Some Thoughts on The Expanse A Telltale Series

I have to admit that I had mixed emotions when I installed The Expanse A Telltale Series.  On one hand, I was glad to see Telltale Games taking on a property like The Expanse.  That universe is ripe with material to create a great standalone story.  My conflict was the way that Telltale shuttered its previous operation, leaving most of its employees out in the cold with little to no warning.  It was a crashing fall for a fabled developer.  With all that in mind, I did want to give this new title a shot, so once the final episode dropped, I picked up the series and gave it a spin.

If you are not familiar with The Expanse, it is okay, as the game takes place before the start of the TV show, so you don’t have to be versed in six seasons of the television show.  I think this was a conscious choice to allow both fans of Telltale games, and fans of the show to be able to come in and enjoy the game.  If you do follow the show, you will have enough drops from the show to let you know that this game is cannon.

That show cannon goes so far as to let us play as Camina Drummer, a mainstay from the show.  Here, we see Drummer’s time before she ended up with Fred Johnson and all her other adventures.  She is the second in command on the Artemis, a ship run by a captain that always has a “one more score” scheme to finally get everyone rich.  You will also hear from other major characters in the show like Johnson and even Dawes.  So you always have a lot going on for you if you are a fan of the show.

As a Telltale game, The Expanse does try to break out of their standard formula of making decisions.  Yes, you are making decisions throughout the game, it also includes exploration sequences, side quests, and even some mild puzzle sequences.  I really did like these additions to the standard formula.  It gave me a lot more to do when I was going to derelict spaceships looking for my main objective.  Maybe I will find that laser crystal that we need for the medbay.  Or some seasonings for us to use on the food.  It doesn’t seem like much, but it keeps you searching the environments to find these things if you so choose.

The biggest change that comes about in The Expanse here, is the move to Unreal Engine.  The Telltale Tool is still used here, but it is fully integrated into Unreal Engine 5, and it shows.  This game looks a lot better, and feels a lot smoother than any previous Telltale title.  The new engine allows The Expanse to truly feel like the world it is based in.  It is dark, grimy and mechanical.  It projects the idea that these ships are built for function and not for comfort.  And when you end up in zero-G and the floor can become the ceiling, it moves smoothly.  In the past, the games from Telltale have always felt janky from a graphics standpoint, but here, it looks fantastic.

If you jump into The Expanse now, you at least have the benefit of playing through all the episodes now, but it should be noted that Telltale did decide to keep the episodic formula.  It is weird, because it did force you to buy all the episodes up front, and there was a lot of griping when people realized that the full game was not available at launch.  It should also be known that episodes of The Expanse can be on the short side, especially if you are not hunting for the side missions.  Most of the episodes clock in around an hour and a half max, if you are trying to explore every nook and cranny, but I could see someone blowing through an episode in 45 minutes and that can be disappointing.

All things said, I have to say that I really did enjoy playing through The Expanse, to the point that I have started a second play through to see some of the different choices you can make (yes, someone is getting spaced this time around).  It might run a bit short if you don’t want to do the side content, but it gives you a ton of backstory for Camina Drummer, and it is a great primer for The Expanse universe, allowing both new and returning fans to enjoy the game.