Telltale's The Expanse Episode One preview - Telltale is back

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the belt in the expanse

Telltale is back! The Expanse is its first game since the release of the final season of The Walking Dead in 2019, and the original studio closed.

Those four years haven’t seen Telltale revolutionise the format, though. Playing The Expanse will feel pretty familiar. Five episodes released at regular intervals, cliffhanger endings, choice focused gameplay, and “X will remember that” popping up throughout conversations.

If you weren’t burned out by the barrage of releases between 2012 and 2019, it’s nice to see the format return, I just hope the appeal doesn’t dissipate by the time episode five arrives.

Why The Expanse?

I do think choosing The Expanse for the comeback game is an odd choice for Telltale and Deck Nine. The extremely deep lore, group of hardcore fans, and history of character-led stories are positives, but it’s not exactly a series with mass appeal.

The book series is niche and long running, but the TV show has been cancelled twice, last airing almost 18 months ago. It’s not exactly a show at the front of everyone’s mind, nor do I think there’s any chance of it returning once more.

That means I find it tough to see anyone but hardcore Expanse fans being really excited about this prequel story.

drummer in the expanse
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Emerson Oaks, Art Director on the game, told me that they’re “targeting a much larger audience of people, fans of narrative adventure games, and Telltale Games,” but that’s a lot easier when the IP you’re working with is Batman, The Walking Dead, or Game of Thrones. The Expanse doesn’t have that same recognition and wider passing interest, so it’ll be interesting to see how Telltale markets episode one ahead of release.

I watched most of season one of The Expanse to prepare for the preview, but I’m far from a The Expanse expert. I don’t know Drummer, who the game’s story is based on, acting as a prequel to the TV show, and the lore intricacies still fly over my head a lot of the time.

A good first episode

I enjoyed the game itself. Episode one is a lot shorter than I expected, at barely longer than an hour, but the writing is sharp and the developing characters are interesting to spend time with.

Both The Artemis (Drummer’s crew’s ship) and the areas of The Belt you explore look phenomenal. Visuals maintain the signature Telltale style, but they’re cleaner and significantly more detailed, making exploration more engaging and conversations more immersive.

As someone who is relatively unfamiliar with The Expanse’s world, I appreciated that Deck Nine ensured the choices focus on personality decisions instead of those that affect the wider Belt. You choose how to interact with troublesome crewmates, whether to sacrifice loot for the wellbeing of a friend, or make an example of someone or not.

As you’d expect from Telltale, the choices are intense and clearly have a massive impact on how your story will play out. We were informed that all but one character can either live or die across the course of season one, so there are loads of chances to make the story your own.

The main original gameplay feature is the ability to move in Zero G in certain areas. The Expanse seems to be more exploration focused than other Telltale games, with a larger area to move around and more secrets to find normal. There aren’t classic adventure game style single shot areas to look around for clues, like in the early Walking Dead seasons, instead giving you large sections of ships to explore.

The Belt in the expanse
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The actual act of moving around in zero G takes some getting used to, as it’s pretty floaty, but it feels good. Landing, walking around obstacles, and boosting past debris all feel quite natural.

So I’m interested to see how it’s utilised as part of the story in later episodes, as in episode one it’s just a means of traversal.

Thrown in at the deep end

Once again, though, I’m concerned that episode one will alienate anyone other than The Expanse devotees. You’re thrown right into the story from the get go. No explanation about the world itself, nor what Drummer and her crew are doing.


Unspoken languages, roles on the Artemis, place names, and more are thrown at you without context, leaving newbies to muddle their way through, trying to understand everything.

The Expanse experts who were also attending the preview insisted that, bar a few inconsistencies in things like ship classification, the lore was mostly spot on, but to me it did feel somewhat like diving into the middle of a story.

I’m sure that balance would have been tough to hit. You don’t want to bore Expanse fans, who are probably your primary audience, with explanations of what the Belt is and who Drummer is, but nor do you want newcomers to feel alienated. I don’t feel like that balance is quite right in episode one.

It’s well acted, gorgeous, and features some interesting choices, so I want to see where the story goes. Time will tell whether it reaches an audience wider than just The Expanse devotees.

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