There was a time when the name Telltale Games spoke of a profound transformation in the way video games were told and, by extension, experienced. Today, with liquidation and a rebirth with new foundations, the company is trying to restore its image by exploring franchising The Expanse, a series of books and television adventures that relies on strong narrative moments. Alas, the result demonstrates above all that the Telltale formula has long been outdated.
First major project since the closure of the first version of the studio, therefore, The Expanse: A Telltale Series takes up the episodic formula and the choices apparently left to the player. This time, we find ourselves in the shoes of Camina Drummer, a member of the Belt, this series of colonies torn between the two superpowers of the solar system, Earth and Mars, where exploited workers live and die who dream of freedom, sometimes via a bloody revolution.
Drummer, therefore, played in the series by Cara Gee, is not only entitled to the appearance of the actress, but also to her voice. This time, in an adventure which takes place before the events narrated in the main work, must shed light on the massacre of the crew of a warship, a crew whose heads were cut off, before being regrouped in the cockpit. In addition to escaping terrifying pirates, you will also have to navigate between the various personalities of Drummer’s companions. All against a backdrop of galactic drama, of course.
On paper, the idea may seem good: in a territory as large as a solar system, with colorful characters and the always mortally dangerous context of deep space, it is easy to imagine adventures that would not involve danger the main narrative of the series. Stories of alliances, betrayals, murders, power struggles, and why not love?
However, we may promise the moon, but we must still be able to respect our commitments; if a title The Expanse could be fantastic in the form of a title based on resource management and space combat, for example, where food and spare parts are scarce; if it is also possible to make a role-playing game; or even an action game mixed with some role-playing notions, as in Mass Effectthe formula Counting speech definitely doesn’t work anymore.
Yes, the developers took good advantage of the Unreal Engine 4 visual engine, including facial expressions, but the fun largely stops there: in 2012, when Telltale hit it big after its first game based on The Walking DeadTHE quick time events, these sequences where you have to quickly press the mouse or keyboard to accomplish a task, were already getting on your nerves. It is inconceivable that we will still find them in 2023.
Inconceivable, too, that our character seems to move like a Zamboni, even without the annoying weightless sequences. Moreover, a moment, in the second episode of the series, where we have to escape from drones trying to detect us, had much more to do with bad design, or even the fight against controls, than a demanding moment.
Finally, there is this impression that, like other Telltale games, they are trying to make us believe that our choices really have consequences, while the ending is already written by the developers, and that whatever we done, the central narrative will remain the same.
Ultimately, this Telltale version of The Expanse is proof that it is certainly not all franchises that have enough scale and solidity to allow themselves to constantly publish the same game. If the studio really wants to interest its audience, it should understand that mechanics that are already outdated there a decade ago definitely have no place in the industry today.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series
Developers: Telltale Games et Deck Nine
Editor: Telltale Games
Platforms: PlayStation 4 / 5, Xbox One / Series, Windows (testé sur Windows / Epic Games)
Game available in French (interface)
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