During the period between Telltale Games’ closure and rebirth under LCG Entertainment, we’ve seen a few games try to copy its signature style of adventure game with no real success (like the mediocre Tales from the Borderlands sequel). Thankfully, with help from Life Is Strange: True Colors developer Deck Nine, Telltale is back with its first episodic adventure game since 2019’s The Walking Dead: The Final Season in the form of The Expanse: A Telltale Series. It serves as a prequel to the hit Syfy and Prime Video television series and is a strong start to a new era for the studio.
What’s most noticeable about The Expanse: A Telltale Series Episode 1 is how immediately it feels like a proper Telltale Games product. You’re quickly into the thick of things playing as Carmina Drummer (once again voiced by Cara Gee), making dialogue choices, and getting to know your crew mates on a scavenger ship. What’s nice is that Deck Nine doesn’t fall into the trap that many later Telltale Games titles did, which was to feel like they played themselves. You actually have to move Carmina around from area to area in order to move the plot forward, and that gives you a proper chance to feel like you’re inside the world and can explore at your own leisure, which is surely a thrill for fans of the sci-fi series.
Being in space, this makes exploration all the more interesting both inside and outside the ship’s walls. You’re able to take advantage of the lack of gravity and actually walk up walls, which is where a lot of well-hidden salvage has been placed. The first episode has the player looting a ship that was previously attacked by pirates, and the real highlight is the sense of exploration. Each room is filled with transmissions, data logs, and items to be found. Like an old-school adventure game, you will get more out of the experience the more thorough you are with looking around. You can also use thrusters to fly around the different parts of the ship, which is a refreshing sense of mobility.
Being that The Expanse: A Telltale Series is the studio’s first proper foray back, it’s only fitting that you get to experience all of the developer’s hallmarks. Big decisions, complete with reminders that your relationship has changed with a character? Of course. Quick-time events to determine whether you get through a few action scenes unharmed? You got it. Well-written verbal exchanges and compelling characters? It’s all here. It was really easy to be skeptical about the Telltale branding being back, but The Expanse definitely earns it. If you don’t follow gaming news, you would never have guessed that so much drama had occurred since the studio’s heyday of putting out 3-4 games a year.
The first episode, titled “Archer’s Paradox,” is a bit slow to start, but it makes sense as an introduction. There’s not much action here until near the end of the episode, but the sense of danger and dread you get from exploring the attacked ship mostly makes up for it. While I wish there was more in terms of substantial choices to make (there are only really two of any significance), it will likely ramp up as episodes are released every two weeks.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series Episode 1 is a strong start for the series and this iteration of Telltale Games. Fans of the show will enjoy getting to learn more about Drummer’s backstory, and Cara Gee delivers a strong performance that meets expectations. The following episodes will determine if the story is able to pay off on its promising start, but the production quality and polish are clearly an improvement from Telltale’s past titles.
Disclaimer: Our The Expanse: A Telltale Serie Episode 1 review is based on a PS5 copy provided by the publisher. Reviewed on version 1.000.001.