The Expanse: A Telltale Series preview — Trust your gut before your head gets in the way

Screenshot from The Expanse: A Telltale Series video game.
Here we see a younger Camina Drummer. (Image credit: Deck Nine)

Of all the characters in The Expanse, Camina Drummer is the one who’s remained the most mysterious. While other protagonists have been given backstories – or at least glimpses into their past – Drummer’s background has largely been a big question mark. Until now. Enter The Expanse: A Telltale Series.

It might be 18 months since one of the best sci-fi TV shows based on books came to an end with season six, but The Expanse is still very much alive in the eyes of Telltale Games. Perhaps it’s a strangely befitting match: Telltale Games, itself a studio that shuttered only to be brought back from death, reviving a canceled show. The Expanse: A Telltale Series isn’t the mythical seventh series, however. Instead, it’s a prequel, focusing on the life of Drummer long before we met her as Tycho Station’s head of security.

It’s set in 2347, a number of years before the events of the show, where Drummer is currently an XO of a scavenger crew under the control of Captain Cox, a surly man who clearly has a vendetta against Drummer. Episode one, which Telltale Games recently invited us to preview at an event in Los Angeles, sets up Drummer’s current situation, and introduces us to her band of small but colorful crewmates. Among others, there are the lively and competitive Belter twins Arlen and Rayan, Kahn the short-tempered pilot, and energetic Maya. They’re all new characters written for the game and, unfortunately, the first episode doesn’t give us much time to truly get to know any of them.

Telltale Games might not exactly be the same studio it was before reforming, but it’s still operating in a similar way. This means that The Expanse is to be an episodic release, like previous titles, with five episodes coming to PC and console every two weeks starting on July 24, 2023. The first episode is surprisingly short – even after exploring off the beaten path a fair bit, we still had the credits roll in around one hour. It’s perhaps a bit too brief as an introduction, but maybe that’s intentional as it did leave us wanting more.

Episode one sees you exploring a wreckage out in space. (Image credit: Deck Nine)

After a very quick hello to Drummer, her crewmates, and the ship she’s currently working on, it’s down to business. A wreckage has been spotted, and it’s down to Drummer and co to head out there, assess the damage, and see what scrap can be salvaged. The Expanse: A Telltale Series doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to shocking its audience: as soon as you board what’s left of the wrecked ship, you’re greeted by floating, disembodied heads. A vicious pirate attack, it turns out. It’s a great opening to show just how hostile the world of The Expanse can be.

The brutality doesn’t stop there though. Having to search the decapitated bodies might make you a little squeamish, but if you’re a fan of horror and the macabre you’ll likely lap it up. There’s one scene in particular scene which made us wince that involves an amputated leg – a player-led choice that you can avoid if you wish. It’s safe to say that the developers have done a stellar job in creating a visceral, emotive world and that’s perhaps the best thing we can take away from our time with episode one.

Despite being released under the Telltale Games moniker, The Expanse: A Telltale Series has in fact been developed by a company called Deck Nine. Deck Nine itself has become a respected studio in recent years – this is the team behind Life is Strange: Before the Storm and Life is Strange: True Colors, arguably the two best-received games in the Life is Strange series. The team has clearly brought a lot of skill and dedication to the table when it comes to building a believable, interesting world that’s filled with real, believable characters. True, they can’t take full credit for writing Drummer – some of her characterization is of course carried over from the show – but this earlier, younger Drummer can still be shaped and molded. 

Of course, being a Telltale game, exactly how Drummer – and her crewmates – will develop may well be shaped by the choices each player makes. There were ten main choices to be made throughout the course of episode one, some much more impactful than others. Episode one doesn’t provide much feedback to how our decisions will shape the story, so we’ll have to wait until future episodes for the butterfly to flap its wings, so to speak.

The development team has said that decisions will matter, and this will be more branching than previous games. That gives Telltale and Deck Nine a fine line to walk, because how can you give players full freedom of how to shape a character’s life, when that character’s future is already mapped out via the TV show? It’s going to be interesting to see how that pans out over the course of five episodes.

As it’s a prequel, we’re a little surprised that The Expanse: A Telltale Series isn’t a little more welcoming to newcomers. There’s little in the way of an introduction to the world (although ancillary information can – and absolutely should – be found by exploring the environment at multiple opportunities), and so it feels like players are expected to enter the game with pre-existing knowledge. That’s not to say it’s totally hostile to newcomers, but it may be less engaging than it is to someone who already with a deep understanding and fondness of the universe they’re entering into.

Fans of The Expanse will be pleased to know that Drummer is voiced by Kara Gee. (Image credit: Deck Nine)

For those that do know and love The Expanse, there’s plenty here to tempt you into the game. Kara Gee reprises her role as Drummer, instantly giving it the biggest mark of authenticity one could hope for. There are murmurs and mentions of other characters, too: do enough snooping around and you’ll come across a recording from Chrisjen Avasarala, and we’ve no doubt that later episodes will give us wind of other familiar faces. However, this is, first and foremost, a brand-new story set within a familiar universe. That means there may be the odd thing here and there that gives pause to series stalwarts. We didn’t spot anything too egregious, but we know there’ll be some scrupulous superfans out there.

As far as first impressions go, we walked away fairly happy with what episode one of The Expanse: A Telltale Series gave us. It was a little short, and we’d have liked a bit more time getting to know each of the new characters, yet it teased their personalities just enough to make us want to know more about them. And Drummer? Well, she’s as likeable as ever. At this point, it’s hard to see exactly how the series is going to pan out, but there’s been enough here to make us keen to jump into the next episode – and that’s pretty much all we could ask for.

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at:

Kimberley Snaith
Freelance contributor

Kim is a Yorkshire-based freelance writer who focuses on Lego and video game-related content. She's the co-creator of and, where you'll find most of her work. If she's not building with plastic bricks, playing a video game, or writing about doing either of those things, you should probably check she's still breathing. You can find her on Twitter at @ichangedmyname.