With the release of episode one of Telltale’s new game, The Expanse, I wanted to share my thoughts once again on my experience, and add some new information as well. The episode is largely unchanged from the build that I previewed a few months back, but there are some new things I wanted to include after playing for a second time.
Deep within the Belt on the rim of the solar system, a scavenging crew is on the brink of mutiny. Following a botched job and a run in with pirates, the dangers of life on the frontier are pushed beyond the breaking point. Players follow the story of Camina Drummer, an Officer aboard the Artemis who is suddenly thrust into a position where her decisions will decide the fate of her crew. Set before the events of the television show, The Expanse: A Telltale Series is a prequel that explores the rise of Drummer and the human-colonized solar system.
When I was starting out, I was unsure if I was equipped to understand the narrative, seeing as I haven’t watched the show before. I’m happy to report though that even if you’ve never even heard of the show, you can still jump in. The game takes place before the events of the TV series, and introduces both new and returning characters, meaning that you’ll likely find a lot to gush over if you’ve seen the show, but it’s not going to make or break your experience. It’s clear that Telltale spent a lot of time ensuring that the feel of the show was brought into the game, with environments, lore, and even the characters’ language and slang taking direct inspiration from the show. Telltale is typically pretty decent at setting up cinematic experiences, and it’s clear this was a focus when building The Expanse as well.
If you’ve played a Telltale game in the past, you’ll be familiar with a lot of the gameplay. I spent much of my time exploring the environment and learning more about the narrative through interactables and conversations with my crewmates, and of course, making decisions that will impact the story. I only encountered two large choices during my playthrough, but they seemingly would have a large shift in the story depending on what I chose. I say seemingly because it’s hard to know the full scope of my decisions until later in the story, with both instances not having immediate consequences. The early episodes of games like this serve mainly as set-up pieces, so this is par for the course, but it was still a bit unsatisfying to not see any of my choices have much impact just yet. It’s hard to say if these choices will pan out in a meaningful way without seeing it through, but on first impression, I’m still interested to see how these choices might increase or decrease the chances of survival for my crew.
One of the more interesting gameplay mechanics involved the mag boots, a tool that can help you maneuver around space and depressurized areas. These special shoes can secure you to nearly any walkable surface, allowing you to walk up walls, or even the ceiling if you so choose. While a bit disorienting at first, I quickly learned how to traverse space like a pro. I was happy to find that this movement also translated just as easily on controller inputs, meaning I was never fighting the controls, even in Zero-g. This really helped sell the feeling of exploring an environment in space and introduced new ways to poke around for hidden items. Whenever I thought I had fully checked out an area, I remembered that I should try to detach from the floor to look further, which often revealed something that I may have missed otherwise.
Finding these items isn’t just to check a box on a collections page, as certain items can actually be given to various characters as a sort of side quest. For example, during my exploration I came across a cigar that could be given to a crewmate, which not only unlocked additional dialogue between them and Drummer, but has the possibility to affect future outcomes regarding that character as well. Another small side quest had me searching through a ruined space vessel for a new laser crystal for the med bay, which I’m hoping might save my bacon in later episodes. We will have to wait and see how much impact these small moments truly have, but it certainly has some intriguing potential.
Visually, it is clear that the team at Telltale has stepped it up from previous projects, especially in the motion capture. There is a lot of detail put into the feeling of being in Zero-G, and it is also reflected in the way that the player can move around and interact in the environment. With the game being set in space, there is so much more to maneuvering around than just walking, and I think they did a solid job at getting the feeling of floating in space right. Facial animations also feel as if they have had more care put into them feeling authentic, which is refreshing. These aren’t the most graphically intense models I’ve ever seen (sometimes crew members look a bit clay-like), but they feel stylistic in nature. Visuals also looked just as great on PS5 as they did on PC, with the game running buttery smooth throughout my sessions. Things just feel more fluid and polished than I’m used to from prior Telltale games, and I’m excited to see more of what they’ve cooked up given the great setting they’ve chosen.
It’s hard to tell how much of an impact my choices will ultimately have on the larger narrative from such a small slice, with the first episode being only around an hour and a half in length. However, I’m optimistic about future episodes, especially with them releasing every two weeks rather than waiting months in between like prior Telltale titles. With this being their first release since the company restructuring a few years prior, they certainly have a lot of expectations to live up to. While I would have liked to have a bit more meat to chew on, I understand the necessary set-up of an introductory chapter, even if it didn’t fully sate my hunger. The characters and setting of The Expanse has me curious to see the story of XO Drummer unfold before me, and the stepped up gameplay mechanics and graphics have me hoping that Telltale is able to not only capture but expand upon what made their past entries fun to play.
Corvo is a writer who loves to explore journalism through video games. Writing and editing reviews for triple-A games and indies alike, he finds his passion within expressing his experiences in a fair and accurate manner. Some of Corvo's favorite games are Destiny 2, Mass Effect, and Disco Elysium.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series
While Camina Drummer may not have been the captain of the ship at the start of the mission, she absolutely takes the reins by the end. Telltale has stepped it up in terms of both visual quality and game play, with a solid yet short intro to their take on a gripping sci-fi narrative. The true depth of which however remains to be truly tested going into further episodes as the narrative progresses.