The Expanse: A Telltale Series Episode 1 – Archer’s Paradox Review (Xbox Series X) – A triumphant return

When Telltale imploded I was devastated. I am a huge fan of its entire back catalogue and its death knell seemed to signal the end of adventure games, for the second time. However, like a phoenix rising from the ashes, Telltale is back and we’re finally getting the chance to play its first new release since 2018.

Sure, the company is a little different in its new form, but that’s to be expected. The good news is The Expanse (or at least the first episode thereof) is classic Telltale. Everything you may have loved about those older games is back and better than ever but, most importantly, The Expanse has moved beyond the rigid formula set by The Walking Dead over a decade ago.

It’s built upon the same skeleton but The Expanse feels fresh and different. It feels like a developer revitalised and striving to prove just what it can do. And what it can do is excellent.

The Expanse: A Telltale Series Episode 1 – Archer’s Paradox

Having only watched one episode of The Expanse, I was concerned that I’d struggle to follow or keep up with the Telltale game. Those fears were unfounded. Set before the events of the show (and canonically set within the universe of the show and not the novels) The Expanse’s first episode does a flawless job of setting the stage, building the world and letting you know just where and when you are. Even with characters speaking Belter Creole and referencing people and places I had no knowledge of, so rock solid is The Expanse’s world-building that I wasn’t lost, not even for a second.

I immediately knew who these people were, where they were, why there were there and what the stakes were. It’s not an easy thing to do when introducing lore virgins but Telltale (and Deck Nine) have done an exemplary job.

Taking control of Camina Drummer (played by Cara Gee from the series) we find ourselves aboard the Artemis, helmed by Captain Cox and crewed by a ragtag group of scavengers. Cox and Drummer’s relationship seems clearly defined but somewhat mysterious due to his freeing her from Ceres. The episode begins dramatically with Drummer and the twins, Arlen and Rayen, dragging Cox into the airlock, Drummer’s hand hovering precariously over the button…then we cut to eight hours earlier.

I’m on Morty’s side when it comes to fakie flashbacks and fakeouts, but it works in the confines of a video game because we’re not quite sure exactly what we’re leading up to, despite knowing we’re going to have a choice to make. After the flashback, the episode moves along at quite a clip as Cox lays out his plan for the ultimate scavenge job, one that will set them up for life.

During these opening scenes, Drummer is introduced to each of the crew members in turn and there’s almost not a single conversation that goes by without a warning that “[Character] will remember that”. It’s classic Telltale stuff but every time it popped up I was equal parts thrilled and horrified. What have I just set in motion?

The writing and acting really need to be praised in this first episode as it does most of the heavy lifting in terms of setting the scene and introducing this world. The way the crew speak to one another is incredibly naturalistic and fun without winking to the audience. There are moments of levity in equal measure with deadly serious discussions and even moments of the mundane. The Artemis is a living breathing place and within The Expanse it feels like one.

Once you reach the episode’s middle section, everything opens up. For the first time in Telltale’s history, you have a huge open area to explore at your leisure. Not only that, but since you’re in space you can move in three dimensions, zip around between broken bits of the ship, scavenge and generally explore freely. It’s not anything entirely new, but coupled with the Telltale adventure game experience, it feels very much like something new. Sadly, the only issue I had with it is that there’s no warning when you’re about to reach the point of no return and so I didn’t complete my side-mission before continuing with the episode.

The final part of the episode deals with the events directly leading up to Cox being in the airlock and what immediately follows. I won’t give anything away here, but the final minutes of this episode set up the rest of the season with a big fat cliffhanger landing right before the credits roll. This first episode is a perfectly paced reintroduction to Telltale’s games and a brilliant way to get players invested in the world of The Expanse and Drummer.

I did experience some odd freezing and hitches on Xbox Series X while playing. It didn’t ruin the experience but a few times I thought the game had completely frozen before the action kicked in again. The visuals are also not going to blow minds. They’re nice and clean and do a good job of referencing both the show and Telltale’s signature style but they’re a bit simple and a bit bland in places. That being said when you’re free-exploring in space and have Io in the background, it’s pretty awe-inspiring.

Overall, The Expanse: A Telltale Series Episode 1 – Archer’s Paradox is a triumphant return for Telltale Games and an exceptional first episode for this new series. I cannot wait to find out what happens to Drummer and the crew of the Artemis and am so happy that Telltale is back.

The Expanse: A Telltale Series was reviewed on Xbox Series X using a digital code purchased by the reviewer.

The Expanse: A Telltale Series Episode 1 - Archer's Paradox
Reader Rating0 Votes
Exceptional world building
Tense, moody and rich with detail
Voice acting and mo-cap
Some freezes and stuttering on Xbox Series X
No warning of the point of no return
Leo Stevenson
Leo Stevenson
I've been playing games for the past 27 years and have been writing for almost as long. Combining two passions in the way I'm able is a true privilege. PowerUp! is a labour of love and one I am so excited to share.

━ more like this

Safe in Our World – Interview with Mental Health in Gaming Charity Director Sarah Sorrell

As fun and exciting as working in the creative tech industry of video games can be, it isn’t always flowers and sunshine. An online...

Fate/Samurai Remnant Review (PS5) – I Like Anime Now 

I’m going to say this up front, I am not really an anime or manga person. I’ve really liked a lot of what I’ve...

Saw X and Xbox team up to celebrate the film’s release and Saw comes to Roblox

In celebration of Saw X and Jigsaw's return to the big screen, Xbox, Lionsgate and Twisted Pictures have teamed up to let fans experience...

The Boys welcomes Gen V to the family

To celebrate the upcoming launch of Gen V, spinoff from The Boys, the cast of the latter has released a message, welcoming the new...

Gen V Review (TV) – Back to School

While the wait for Season 4 of The Boys grows longer and more excruciating with each passing week, Prime Video is about to provide...