As Michonne’s Telltale adventure draws to a close, it all comes down to this finale which is a summation of all that has gone before it. As such, it’s only fair I issue a spoiler warning as to critique the many events at play I’m going to have to touch upon the events within this episode and those leading up to it. As always, I have played through the game several times with different save files to make all the decisions possible so I could take note of any effect they had upon the story.
In the opening scene of Episode 3: What we deserve, we are back on the boat two weeks prior to current events. I struggle to understand what the point of this was as it had zero impact on anything within the chapter. I guess it was an attempt at making us care about a crew completely missing from the previous episode. It simply wasn’t enough and came across as just throw away filler. I would have really liked to have joined the card game mentioned by Oak. That would have been a great plot device to really get to know these people. Instead, it just fades to black and I’m left wondering what the point of it was.
It’s in the next scene that things get going again. There are a series of differences in dialogue depending on the choices you made in the last episode. This is easily the strongest moment as we see some cool story branching going on. Talking to Norma on the radio you arrange a trade and it becomes clear the possible consequences for your actions. This will have you questioning whether or not you did the right thing. Much of the focus is on Sam and how she’s coping with the deaths of her relatives as reality almost crushes the hope out of her. You can be cold or warm towards her plight, it doesn’t seem to matter as she will like you anyway. She was one of the two characters I felt some kind of emotion for. This was due to the visible hardship she was going through and the fact I had spent much of the series with her. As such, I really went off Paige, whom I previously liked, as she seemed to be bipolar in her attitude toward Sam. After how warm and understanding she’d been previously, it just didn’t come across as believable for her character to be so heartless about Sam’s grief. If you kept Pete in your party, he finally drops that naive happy go lucky attitude and we see him start feel the weight of this dystopian world. It was a great moment to see his almost delusional facade crumble to reveal a human side to him. He was finally accepting the grim reality and this made him far more relatable.
Michonne’s visions get more frequent to a point of losing the impact they once had at the start. I was always under the impression that this mini-series was meant to answer what happened to her family. By the end I still have no idea and it would appear neither does Michonne. It became clear this wasn’t about discovering the fate of her Husband and Daughters but about Michonne putting demons to bed. This left questions unanswered but I suppose that’s the point, to put us in Michonne’s shoes and feel her frustration. Another great moment of Telltale’s narrative they’ve become so famous for and why I keep coming back.
Like all Telltale games that have gone before, there’s a consistent issue with the final episode of each one. Every time you start to think your decision might make a difference to how things are going to turn out, you’re railroaded towards pretty much the same end. During the first and subsequent episodes I usually let this slide but in the finale developers have creative freedom to make multiple endings. What compounds this is when you can actually think of alternate possibilities that would have really changed things up instead of just sticking with the predictable. The best example of this is the hostage exchange, which is the big moment we’ve been building up to. You can attempt a peaceful diplomatic exchange but the game will force a conflict whether you like it or not. This means you will always have to fight Norma and her goons regardless of your choices. If you kept anyone alive then they’re indiscriminately killed off to reset the balance and keep thing steering towards an inevitable conclusion.
I know some will say, this is what we have come to expect from Telltale. I would answer back, with the title of this chapter in mind, is this really, what we deserve? It’s not like Telltale are a fledgling company just starting out, they have earned the rights to portray some of the biggest franchises. Is it too much to ask that their games evolve to include something more enticing than the same old predictable forced conclusions? When it comes to narrative for the most part there’s none finer to really get in your brain and make you emote at the very least with the main protagonist. In this series, beyond Michonne, I really had very little invested in the other characters besides Sam and Pete. This is most likely due to the constant removal of people from the story just as I’m starting to get to know them. Seriously, in the series as a whole at least two die within moments of meeting them. Another is part of that crew you met once at the start of Episode 1, it’s the first time you’ve seen them since and they’re dead in seconds. There’s no point killing off characters I haven’t had time to get to know or care about. Sure, it’s shocking but it has zero emotional impact, I’m not broken up over it and they won’t be missed. That’s not to say they didn’t get it right at all, as one moment that did tear my heart out of my chest, showing that they can do it when they put their mind to it.
By the end I have mixed emotions, some parts are the genius narrative moments that gave Telltale the prestige they’ve earned. There are some interesting alternate scenes depending on decisions made in the previous episode. Yet, in this episode it’s like they gave up on trying to be clever and opted for playing it safe when they really didn’t have to. Nothing was ever really revealed about Michonne’s past, we just have to deal with it like she has to and I’m cool with that harsh reality. You can replay if you want but it’s kind of a waste of time as many of the decisions, including the key ones, have almost identical outcomes. Of the one that allows you to save a single character, it’s only so you can watch them walk away into the distance at the end.
The conclusion couldn’t be more underwhelming or disappointing if they’d tried. There’s no denying that most character relationships are woefully underdeveloped. You are constantly torn away from making any meaningful connections. Usually at moments where you could form bonds had the game allowed us more time. While there are some great moments there’s also a series missed opportunities to do something that would have made this title stand out. They could have fairly easily done something that would have taken Telltale adventures to that next level we’ve been wanting for a while now. Having extremely different outcomes would have been a first and welcomed by all. What compounds this is that it was set up so nicely for it by the previous installments. It starts out strong, comes so close, only to then fail at the final hurdle.
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