Camina’s stranded and alone back at Mining Station #184, running low on oxygen with seemingly no way off this rock. Weird things start to happen when you’re running out of air or in isolation, so both simultaneously are an extra gnarly combo. Camina goes on a trip through her past, at least in her mind, and eventually finds herself in an even stranger predicament by the time Episode 4 of The Expanse: A Telltale Series concludes. Camina’s at her most desperate, with time working against her and no option but a last-ditch effort to call for help into dark, empty space.
It’s the first time it feels like Camina might be in over her head. A war erupts in her mind of people from her past as she struggles to survive. What ensues is essentially battling flashbacks, though The Expanse handles that in a much more interesting fashion, only hinting through her hallucinations at an explanation of how she arrived on the Artemis in the first place. Her connection to an important character in the series comes into play. Where he had been mentioned briefly in past episodes, he now takes on a major role, even without appearing on screen. It’s much more elegant and symbolic than a straightforward scene from the past would have been, and its placement is excellent here.
I wasn’t totally correct that The Expanse was moving away from an excavation-of-the-week model; it’s just that Camina is on her own this time. She’s quickly pulled into her mind trip as she wanders about the station. Hostile voices try to persuade her to give up, but the lone friendly voice gives her the power to persist. She’s in a vastly different place regarding her allegiances during the TV series, so Telltale’s The Expanse reveals even more about her past associations and relationships, providing background on how she came to her eventual landing spots. This is the first time the game feels like a prequel rather than merely a separate story about a vital character, providing a deep look into the complexities of what Camina has been carrying mentally and emotionally all this time.
Episode 4 finally gives Camina a face-to-face introduction to the dread pirate Toussaint. The leader of this pirate gang is the best kind of villain, both terrifying and oddly friendly. She’s convincing in her attempts to win Camina’s trust, though anyone who would commit the type of violence Camina has already witnessed can’t be taken at face value. It would have been nicer had Toussaint shown up earlier in the series, as it could have set up an epic struggle between the pirates and the Artemis’ crew. But the narrative choices stand, and The Expanse is what it is.
Despite Episode 4 being a great, compelling installment, it’s also a frustrating reminder of the strange, weaker direction of the first two episodes. With one episode left, it doesn’t feel like much that happened in those first two parts means anything. With the power of choice being one of Telltale’s draws, that’s a letdown. The lack of meaningful choices could be forgiven for series like The Walking Dead, which drew so much of its power from the narrative and the central relationship of the two main characters. The Expanse, on the other hand, got a late start on those fronts, and the significant turning point from the end of Episode 3 leaves Camina separated from those crew members she’d been building relationships with. I haven’t seen much of Cox since Episode 1, so what does it matter if I sent him out the airlock on a voyage without a ship through the Milky Way? And if Toussaint was going to be such a force, why didn’t she show up until the second-to-last episode?
As for the actual gameplay, Episode 4 starts with another bland power box puzzle followed by another puzzle that took me much longer than it should have to solve. Then, there are a few more quicktime events that seem to be getting quicker each time out. Again, the exploration is more focused in this episode, which is logical, as Camina is struggling to stay alive, and there’s a heavier emphasis on the story, which is the right direction. As much as I like free-floating in space, there are more important things to tackle.
The late introduction of Toussaint, who is original to The Expanse: A Telltale Series, as well as a couple of other characters who significantly factor into Episode 4, lend heavily to the possibility of a second season, as failure to do so would be squandering what Telltale has begun. In many ways, this series only feels like part one of something larger, though it’s uncertain whether it will get any larger. The final showdown of this season is obviously on deck for Episode 5. The surprises since Episode 3 have been worth the wait, but will The Expanse stick the landing?
Episode 4 leaves behind intense mixed feelings. It’s the second episode in a row where the series brings everything that belongs in a classic Telltale game. This installment explores Camina’s past in a much cooler way than a standard flashback. And The Expanse now adds new dimensions to the TV series, especially Camina’s character. Yet, it also feels like the developers had been holding out, not bringing out the most compelling elements of the series until it’s almost over. It gives them momentum for the ending, but why did they wait so long, knowing there’s limited space for this story? I’m still interested to see how it ends and whether there will be some sort teaser for another season. I sure hope so, because I need more of Toussaint in my life, oh captain, my captain!