Reader, I cried. I thought I did everything right only to discover that I severely miscalculated. The Expanse: A Telltale Series returned last week with Episode 3: First Ones. Telltale makes the stakes more apparent and more personal.
Episode 3 is a wonderful pivot point for the Telltale series as it transitions players from the setup of the first two episodes to what promises to be a dramatic and dangerous third act. Episode 3 never fills like filler; however, I wouldn’t have complained about a little more time.
Creepy Vibes on a Deserted Space Station
Episode 3 picks up where the second episode’s cliffhanger left Camina Drummer (the Belter protagonist), Maya Castillo (the former Martian Marine), and Khan Tran (the Artemis’s Pilot). The Artemis has pursued found coordinates from the first episode, and they’re about to explore.
The episode follows the familiar pattern established by the last two episodes. Players will spend much of their time investigating the Cassiopeia Collective, which is another mostly empty space station. Players who wish to find everything will find some corners that reveal interesting lore tidbits and scavenge items.
The Cassiopeia Collective is creepier than anything from the preceding episodes. Gone are the captivating vistas of destroyed ships against the distant lights of stars. The soundtrack differs and leans on silence in ways that build anticipation. Drummer, accompanied by Maya alone, navigates the linear corridors of the space station to uncover what happened to those in the collective. This approach leads to a quieter, unnerving experience as there is less back-and-forth interaction with the entire crew and the ever-lingering question of what exactly happened to the people on the space station.
The Telltale Fulcrum
During the second half of the episode, Telltale pulls the curtain back on just how much their game sets into motion certain elements of the television series. These reveals not only position the story as a precursor in the larger Expanse arc but provide some real emotional depth for the crew of the Artemis.
Episode 3’s climax pivots the story in ways that should be expected from Telltale. Over a decade ago, episode 3 of their Walking Dead series (season 1) set up similar stakes that were felt well into future seasons of the game. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I won’t give details, but I’ll say that viewers of the Expanse show will find some foreshadowing here.
While I am sure that there will be payoffs in Episodes 4 and 5 of the game, I am also hopeful that Telltale (or author James S.A. Corey) will give the more personal and emotional moments in this prequel series consequences beyond a single interactive season.
The Release Schedule of The Expanse: A Telltale Series
I impatiently wait for the fourth episode coming out September 7th; the fifth and final episode releases on September 21st. I know I should be grateful for the more consistent bi-weekly release schedule. Looking back at release dates, Telltale released the first season of The Walking Dead between a month and three months apart in 2012.
However, those episodes were a bit longer (2–3 hours each) than The Expanse’s current three (60–90 minutes). Episode 3 has been the briefest so far—I did everything (100% collectibles) in 60 minutes. This brevity teases the player with a captivating story. I left this episode wanting more time with its climax, and needing to hear Drummer and Maya discuss the ramifications of what they have found.
I don’t think binging The Expanse would allow its climaxes and cliffhangers to have the same effect, so I do like that it wasn’t all dropped at once. However, 2 weeks between releases feels too long for game episodes around the same length of serial content that I consume elsewhere week to week. While I plan to replay the entire season at least once for reasons I’m not emotionally ready to talk about, even then I do not intend to do it all in one go.
Episode 3 never fills like filler; however, I wouldn’t have complained about a little more time.
Episode 3 continues Telltale’s comeback story. There were moments that gave me goosebumps, and reveals that make this a worthwhile play for every fan of the television show.
As The Expanse: A Telltale Series continues, I find each episode’s brevity to be a bit frustrating. Lastly, as the game further intertwines itself with the events of the show, I find it a little more difficult to recommend it to newcomers, so proceed with caution.