At a certain point, no matter how well-written and designed the finale to this brief three-episode series is, its uninspired and eyerolly base cripples potential. While Episode 3 is certainly the best of three, it capitalizes on relationships between allies and foes we’ve barely established. Tenuous at best, this three-hour “adventure” closes on what could have been a fulfilling and insightful glimpse into Michonne’s past, and I’m thankful to be done with it.
Episode 3 picks up where we left off, after some children lost their dad in a horribly predictable death. Of course, the kids are sad and Michonne tries her best to comfort them with shallow, polarized dialogue choices that are met without consequence. The occasional, “[husk of polygons] will remember that” flitters across the top of the screen, as if it matters. In actuality, the standoff at the end plays out somewhat surprisingly while adhering to the loosely established personalities of friends and enemies. The deaths and heroic moments occur as one might expect in hindsight, but watching them unfold maintained my attention and birthed a glimmer of anticipation.
The climax strikes as expected amidst stressful circumstances, which produces a fascinating quandary for the player. I understood exactly what the developers were trying to do here: does Michonne potentially sacrifice herself and a new friend in order to gain closure, or does she force herself to move on while passing up a potentially unique opportunity to put the past behind her? Unfortunately, even after knowing Michonne in the comic books and TV series, I found myself detached from the experience and forced the fast track out. As alluded to in my initial review, this mechanic unfolded in a gradually more intense fashion until it directly impacted Michonne’s actions, but not in the creative, player-driven way it could have. The entire scenario felt like a missed, rushed opportunity.
Speaking of rushed, Episode 3 lasts an hour, leaving this $15 title at release a three-hour experience overall. At this point, Telltale seems to be exploiting fandom and brand loyalty, but this disappointing release may have taken a machete to consumer trust. To offer context, Episode 1 of the original Walking Dead series from 2012 lasted about two and a half hours, almost equal to this entire excursion. If Telltale wants to offer a brief experience like they did with 400 Days, they need to advertise it as such, price it accordingly, and, most importantly, write with that time frame in mind. The ultimate downfall of Michonne’s tale is that the writers attempted to shoehorn what should have been a ten-hour narrative into three hours. I could easily envision a three-episode Michonne series following her around as she wanders the South, experiencing bite-sized worlds of survivors in conflict and survival with the hallucinations of her daughters serving as the common thread across each installment. Instead, we got this.
Telltale’s capable of much more. We survived with Lee, Kenny, and Clem; gumshoe’d with Bigby; and thwarted an antisocial, murderous AI with Rhys. What we’ve gotten with Game of Thrones and Michonne causes concern, but Telltale’s earned enough cred for me to look past this pratfall. Otherwise, other developers who’ve demonstrated expertise with their take on Telltale’s formula, such as with Life is Strange, might be more suitable flag bearers of the modern adventure game.