Initial release date: July 27–September 21, 2023
Platforms: PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Microsoft Windows
Developers: Telltale Games, Deck Nine
Engine: Telltale Tool
Mode: Single-player video game
Genre: Graphic adventure game
Publisher: Telltale Games
"Review Copy Provided By TellTale Games"
Telltale’s The Expanse – A Narratively Immersive Space Adventure. Telltale's recent venture into the cosmos, The Expanse: A Telltale Series, proves to be a remarkable expedition through a captivating narrative paired with a rich environment that keeps you second-guessing your decisions. From the get-go, you're thrust into a world of life-or-death decisions that reverberate throughout the series, a hallmark of the Telltale brand. However, The Expanse is far from a reskinned version of its predecessors, as Deck Nine Games (co-developer and creator of Life Is Strange: True Colors) brings a fresh perspective, transforming the conventional Telltale formula. The game offers a three-dimensional environment to explore freely, a first for Telltale, and incorporates Camina Drummer's inner monologue, played by the talented Cara Gee, enhancing the player's connection with the protagonist. The addition of Drummer's internal thoughts is an audacious yet brilliant move, showcasing the strength of the writing and voice acting. The storyline serves as a prequel to the television series, unveiling a more vulnerable side of Drummer, making interacting with the world more rewarding for both new and returning fans.
The supporting cast aboard the Artemis, including the gruff pilot, Khan, and the contrasting Morozov twins, Arlen and Rayen, feels authentic and dynamic. Character development feels organic, avoiding the trap of erratic shifts in personality often seen in Telltale's previous titles. As the series progresses, choices made by Drummer can result in a crew of survivors or a lone protagonist, making player decisions feel impactful and emotionally charged. The visual aspect of the game is awe-inspiring, showcasing Deck Nine's commitment to detailed graphics and animation. The Expanse boasts realistic graphics, detailed cutscenes, and well-executed facial motion-capture, making every interaction feel meaningful and cinematic. The absence of wonky animations and a focus on environmental storytelling elevate the experience, allowing players to immerse themselves in a world that feels alive and vast.
The game's strong narrative foundation, coupled with the exploration of moral dilemmas, relationship dynamics, and environmental cues, sets it apart from other RPGs. Romance and survival intertwine, raising questions about favoritism, loyalty, and the consequences of pursuing a romantic relationship amidst a crisis. The game prompts players to think beyond binary choices, emphasizing the ripple effect of every decision made by Drummer.
Despite its strengths, The Expanse is not without its flaws. The zero-gravity movement, while visually stunning, can be frustratingly slow and disorienting. Additionally, the collectible mechanic feels underdeveloped, as there is no visible inventory or way to utilize the collected items. Furthermore, the lack of a prompt signaling the point of no return in each chapter can lead to unintended consequences, forcing players to restart the episode to complete side quests. Nonetheless, The Expanse triumphs as a masterclass in narrative design, allowing players to shape the story with meaningful choices that lead to unique outcomes. It cleverly uses environmental clues, facial animations, and non-verbal hints to guide players, rather than relying on expositional dialogue. The game succeeds in making characters feel indispensable, creating a sense of attachment and making their fates all the more poignant.
In conclusion, Telltale's The Expanse is a narratively immersive experience that delves deep into the human condition while exploring the vastness of space. It expertly balances moments of levity and tension, creating an atmosphere that feels authentic and engaging. With a focus on meaningful choices, character development, and a strong narrative, The Expanse stands as a testament to Telltale's evolution and is a must-play for fans of the franchise and newcomers alike.