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Review: The Walking Dead: Michonne

michonne cover
via PC Gaming Wiki

The Walking Dead: Michonne (2016)

PS4 / Rated M

Adventure

Publisher: Telltale Games

Developer: Telltale Games


The Walking Dead games are what put Telltale Games on the map.  Okay, maybe that’s not entirely true but they have definitely given the company the most success.  Both season one and season two of their episodic adventure games based on the comic books were critically acclaimed and set the company on the right direction.  With Telltale’s latest installment in the franchise, The Walking Dead: Michonne, they decided to take a different direction in more ways than one, but some of these directions don’t pay off in the end.

michonne 1
via YouTube

Unlike the previous two adventures, The Walking Dead: Michonne hones in on the story of Michonne, a protagonist from the comics.  She’s a stoic figure who doesn’t really talk much unless she needs to.  She’s also dealing with some psychological demons involving her two dead daughters, which is the aspect of her character that the story focuses the most on.  For those wondering, the story takes place between the comic’s issues 126 and 139.  (I haven’t read the comics myself, or seen the show for that matter, so I wouldn’t know.)

Another thing that Telltale does differently with Michonne is its three-episode format, unlike the normal five-six-episode format that most are used to.  There’s nothing wrong with going down the short-form adventure route, but it makes developing a meaningful and impactful story pretty difficult.  It can be done, but it’s tough to do.  Unfortunately, Michonne falls short of giving us an impactful story, which is due in part to the short time we have with the characters.  I grew attached to Michonne, as she was the main protagonist, but all of the other side characters and antagonists meant nothing to me really.  They had their moments, sure, but I wanted to spend more time with them in the end.  Just like the previous games, there will be deaths and tough decisions to make, but they ultimately didn’t matter to me in the end.  It also doesn’t help that the episodes were short in comparison.  I just didn’t feel that attached to what was going on onscreen.

michonne 3
via Rocket Chainsaw

Speaking of decisions, the game plays just as you’d expect.  Telltale hasn’t reinvented the wheel with Michonne, giving you an all-too-familiar gameplay experience.  You will participate in quick time events.  You will pick dialogue choices.  You will walk around small little environments.  You will make some pivotal decisions.  These decisions don’t really have consequence however.  The decisions also weren’t that hard to make either.  It almost felt like Telltale was just laboring through the motions, pumping out a paint-by-the-numbers experience similar to their other games without really putting any thought into what they were doing.

This is all a shame because The Walking Dead: Michonne has a gripping drama in its hands.  Michonne has a tough and quiet exterior, but on the inside there is a bevy of bottled up guilt and sadness that literally haunt her as she moves along.  During her travels she comes across a friendly crew of sailors as well as a small band of vicious and deadly survivors.  How she deals with these new people, as well as the situations she is thrust into, are by far the most enticing aspect the game has to offer.  Telltale has an interesting story to tell, it’s just too bad its brought down by some of the more technical facets of the game.

michonne 2
via Game Over

If you were a fan of the previous Walking Dead installments by Telltale (which most probably are) then this might warrant a look.  There’s some cool stuff the game brings to the table, but just know what you’re getting into.  Wane your expectations.  If your new to the series, then it’s hard to justify a play through of The Walking Dead: Michonne.  I would recommend the previous two installments, but that’s about it.

The Walking Dead: Michonne_20160405165941

Also available on PC, Mac, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360, iPhone, iPad, and Android.

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Review: The Last of Us

via Taringa.net
via Taringa.net

The Last of Us (2013)

Rated M / PS4

Shooter / Action / Adventure

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment

Developer: Naughty Dog


I finally see why The Last of Us is regarded as possibly one of the best games ever.  When Naughty Dog released the game on the PS3 back in 2013, they instantly had a wildfire hit on their hands.  After some time, they released a remastered version on the PS4, which seemed to be the way to fully experience the game.  After not knowing anything about the game, I decided to give the game a run for its money.  It was by far one of the best decisions I have made, roaming the infection-ravaged countryside with two great characters.

These two characters I’m talking about are Joel and Ellie, voiced and mo-capped by Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson respectively.  Joel is a man in his 50’s, who has already felt the pain of loss due to the deadly infection that has been spreading throughout the land.  Ellie, a younger orphan girl, has also been changed by the recent events, having survived an infected bit on her arm.  It’s Joel’s goal to get her to the Firefly’s, a rebel organization opposing the government, in hopes of possibly finding a cure for the infection that has been spreading throughout the country.

via playm.de
via playm.de

The journey that you take with these two wildly different, yet strangely attached, characters is a harrowing one.  During the course of the game, you travel across a good portion of the United States, only to see a place completely torn apart by death and destruction.  There is also an abundance of infected, as well as desperate humans that provide some tough opposition along the way.  It’s a tough adventure, with a lot of hardships that ultimately brings Joel and Ellie together.

