The Expanse: A Telltale Series Episode 2 - Hunting Grounds Review
Spoilers for the previous episode of The Expanse - A Telltale Series may be found ahead. If you don’t want to know what happens then come back when you’ve made your own way through it and see what we thought.
Episode one’s cliffhanger of an ending left newly minted Captain Drummer and the crew of the Artemis in a bit of a pickle. Depending on your major choice at the end of that episode you either have an ex-captain to talk to or he’s now an orbital body in the debris field of the UNN Urshinabi. Either way, you’re being chased by the same pirates that took out the Urshinabi and disposed of its crew. They are clearly well armed and skilled in combat so Drummer takes the smartest option open to her; turn and burn (run away).
The opening reminded me of the first episode of Battlestar Galactica, an episode titled “33.” After the Cylons attack the colonies and those who could, jumped away with the Galactica, the Cylons attack every 33 minutes pushing everyone in the fleet to breaking point. The discussion between pilot Kahn and Drummer alludes to the pirates doing something similar, only this time they’ve managed to catch up quicker than before and they need to hide. Drummer spots what might be a debris field. Khan disputes this as potentially radar scatter by Maya steps in adding that she’d heard of the area before and is sure that it was the location of a sizable battle.
Drummer knows she has no choice and to add a complication, the Artemis is running out of fuel. So with her hand forced, they make their escape and you take control of Drummer in the middle of the debris field. Much like the first episode, you’ve one main objective: namely finding the fuel you need as well as a couple of secondary objects again, which are to help you and your crew. If you found the crystal for the auto-doc in the last episode then an operation to Khan’s arm goes much more smoothly than if you leave it up to the doctor’s manual work. Similarly, finding the cigar amongst the wreckage allows you to get Khan to open up a touch and give you some of her backstory and why she knows more than most about run-ins with pirates.
Whilst I still can’t say for sure if any of my dialogue choices are affecting things, I do know that the salvage I’m finding is. I suspect that, as we approach the mid-point of the season we’ll see the stakes ramp up and some more, how my crew view me might affect how things go. I’ve been maintaining two saves at the moment with each having different choices at the main decision moments. Choosing to save a supply container over a crewmate's leg feels like it’s one of those moments where what looks to be a bad decision on the surface may actually be the best choice. I really am liking these dilemmas as they feel very true to the TV show and the source material it’s based on. Space and the belt is unforgiving and Captains who show mercy or weakness can often find themselves on the wrong side of an airlock.
The pacing and the action is also very close to some of the intense moments I remember watching on TV. Telltale have really nailed it here in my opinion as I genuinely feel like I’m playing out what could easily have passed as an episode on the show. There’s action, intrigue, tense moments and some solid character work. It’s no surprise to learn that the writer of the books, James S. A. Corey (a pen-name of two people: Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), was involved in the writing by consultation of the game. If these first two episodes are anything to go by I feel pretty confident that we’ll be in for quite the finale.
If I was to nit-pick one thing so far it has to be the movement. Whilst it’s not awful, there’s a section in this episode where you need to avoid some laser scanning drones. Touching one laser equates to an instant death and the reloading from the last checkpoint. Whilst the clunky movement didn’t really matter in the last episode, here it can lead to a little bit of frustration as you can get caught on the environment if you’re not careful and end up eating a few high-calibre rounds for breakfast.
Ultimately though this episode feels much more intriguing and fun to play than the first, especially if you explore every nook and cranny. There’s some interesting conversations to be had if you find the right things and a couple of salvage components, such as some drugs for a crewmate’s withdrawal, that I feel may be very important in the long run. This is, of course, all speculation but if I learned something from the show itself it’s that even the smallest of gestures can have a great impact over time. The crew of the Artemis aren’t out of trouble yet but I get the feeling some additional help is closer than they think.
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