy), and at this point, the point about man's inhumanity to man has kind of been hammered in as far as it'll go. You can't surprise me anymore, The Walking Dead. I already know that people do weird stuff when society breaks down.


Liked the hallucination segments a lot.

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