The Expanse: A Telltale Series Episode 2 review - Upward trajectory
The first episode of The Expanse: A Telltale Series had me hooked to see where the next episodes would go, but a short runtime and some odd design choices also had me a little concerned about the overall direction of the game.
While the second episode doesn't fix any of the gameplay problems I highlighted in my Episode 1 review, Episode 2 puts the series on an upward trajectory with more even pacing and by exploring the interpersonal relationships of the crew to maximise the kind of character drama that's key to a successful narrative game.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series Episode 2 is a step-up from its predecessor as the series begins to settle in and takes advantage of interpersonal drama to really elevate the choices. It does suffer from some of the same issues as Episode 1 and doesn't quite land an attempt to try something new with its gameplay, but it highlights what makes Telltale unique, and why I'm glad they are back.
Episode 2 of The Expanse: A Telltale Series is where the game really starts to play to the strengths of the Telltale formula and narrative focus the studio is known for, slowing things down and letting you interact with your crew more to form the type of emotional bonds that make the stakes of your choices truly high.
It kicks off a few weeks after Episode 1, with Drummer and the crew on the receiving end of a cat-and-mouse game that sees pirates chasing them through the void of space. It's a high-energy start that is immediately engaging, but it lacks any real choices that would be perfect in such a tense moment, opting for an on-rails route that takes you to a ship graveyard before settling down for most of the episode.
This seems like a result of one of my major criticisms of Episode 1: the significantly reduced choices in both dialogue and during choice set pieces. It's played like a moment of life or death for the whole crew, but you're given no freedom within those confines to respond your own way.
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Return to form
As you would expect, the gameplay here is essentially the same as in Episode 1 - flaws and all. While The Expanse Episode 2 predictably doesn't fix many of these problems, it does offer up more varied slices of gameplay, essentially splitting the episode into three sections.
The first part involves the type of Zero G exploration from the first episode, with the same optional objectives that created more organic decisions. The second major section fell a little flat, as it saw Drummer forced to stealth her way past the pirates, but without the engaging stealth mechanics that make that kind of gameplay fun to begin with.
Luckily, it ends on a high, finally giving you a chance to interact with your crew at length as you explore the ship and build your relationships with them. Much is this was once again optional, but the chance to really engage with these characters and learn what makes them tick is core to an experience that's built on character relationships.
A personal high point from the episode just saw Drummer standing there listening to music with one of her crew. It was a mostly non-verbal scene, punctuated by the occasional glance and tilt of the head that slowly built romantic tension between the characters, but it said more than a thousand words could, eventually leading up to one of the most interesting ethical dilemmas of the episode. Some juvenile writing qualms aside, it's the type of stuff Telltale does best, and it had me fully bought into a character dynamic I'm curious to continue exploring in future episodes.
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The Expanse: A Telltale Series Episode 2 is a step up from its predecessor as the series begins to settle in and takes advantage of interpersonal drama to really elevate the choices. It does suffer from some of the same issues as Episode 1 and doesn't quite land an attempt to try something new with its gameplay, but it highlights what makes Telltale unique, and why I'm glad it's back.
Reviewed on PC. Code provided by the publisher.