The Expanse: A Telltale Series marks the return of Telltale Games after the studio’s shutdown and resurrection, and the episodic choice-based video game – developed by Deck Nine and published by Telltale Games – offers a fun adventure with emotion and several hard choices to make.
Serving as a prequel to Amazon’s The Expanse television show, the five-episode game is set in 2347 – a few years before the start of the show – and follows Camina Drummer as she and the crew of the Artemis head to the abandoned UNN Urshanabi ship for what could be the scavenge of a lifetime. Unfortunately, things quickly go awry, and decisions must be made that determine the fate of the Artemis and its crew.
A Sci-fi Mystery
At the centre of the game’s story is a mystery surrounding the demise of an early colony in the Belt. The mystery is a slow unravelling, but it was one of the highlights of the game for me. I loved the dread that exuded from the game as I explored the colony and discovered what happened to the thousands of colonists, and how it ties into the Artemis’ search for the important scavenge.
The game’s episodic nature makes it perfect to either binge in its entirety – each episode averages out at around an hour long, depending on how much you explore – or can be enjoyed over several days. I completed a few episodes a day, as each chapter’s cliffhanger left me wanting to find out what happened next and how my decisions as Camina propelled the story forward.
The story was great, although I do feel that it peaked around the middle while exploring the abandoned colony, and had a somewhat slow start but by the end of the first episode, the story had kicked off and I was all in. The twists and turns of the story were elevated by the superb acting from Cara Gee as Camina, Jihad Milham and Omid Dastan Harrison as twins Arlen and Rayen Morozov, as well as Isabel Chavez as the loveable Maya Castillo.
Walking, Running, And Zero-G Floating
To push through the game’s story, you take control of Camina Drummer and are tasked with exploring the inside of the Artemis, the UNN Urshanbi, the abandoned colony, and more. When directly controlling Camina, you’re mostly limited to walking or running, scanning objects to collect scavenge and resources, and interacting with various aspects of your environment.
What’s unique to The Expanse: A Telltale Series is the Zero-G gameplay, where you can freely launch Camina into Zero-G gravity and float through space – handy for flying between pieces of ship wreckage or through ships. Although fun to use, I did find it sometimes clunky when I was trying to position myself a certain way, but it was a nice break from the usual gameplay nonetheless.
Camina is also equipped with Magboots, which can be used for walking up walls and along the ceiling, with the game treating you to a fun and head-spinning vertigo effect when you do so. Like the Zero-G gameplay, this helps mix up gameplay a little, encourages exploration of all parts of the game’s ships and environments, and is used in several puzzles in conjunction with Zero-G.
At a few select points in the game, you’re tasked with evading murder drone lasers by scaling walls or floating through space, and at other times the game tasks you with searching your surroundings for items or following and correctly powering up machines by connecting the correct junctions found on walls and ceilings. You’ll spend more of your time exploring on foot, but the short puzzles offer a great little break between the ordinary gameplay, and some were a lot more difficult than first thought.
Accompanying the choice-based gameplay are quick-time events (QTEs), which flash up onscreen and require you to press certain buttons or push your controller’s analogue sticks in specified directions. The QTEs generally occurred in urgent situations, such as Camina climbing a ladder while dodging falling debris or in combat, requiring you to hit the PlayStation 5’s DualSense triggers to lock on and shoot targets.
I never missed the QTEs as they offer plenty of time to follow the prompts, even if you mistakenly hit the wrong button or trigger as I did a few times. If you do happen to fail the QTEs, there are repercussions, including death, although this is usually followed by the ability to reload checkpoints so the story can continue.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series also comes with a few side missions you can complete, which generally involve you finding special collectables while exploring the game’s various locations. These collectables are tied towards Camina’s relationships with the Artemis crew, and can impact your decisions throughout the game. The collectables aren’t easy to find, and they require a lot of exploration, so take your time.
Anyone familiar with Telltale Games knows that choice-based gameplay is the main focus, and The Expanse: A Telltale Series embraces that. While playing, you’ll need to make several choices as Camina – big and small – that impact the direction and end of the story.
There are startling large choices you can make that change the game’s trajectory instantly, and there are several smaller choices you can make that silently transform the game’s ending, with some depending on Camina’s relationship with certain crew members. There’s a lot of weight to the game’s choices, and while a few dialogue options are timed, the major decisions aren’t, so you’re given plenty of time to mull your choices over.
The decisions you make through your playthrough can lead to several different endings, so there’s plenty of replayability here despite the short five-plus hour runtime. I unlocked a somewhat bittersweet ending on my first playthrough, and if you’re like me, you’ll want to replay episodes to make alternative choices, whether that was to kill someone I had previously saved, save someone I had accidentally killed, or just be a little more petty or nicer to Artemis crew members than in my original run.
A Worthy Buy?
As someone who’s never watched The Expanse – I’ve only caught parts of the show as my partner watched it religiously – and someone who’s never played a Telltale game before, I loved my time with The Expanse: A Telltale Series, and it’s now made me binge the show and browse the PlayStation Store for other Telltale games.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series benefits from an exciting narrative with plenty of twists and turns, stellar performances from the game’s cast, and, for me, features some of the most impactful decision-making I’ve experienced from games like this. The game’s a must-play for fans of the television show, previous Telltale Games, and sci-fi enthusiasts, serving as a great entryway into the TV show.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series (2023) Final Thoughts
The Expanse: A Telltale Series is a must-play for fans of The Expanse television show and choice-based video games that is bustling with an exciting narrative, a large mystery to unfold, enjoyable puzzles, stellar performances, and some of the most impactful decision-making in video games.
Review copy provided by Bastion for PS5.
The Expanse: A Telltale Series is out now for PC and all Xbox and PlayStation consoles.