The Expanse: A Telltale Series
For years, Telltale Games stood at the forefront of narrative driven experiences. Establishing themselves as masters of the craft, they delivered epics that had you on the verge of tears and tales that left you in hysterics. After a sudden studio closure, fans were in shock and an irreplaceable void was left in the industry. Like a scene from their famed series, The Walking Dead, the company has been resurrected. With eyes firmly on the cult-classic, The Expanse, Telltale aim to apply their signature flair to tell an original origin story within the Sci-Fi world. However, will the company manage to tell a story that engages fans of the franchise while also acting as a gateway to the series for newcomers?
Set before the events of the television show, you take on the role of the fan-favorite Camina Drummer aboard the Artemis. Fans will be pleased to hear Cara Gee, voicing the character with her unmistakable accent and delivery. Her inclusion brings authenticity to the experience and makes the game feel like an extension of the universe. The decision to focus on Camina is brilliant for several reasons. Not only will fans of the show be able to mold the events that led to her television appearance, it also allows newcomers to follow her journey from the beginning.
Start Like You Mean to Go On
A great story needs to grab you from minute one and The Expanse – Episode One definitely does that. The captain of the Artemis is being dragged to an airlock and your finger hovers above the button to decide his fate, however, rather than committing to a choice, a flashback occurs so that you can learn how the situation got to this point. It’s a clever narrative structure which immediately pulls you into the high-stakes plot. Telltale Games then slows down proceedings to introduce characters and allow you to delve into the lore of the world. Conversations are key to this with your responses shaping relationships with characters aboard the Artemis. Each person is distinct and helps to flesh out Camina’s personality as we see her deal with a range of situations.
At key points, you will need to make pivotal decisions which are sure to have long lasting effects. These are not simple good or bad scenarios, Telltale Games expertly place you in difficult situations that will make you scrutinize the ramifications of each outcome. Although I am unable to comment on how this will affect future episodes, the options available vary and do warrant additional playthroughs to experience other avenues.
The ‘jank’ that engulfed previous titles from the renowned developers is now absent. The Expanse has a lovely layer of polish which makes movement and traversal much more enjoyable. While it’s still a methodical, slow paced game, you can now move freely in the small areas to gather information. Flying is a little slow and it is still very linear, however, it is an improvement from prior entries. Interestingly, there are smaller side missions and extra information in the environment that expand the universe and give further incentive to explore.
Time to Move
Similar to other games in the genre, quick time events accompany action sequences. Cinematic slow motion emphasizes prompts, which helps add style to the segments. However, this does also remove the panic that tends to partner moments like this. These sections are rather simple and lack the ingenuity which is seen in releases from their contemporaries. Although many elements have evolved, this is one area that needs further refinement.
The patented comic book, cartoon aesthetic is present and works particularly well. Characters have exaggerated features which makes them expressive and therefore more able to communicate non-verbally. In addition, each area is full of detail with stark lighting that captures the world of the franchise perfectly. Subtle and unobtrusive, the audio helps to further anchor you in the universe. Hums of machinery and atmospheric drones, add an eerie undertone to proceedings and due to this, an uneasy feeling resides.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series is a welcome return for the celebrated company. Although the first episode is particularly short, it sets up an intriguing story that requires no prior knowledge of the franchise, yet will please fans of the show. Several refinements improve the gameplay, however, it doesn’t stray too far away from conventions of the genre. Most importantly though, the world, the characters and the story are fascinating and due to this, I am excited for future episodes.
*** A PlayStation 5 review code was provided by the publisher ***
- Well Crafted Narrative
- More Freedom
- Big Decisions
- Too Short
- Follows Tropes of the Genre
- Slow Movement