The Expanse - A Telltale Series

Posted:  Aug 01, 2023
SDHQ BUILD SCORE: 
Epic Exclusive

Review

The Expanse: A Telltale Series was provided by Telltale for review. Thank you!

Due to this game having an episodic release, we will update the review as new episodes come out and re-check how performance is.

Telltale Games is back and it's wonderful. I have always been a huge fan of deep story-driven experiences and Telltale are the masters at that. And thankfully, I am so happy to say that with The Expanse -
A Telltale Series
, they are back and better than ever.

Just like past Telltale games, The Expanse is closer to a interactive movie rather than a video game. You do have some parts where you can control your character and move around, allowing you to choose different parts of the world to interact with and expand the story past the defined narrative. You will have some quick-time events where you have to push a button or move the joystick within a certain amount of time and, of course, moments within the game's cutscenes where you have to make a decision that will reverberate throughout the rest of the episodes.

TheExpanse6

In The Expanse, all of this is here and really fantastic. As Camina Drummer, you are the captain of The Artemis where you, with your crew, will explore, scavenge, and survive the dangers of uncharted space beyond The Belt. The game is a prequel to the TV series, so you won't be missing a ton if you haven't seen the show, and it is fantastic. Without spoiling the story, which is the biggest aspect of this game, I will say the first episode sets up the story really well. It does a great job starting to show the characters and what you can expect from the rest of the episodes.

The first episode is very short, which I was surprised by, but I think it did a great job setting up the core of the story. Paired with the great-looking visuals and world building, The Expanse is shaping up to be exactly what Telltale needed to come back to. When buying this game though, don't go in looking for a 5-6 hour experience right away, this will be an investment for the other episodes, which come out every 2 weeks. This looks like it will be a worthwhile investment though, both with the game and on the Steam Deck.

Getting The Expanse Running

The Expanse is not currently on Steam, it is an Epic Store exclusive. This won't last forever though, the game will come to Steam, but you can play it right now regardless! It will require installing a new launcher, which is where I recommend the open-source Heroic Games Launcher, and there will be an error that needs to be fixed. Don't worry though, I wrote a guide to both of these and how to just get the game up and running!

The Expanse - Steam Deck Performance

To preserve as much of the story as possible, I will be limiting my screenshots and blurring out some text. I want to avoid any spoilers, even smaller ones.

Since The Expanse is an Epic Exclusive, I was worried it would suffer from some performance issues or stuttering due to the missing shared shader cache, but I am happy to say that the game is very well optimized in most areas. Most of the time when you are running around, you will sit between 11W - 14W battery drain across all builds, while most cutscenes will sit around 13W - 17W. There are a couple of scenes or spots you can look at that will crank battery drain up, but these are far and few. The worst one is a spot where Camina turns on a mirror and performance will tank, though it will go right back up after the mirror is turned off.

TheExpanseMirror

Overall, I am impressed by the game so far and think this is very playable on the Deck regardless! I was shocked that The Expanse can hit 60 FPS on Steam Deck with some tweaking, but in the majority of areas, the drain will sit around 13W - 18W. There are many ways to enjoy the game on-the-go, so here are the ways I would recommend:

Recommended Build

For our recommended build, I went for a mix between good quality settings and a decent framerate. For this, I set everything except Shadows and Effects quality to High, while keeping those two at medium. I was able to push a 45 FPS lock with these settings and the game looks fantastic.

I decided to keep the game's resolution down to 1152x720 to stabilize the framerate and use SteamOS's FSR at Sharpness 0 to upscale. The game honestly looks almost the same as native, maybe just slightly sharper. I personally like how this looks though as it helps the dark world stand out a bit more.

Compare
1280x800 (Native)
1152x720 (with FSR)
\
1152x720 (with FSR)
1280x800 (Native)

With all of that, the 45 FPS is able to stick through most of those hard scenes, with the exception of the mirror part and two others. Otherwise, I can guarantee you will have a great experience with this build!

Quality Build

Next, I wanted to see how far I could push the device with its quality settings, which I was actually able to do quite well. With resolution at 1280x800 and everything on Cinematic (highest setting) except for Effects at High and Shadows at Medium, we can get a solid 40 FPS with no drops other than the harder scenes mentioned above. The majority of the game will be between 13W - 19W, but there will be some areas where it pushes to 21W - 22W, but these are not often.

There might be some minor dips in framerate during 1-2 cutscenes, but if I didn't have the overlay on, I wouldn't have noticed. The game looks phenomenal and it is great being able to push it like this.

60 FPS Build

Finally, we get to the 60 FPS build. Personally, I am still pretty amazed that the game can hold 60 FPS at all, but here we are! There will be a bit heavier drops during the harder scenes, but 95% of the game will stick to 60 and those include the most important parts of the game. The drain is a bit higher than the other builds with an average between 14W - 20W, but it will be smooth as butter.

While the in-game resolution says it is using 1280x800 and 1152x720 resolutions, which are 16:10, the game does have those black bars, so it doesn't actually support those resolutions. Luckily, the game has full controller support. Since the game is using Epic, there are no cloud saves here either.

Conclusion

The Expanse is Telltale Game's first release since its return and they showed that they still got it. The first episode, while short, got me into the characters and made me start wishing episode 2 was released. The world is looking great, the voice-acting is well done, and I am hooked on the story. I am constantly thinking about what could be coming next and how the choices I made could impact the story. And I know I will be able to enjoy it on the Steam Deck, even without it being on Steam.

If you miss Telltale or want an engrossing story, do not miss this one. It will start off short, but in the coming weeks, there will be so much more to get excited about, I am sure of it!

Our review is based on the PC version of this game.

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SDHQ's Build Score Breakdown

The Expanse is Telltale Game's return back to form and it is great to see it, especially on the Steam Deck!

Performance: 
VISUALS: 
Stability: 
Controls: 
Battery: 
Noah Kupetsky
A lover of gaming since 4, Noah has grown up with a love and passion for the industry. From there, he started to travel a lot and develop a joy for handheld and PC gaming. When the Steam Deck released, it just all clicked.
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Community Rating

Let us know what level of playability you consider The Expanse - A Telltale Series to be. Help our community determine the viability of playing this game on Steam Deck!
Steam Deck Compatibility
Current Price: 
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Proton DB Rating
Unknown

Should SDHQ re-evaluate this game review?

Other Builds
Quality Build
SteamOS

Limit

40

Refresh Rate

40

HRS

NO

TDP Limit

No

Scaling Filter

Linear

GPU Clock

Disabled

Proton Version

No Forced Compatibility

Game Settings

Screen Resolution: 1280x800

Window Mode: Fullscreen

Vertical Synchronization: Yes

View Distance: Cinematic

Anti-Aliasing: Cinematic

Effects Quality: High

Shadow Quality: Medium

Texture Quality: Cinematic

Post Process Quality: Cinematic

Projected Battery Usage and Temperature

13W - 22W

70c - 80c

2 - 2.5 hours

60 FPS Build
SteamOS

Limit

60

Refresh Rate

60

HRS

NO

TDP Limit

No

Scaling Filter

FSR Sharpness 0

GPU Clock

Disabled

Proton Version

No Forced Compatibility

Game Settings

Screen Resolution: 1152x720

Window Mode: Fullscreen

Vertical Synchronization: Yes

View Distance: Low

Anti-Aliasing: Low

Effects Quality: Low

Shadow Quality: Low

Texture Quality: Medium

Post Process Quality: Low

Projected Battery Usage and Temperature

13W - 24W

70c - 80c

2 - 2.5 hours

related Settings

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