Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale series. Jeez what a mouthful. If you aren’t clued in, Telltale Games, the studio behind The Walking Dead, Batman: The Enemy Within and Minecraft Story Mode, recently released the final episode of their latest series. Instead of providing piecemeal reviews for each episode, we here at GoombaStomp want to share an analysis of the finished product in its entirety. So let’s take a look at the ups and downs of the Guardians’ latest adventure.
Living up to the hype of the films.
When the first Guardians of the Galaxy film released in 2014 people didn’t know what to expect. Marvel had invested several years into creating a cinematic universe filled with some of nerdoms most beloved characters but even for comic book fans, the Guardians were niche heroes.
James Gunn’s epic had stellar performances from the likes of Chris Pratt, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper, and jettisoned the Guardians into mainstream appeal. But could a video game without the same actors and creative leads live up to the standard set by the films?
Guardians of the Galaxy is a Telltale game. That also brings some baggage. The Walking Dead: Season 1 is considered by many to be one of the most well written and emotionally compelling video game stories of all time. The Wolf Among Us showed us that Telltale wasn’t just a one hit wonder. Tales from the Borderlands showed us their comedic chops as writers. So with all that in mind they seem like the best developer to deliver a great Guardians of the Galaxy story.
Well it looks like they may have crumbled under the pressure. Guardians of the Galaxy is a good game. The fun and engaging story kept my interest throughout its 10 or so hour campaign, but it never comes close to obtaining the same level of charm as the films, nor does it stand among Telltale’s best work.
Treading familiar ground.
Guardians of the Galaxy is played from the perspective of Star Lord. He may not be as ripped as Chris Pratt, but Scott Porter portrays the character well. The first episode begins with the Guardians facing off against Thanos, and quickly coming into the possession of a mystical artifact known as the Eternity Forge. The story starts off with a few surprises, but quickly devolves into familiarity. The game tells a tale unconnected to the films but one that very obviously follows the same beats, introducing the characters and their back stories in a very similar way, then retelling the same overall narrative as the 2014 film. They change a villain here and a location there, they add in elements of the 2017 sequel, and switch out one magical McGuffin for another. But if you’ve seen the movies, this game will feel eerily familiar.
On top of that, none of your choices seem to hold any weight. This kind of defeats the purpose of a choose your own adventure game. I often found myself deciding to go to one location instead of another, just to wind up going to the place I didn’t choose straight afterwards. Guardians of the Galaxy also seems to constantly tell you that you have no control over the characters. In several scenarios a character was faced with a life or death moment. I often wondered after making my decision how things might have turned out differently, just to find out that a character I thought I’d killed off had miraculously survived.
Perhaps Telltale were limited with their options. We’ve got to keep in mind that these are established characters, rather than newly developed personalities within an already fleshed out universe.
It all seems like such a missed opportunity. Tales from the Borderlands is one of the funniest games I’ve played in years and it also centers on a group of space fairing adventurers. While The Walking Dead made me feel a connection to in game characters in a way I never expected. Guardians comes close to achieving the wit and character attachment that Telltale’s previous titles have but always falls just short. Maybe the writers changed, maybe the budget or time constraints were smaller or maybe they just bit off a bit more than they could chew.
The Guardians Different Perspectives.
Telltale’s games often live and die by the members of their cast and their complex relationships with one another. Guardians of the Galaxy is no different. However it unfortunately faces the same problems 2016’s Batman did. We know who Batman is, just as we know who the Guardians are. What they would or wouldn’t do or how they feel about situations or people. So playing a game where you have power over their actions and dialogue is to an extent pointless. You already have a preconceived notion of who they are. So more likely than not, one dialogue option will stand out as the ‘right’ thing to say. Because of this you can’t really craft your version of the character in the same way as in Game of Thrones or The Wolf Among Us.
Guardians of the Galaxy bypasses this issue (to an extent) through flashbacks. Each episode offers a flashback into one of the Guardians lives before they joined the team. Unfortunately Quill has multiple flashbacks over the course of the game. I say this is unfortunate because his character development moments are by far the weakest. We indulge in several tender memories of him and his mother in the lead up to her death. These memories missed the mark on making me empathize for the young Star Lord and do very little to build his character. I would have much rather seen how his adventures with Yondu caused him to transition from a young boy to a space fairing criminal.
Rocket, Drax and Gamora’s flashbacks however, offer real insight into who they once were, providing the only real opportunity for the player to make them their own. Even Groot has a playable flashback. I can safely say, it is the deepest any medium has gotten to giving real meaning to the words, “I am Groot.” These moments are truly the highlight to Guardians of the Galaxy and the one area where they improve upon the films.
The Same Old Problems With Telltale.
Guardians of the Galaxy is burdened by the same issues Telltale games have had for years. When reviewing the game I played on PS4, and having prominent and regular frame rate issues constantly pulled me out of the action. Although annoying, it is manageable in walking segments, but having the frame rate drop time after time during what was supposed to be a high velocity action scene really dampened the experience.
You’ll also need a little time to adjust to Guardian’s art style. Instead of the comic book aesthetic most of their games manage to pull off well, Telltale went with the muddy clay looking models from Game of Thrones. Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely an improvement upon this style but I constantly had friends and family ask me why the characters looked so ugly.
Guardians of the Galaxy will unlikely be considered Telltale’s best work, but it is an enjoyable narrative driven experience none the less. Despite performance issues, seemingly meaningless decisions and a familiar story, Telltale’s latest game manages to add a depth to each member of the Guardians that can’t be found in the films. If you’re a fan of Telltale or Guardians of the Galaxy then you’ll likely have a good time, but don’t expect the video game to live up to the movies.