After two successful DC entries with The Wolf Among Us and Batman – The Telltale Series, Telltale Games is finally playing both sides of the nerd fence with their newest release of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series. One pressing question I had regarding the Guardians being under the spotlight of the new game is if they live in a gritty enough, morally gray world to capture the most gripping life-or-death decisions that are the trademark of the Telltale genre. However, with Borderlands and Minecraft themed series now in the Telltale catalog, humor can be presented as an equally desirable quality and who’s to say that Guardians can’t exist on the line of morally compelling and lighthearted?
Luckily, when the game’s title screen loads and ELO’s Livin’ Thing starts to play over a moving showcase of the Guardians with bright pink and purple color explosions making up the background, you can safely bet the game is going to shoot for a similar tone to the massively popular movie, but does it get there? Once into the episode, we can see that Peter Quill/Star-Lord is sarcastic, Gamora is serious, Rocket is greedy, Drax is literal, and Groot… is Groot. The whole gang seems to mesh well and the team we know and adore are present with their quirky traits front and center. For fear of spoilers, the only thing I will mention about the story is that big events transpire early on in the episode that put the composition of the team on shaky ground and Star-Lord is tasked with holding the pieces together. Dialogue is pretty well on point however, the celebrity voice alikes and robotic character animations often took me out of the experience. The Not-Chris Pratt talking to the renegade Splash Mountain automaton reskinned as Rocket Raccoon definitely are a hindrance to the overall feng-shui of the game. I also found Drax the Destroyer to be particularly unsettling with his textureless skin and piercing eyes.
Also on the downside, this series doesn’t totally overcome the classic Telltale pitfalls of running on a choppy engine. Uneasy frame rates and rough camera transitions take away from what should feel like fluid movie going experience. Thankfully, these technicalities are not as detrimental as they were in older Telltale games and some of the quick-time action sequences are exciting rather than a hard to watch gag.
However, putting the Guardians in a Telltale scenario does highlight some of the key features of the brand. Intimate talks between Peter and his crew bring us some insight to the characters, their history, and motivations. This makes the possibility of disappointing a member of the Guardians with a decision and having it come back to bite you a genuine risk. Granted, I don’t think Star-Lord will be required to hand a limited amount of rations to his crew Walking Dead style, but letting someone down, especially in a tightknit group like the Guardians, has its own feeling of heartbreak.
Comparing this Telltale series to others in circulation, sees this title moving a little bit slower and more uneventful. Besides a few key moments that help set up future episodes I felt this premiere was largely dull. For what occurs in this episode, which is a relatively big moment for the gang, I would expect more energy and urgency to unravel.
Going along with the lack of momentum in the story, the game also shows a lack of atmosphere. The locations and set pieces feature a bland temple/cave and move into generic interiors of spaceports. If the tone of this series is supposed to mirror the movies, I would want to see them take more inspiration the colorful, dynamic galaxy the MCU (‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ for readers less geeky) Guardians live in.
Overall, this experience seemed to be hit or miss, but if you are dying for some more Guardians of the Galaxy before Vol. 2 hits this summer, this might just do the trick. I’m looking forward to what else Telltale has up their sleeves for this adventure even to just figure out where the obligatory cliffhanger at the end of this episode leads.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series can be found on Xbox One, Playstation 4, iOS, Android, PC, and Etch-a-Sketch at $4.99 or $19.99 for the first episode or season pass, respectively.