It is hard not to get immediately attached to the characters that you meet along the way.  Naughty Dog did a fine job with the writing and overall storyline.  A lot of the dialogue comes in the form of natural reactions to the world that they are traversing.  They often try to make light of the situation, whether it be Ellie’s joke book or Joel’s wise cracks with some of the supporting characters.  It made the characters ultimately seem more relatable.  It is probably how I would react if I was thrown into the crappy situation that they have to endure.

via games.it
via games.it

I am also surprised I made it this far without talking about how gorgeous the game looks.  Granted, I experienced the adventure with the remastered version, which is exponentially better looking than its PS3 predecessor, but both versions look amazing nonetheless.  The apocalypse did some nasty things to the locations that you explore, but everything has a visual pop to it.  Being from Pittsburgh, I could not help but get all excited seeing the striking familiarities that the Pittsburgh section of the game contained, whether it be the big hulking yellow bridge in the distance or some of the other surrounding buildings and structures.  Naughty Dog but a metric-ton of detail into each and every location in the game, and their hard work pays off.  The remastered version even contains a “photo mode,” which gives the player some nice tools for creating some fantastic looking snapshots of some of the game’s greatest moments.

The third-person gameplay is executed nicely and feels great, but that was not too much of a surprise given the studio’s past work with the Uncharted franchise.  What makes this game different however is the lack of items that they give you.  Bullets are hard to come by and crafting using the various scraps and materials you will find around the world will largely save you in the end.  Every shot that you make counts, which makes combat situations a little tougher.  The game gives you options with each encounter that you face.  If you have an abundance of supplies, and your just feeling like a badass, you can go in guns-blazing.  You can also take the smarter and generally more effective stealth approach, taking your enemies out in silence.  You will quickly learn that silence is a beautiful thing in The Last of Us, because causing a lot of commotion can make your day go to hell real quick.

via IGN
via IGN

The enemy variety is alright, but could have been better.  You will encounter three types of infected along the journey, including Runners, Clickers, and Bloaters.  You will also fight a good number of humans as well, which provide a bigger challenge.  The infected AI is pretty easy to work around if you know what you are doing, but the humans are smart, and tend to give you more of a challenge.  It would have been nice to have a little more variety in terms of the infected enemies, because by the end of the game, it is pretty easy to dispatch the infected that they throw at you.

The Last of Us also included a multiplayer mode called Factions, which lets you side with either the Firefly’s or the Hunters.  There are three 4 v 4 modes; Supply Raid, Survivors, and Interrogation that all had their moments.  The combat is pretty much carried over from the single player mode, making familiar players feel right at home.  The multiplayer provided some fun, sure.  However, it is not something to write home about.  It’s your average run of the mill multiplayer mode that just feels tacked on like most games these days.  If you are playing The Last of Us, the single player adventure is probably all you really need.

via ae-infinite
via ae-infinite

One of the perks of playing the remastered version was the inclusion of the Left Behind DLC that went along with the game.  In this short but sweet experience, we get to see Ellie’s relationship with Riley, a good friend of hers from the military boarding school that they grew up in.  The DLC is mostly set in the locale of a local mall, which makes sense when you think about it.  What other place would to pre-teen girls want to go to?  The ending however leaves you speechless, and it hits you with such blunt force.  It is a curveball that you do not expect until it hits you hard.  The DLC also sheds light on Ellie’s first encounter with the infected as well.  It’s definitely worth the money and extra time if you have not dived into it already.

In terms of the greatest gaming experiences I have ever had, The Last of Us is definitely one of them.  I am not exactly confident in saying that it is my favorite game OF ALL TIME, but it ranks high on my list of top games that I have played.  The game takes you on an emotional adventure, full of thrills and hard moments that are sometimes hard to swallow.  The game looks amazing and the combat ranks high as well.  The Last of Us is a 1-2 knockout punch that will change you as a person, or at least how you look at games as a whole.  If you have not given the game a fair shake yet, do yourself a favor and educate yourself on one of the generation’s greatest games.  Do it.

the last of us score