Before reviewing Episode 1 of Telltale’s The Expanse, it is important to highlight that this is a prequel to the show. In fact, it is set around 7 years prior to the beginning of the series. This means the events take place in 2343. The game follows Camina Drummer as you explore her backstory and delve deeper into what her character has to offer. If you haven’t watch the series yet, worry not as this is a prequel. Of course, fans of the show will be able to pick up on certain details and references. However, the overall experience won’t alienate those who haven’t seen the six seasons of ‘The Expanse’. That being said, it is time to review what Episode 1 had to offer and if this release truly marks Telltale’s long-awaited comeback.
Telltale’s The Expanse is available on PC, PS5 and Xbox for $18.59.
Story – Telltale’s Forte
Playing as Camina Drummer, you’re with a salvage crew on the Artemis captained by Captain Cox. You are the executive officer and second in command. There are a lot of interesting characters that you meet on the ship such as; former Martian Marine Maya Castillo and the medic Virgil Marks. The interpersonal relationships you build with these characters are reminiscent of the classic Telltale ways. Yet, this time, there is a hint of inspiration from Bioware, especially their great ‘Mass Effect‘ series.
Not only are there various romance options, but the choices you make feel just as intense as those from ‘The Walking Dead‘ game franchise. However, we will need to wait for future episodes to determine whether or not the illusion of choice is still a thing. If you’re unfamiliar with said concept, basically, Telltale has a reputation of sometimes making your choices not really matter.
A good example of this is in The Walking Dead Season 2, which had 5 different endings. Unfortunately, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier (Season 3) had a time-skip, ruining the impact of our chosen endings and only providing context through one or two small flashback sequences. With choice-based narrative games, it is essential that players feel like their choices have consequences. Hopefully, the choices we made in this first Episode matter.
All in all, the story was engaging, had interesting choices, and most importantly, kept us on our toes. We were left wanting to learn more and explore the lore behind each and every character. There is a lot of potential here for The Expanse to be an outstanding game and not just a game to play whilst waiting for The Wolf Among Us 2.
Gameplay – Small Steps of Innovation
The first thing I noticed was the movement controls have gotten a humungous overhaul. Not sticky and awkward anymore, there is this increased fluidity when moving, especially when using zero-gravity. It is still not perfect but still a great step up from previous Telltale games. Telltale is back with its typical point-and-click exploration system. While enjoyable, it does feel a bit stale sometimes, especially when you’re not really fully invested in the story yet. The start has a bunch of slow-paced sections that lowkey suck the tension out of things, but this slow start helps ease you into the drama of what’s to come. To see it all in action, you can watch some Episode 1 gameplay below brought to you by Telltale and posted on content creator Domthebomb’s YouTube channel.
This point could be also used to review the story, however, it also is related to gameplay. Sometimes, and especially in the beginning, players who have not watched The Expanse series can get a bit overwhelmed and confused. As I said at the start, this doesn’t completely alienate players but it can prove to be a tiny bit intimidating at the beginning. The confusion really is only momentarily because of the scattered lore you can find around the ship. In terms of gameplay, the game drops you into sequences where you can explore the ship straight after, making you instantly forget that perplexed sensation and focus on playing. On top of that, players can use this confusion as motivation to fuel their explorations.
Graphics & Sound – Polished, Clean & Unique
The classic telltale comic-like graphics return but with excellent lighting and shading. It is a really polished experience and is a definitive version of their unique graphical style. The characters felt more alive than ever before, with a noticeable difference in how they portray emotion and lip sync their words. While the graphics are great, that is of course subjective because some players might not like the stylized art-style that Telltale favors. Personally, we believe that it has its charm.
The eerie space atmosphere is so well achieved as the sound effects always make you feel elsewhere. It is otherworldly, immersing you in this spaceship-focused environment. The dialogue options seem better phrased than earlier Telltale titles where sometimes it would be confusing as to what the option would let your character say. Also, the voice acting performances were phenomenal and the increase of overall quality really is showing.
The Final Verdict
Overall, this episode was a fun endeavor full of exploration and interesting stories. We are excited to learn more and even more excited for Telltale’s comeback. Is this game enough to pull players back into this genre? That is a question that needs to be studied a bit more. Maybe, with the release of future episodes we will be able to have a definitive answer. Yet, without seeing consistency in quality and choice impact, it is hard to say. Telltale plays it safe but does so effectively.
We could dig deeper into the details of the episode, but we want to avoid unnecessary spoilers in order not to ruin someone’s day. This article could be what someone reads to help them decide whether or not they will pick this game up, therefore, we don’t want to cause any inconveniences for them. That being said, The Expanse is an enjoyable experience that is worth picking up if you love story-based games. Episode 2 releases on August 10th so make sure to look out for that! To purchase the game visit the Epic Games Store and place your order.