Telltale continues their first miniseries experiment with the middle episode of The Walking Dead: Michonne, and while I certainly enjoyed the first installment, its sometimes slow pacing left me unsure that the finished package would measure up to the first two seasons.
Now we come to Give No Shelter, and I have to say that this is a much more impressive outing compared to its predecessor. It’s still short and technically problematic, but things move quickly and stay engaging, with plot points and themes that feel right for this franchise.
The episode picks up immediately after the conclusion of the first instalment, and sees the iconic Michonne escaping from the containment of ruthless siblings Norma and Randall, along with colleagues Pete and Samantha. The three head for the shelter that Samantha’s family resides in, encountering obstacles along the way as well as tensions with the new faces they encounter.
Events afterwards give us a good idea of what to expect from the third and final episode, but they’re best left unspoiled. The abrupt moment that kicks the climax into gear is actually the best shock the series has provided since that infamous RV scene in the first season, to the point where I had an audible reaction.
Give No Shelter feels like it has more freedom now to give us both frenetic and calm moments that are equally interesting. I’ve heard some complaints that the series’ shorter length has made it difficult for players to invest in new characters like Samantha more than familiar faces like Kenny, but personally speaking, the game was still able to get me engaged in the character’s plights.
I also appreciate the series having consistent antagonists, and though Norma’s screen time is brief, Randall is equal parts despicable and threatening. The only real downside is that Michonne herself still isn’t as interesting as our previous leads, though I suspect those familiar with her comic and TV incarnations will have less issues with this than I did.
Mechanically, there’s still nothing here that we haven’t seen in the series before. The physical confrontations do pack more of a punch than last time, with the machete-on-zombie moves feeling more satisfying, and one kill towards the end is destined to go down among the series’ most memorable.
Though there still seems to be little in terms of significant story branching based on your choices, the game does do a good job of displaying the consequences of a pretty extreme decision that I chose during the early escape sequence. Even the final choice that closes the episode had me torn for a bit, with my final decision ultimately being based on what I think will make for an interesting finale rather than a more immediate and satisfying reaction.
I cited Michonne’s recurring hallucinations and flashbacks to her daughters as a bit jarring before, and while that’s again true here, there are only two of them, and the second, which serves as a playable prologue focusing on Michonne’s first day of the zombie apocalypse, actually has me interested in the concept of seeing characters first reacting to the world-changing event in future installments.
As far as presentation goes, character animations and voice acting are as great as ever, and the episode actually has some music tracks that stick out as interesting, though there are moments that switch to rather jarring synth-heavy songs out of a cheesy 80s movie.
Though I found episode 2 of Michonne to be very enjoyable overall, it still has its faults. If you’ve been critical of Telltale’s shorter episodes in recent years, this outing won’t sway you, as I reached the end after about an hour and ten minutes. This has been a big issue for me in other Telltale efforts like Minecraft: Story Mode and The Wolf Among Us, but mainly due to the fact that those episodes didn’t pack the punch necessary to excuse their brevity, which I feel Give No Shelter isn’t guilty of. I have no complaints about the cutoff point, either. It’s a perfect spot to leave players hanging and pumped for an inevitable final showdown.
The biggest issue I experienced here is technical performance worse than any Telltale episode I’ve ever played before. Give No Shelter would frequently stutter and pause in the middle of shots and lines, sometimes for seconds at a time. Even after adjusting the graphics settings to their lowest, the issue persisted.
This didn’t seem to be an issue in other reviews and recordings I saw for the episode, and some digging on forums seems to point the blame at either my Nvidia card’s latest driver or some recent issues Xbox controllers have presented, rather than poor optimization on Telltale’s end. It sounds like a very isolated issue, but I’d still recommend PC players stick to a keyboard and mouse for the time being.
With its middle installment, The Walking Dead: Michonne makes much more of an effort to let itself stand strong compared to Lee and Clementine’s previous journeys. Give No Shelter is a more engaging and well-structured experience than its predecessor, and though I still feel that The Walking Dead: Season Two lessened my overall opinion of it with its underwhelming conclusion and that this could certainly do the same, what is foreshadowed in the final moments give me hope for a satisfying finale.
This review is based on the PC version, which was provided to us.