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19 Aug 2023

REVIEW: The Expanse: A Telltale Series on Playstation

Review by Jon Donnis
The Expanse: A Telltale Series takes players on an engaging narrative journey through the uncharted territories of space, and while it offers a compelling experience, a few aspects prevent it from reaching the highest ranks of interactive storytelling.

Deck Nine Games, renowned for its work on the Life is Strange franchise, brings its expertise to the fore in The Expanse. The game thrives on the tried-and-true Telltale formula of decision-making, but with a novel twist: it places paramount importance on relationship-building and exploration. As a single-player game, it hands the reins of destiny over to the player, creating a personalized experience.

The game shines the brightest in its moments aboard the Artemis, where conversations serve as the linchpin for significant narrative progress. What sets The Expanse apart, however, is its sandbox-style salvaging segments. These segments elevate decision-making beyond binary life-or-death choices, allowing players to truly shape the story through their actions. This is where Telltale's promise of consequential decisions finds its truest expression, and it's a welcome evolution in the studio's approach.

The Expanse stands as a prequel to the beloved book and television series, with a spotlight on fan-favorite character Camina Drummer, portrayed by Cara Gee. The game weaves an original story, delving into Drummer's background and personality. This addition to the Expanse universe offers a fresh perspective and enhances the lore for both newcomers and longtime fans.

The game's mechanics aren't spoon-fed to players; instead, they're discovered through hands-on exploration. The opening chapter lets players navigate and scavenge with relative freedom, encouraging immersion. The Expanse leverages every exploration decision to impact future episodes, making it an intricate web of choices that can affect crew members' fates.

However, the game isn't without its shortcomings. The lack of initial guidance might alienate some players, as they grapple with unfamiliar mechanics. Some optional items scattered throughout the wreckage feel inconsequential, bordering on superfluous. Additionally, the depth of the conversational segments might feel unbalanced based on players' approach to alone time, leading to occasional uneven pacing.

The narrative's strength lies in the role of Camina Drummer. The Expanse introduces players to her struggles, the dynamics of her crew, and the weight of her decisions. Cara Gee's reprisal of her television role adds authenticity to Drummer's character, and players will find themselves invested in her journey.

In the realm of gameplay, the zero-gravity exploration and the interactivity within space environments are commendable achievements. Walking on walls and ceilings with mag boots and navigating Zero-G thrusters add a layer of immersion that sets The Expanse apart.

The Expanse: A Telltale Series succeeds in delivering a captivating spacefaring experience with an emphasis on relationships and exploration. The evolution of Telltale's approach to decision-making is evident, though some minor issues prevent it from attaining perfection. Nevertheless, for fans of The Expanse universe and those who enjoy intricate narratives, this game offers an engaging adventure that is well worth the journey.

The Good
Captivating exploration mechanics and interactivity in space environments.
Relationship-building and sandbox-style decision-making shine.
Camina Drummer's character is well-developed and portrayed.
Expands the Expanse universe with an original prequel story.

The Bad
Initial lack of guidance may be off-putting for some players.
Some optional items feel inconsequential.
Conversational depth can be uneven based on player choices.

I score The Expanse: A Telltale Series on PlayStation a fair 7.5/10

A spacefaring adventure that hits many high notes, delivering on Telltale's promise of consequential decisions while exploring the beloved Expanse universe from a fresh perspective. A few minor issues hold it back from reaching the pinnacle of its genre, but it's a journey well worth embarking upon.

Episode 1: Archer's Paradox (Available July 27, 2023)
Episode 2: Hunting Grounds (Available August 10, 2023)
Episode 3: First Ones (Available August 24, 2023)
Episode 4: Impossible Objects (Available September 7, 2023)
Episode 5: Europa's Folly (Available September 21, 2023)

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