With all the properties Telltale Games have already crafted great video game stories for, (Game of Thrones, Walking Dead, Back to the Future) it was a bit of a surprise to see them need a steep learning curve when it comes to Marvel and Guardians of the Galaxy. The series’ opening was solid but its middle episodes definitely stumbled by unbalancing meaningful character flashbacks with the overall plot which sometimes took valuable real estate from the series main thread making the series as a whole feel as though it could have been done in 3 episodes. Could the series finale redeem its faults and endear itself among comic book favorites?
Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy: The Telltale Series
Developed by: Telltale Games
Published by: Telltale Games
Available for: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, STEAM, iOS
Star-Lord, Gammora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot are a team of intergalactic misfits familiar to anyone who’s been to a movie theater in the past five years. In GOTG: The Telltale Series this band of rogues is an established team on the trail of a mystic artifact known as the Eternity Forge. A relic with the power to restore loved ones but needs deaths to power it. After a run in with Thanos that will not be paid off in this series, the team has a new enemy to contend with; a Kree warrior named Hala. A villain on her mission of trying to bring back her lost son. Not very villainy if you ask me. Over the course of attempts by both sides to gain control of this cosmic power, the Guardians are each faced with a painful memory from their past brought on by the game’s add-on the empath Mantis. Yes, the same Mantis used by the Vol.2 movie.
After the penultimate episode left players with an overflowing dam’s worth of threads needing to be resolved, we pick up with the Guardians disassembled and depending on your choices, an all-alone Star-Lord. He needs to get the band back together in order to stop Hala from destroying planets she holds responsible for her current predicament. Every episode in this series has shown audiences a defining painful memory from each member of the team. It’s only fitting that the audience gets the group’s first shared memory in the finale.
Without spoiling things too much; after coming with these characters through their most devastating moments, it’s good to finally see the other side of the coin where their recollection builds them up. This “I am Groot” introduction is probably one of the best from any medium, topped off with jokes that provide a good balance to the action. Sure, the scenery in the episode is reused but it allowed a more quality action scene focus thus making it a trade-off I’ll take any day. That final boss battle puts players on a figurative moving bullet train as quickly go from controlling each of the Guardians showing off what they do best from Gamora ninja-ing through the air to Rocket firing a comical amount of ammunition. In fact, episode five’s climactic battle between the team and Hala might be my favorite action scene from Marvel this year, right up there with that Ragnarok one set to Immigrant Song.
Telltale absolutely gets put on par with great Marvel music choices. Featuring songs like “Crazy On You” by Heart and other tunes from legendary groups like The Buzzcocks, the game’s soundtrack and score are meticulously curated for the rollercoaster of emotions you’re put on. Getting you to feel something is where the game excels. Through all its action and deep character moments, it’s easy to lose sight of the core theme of family. Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot aren’t just brought together by the happenstance of being in the same prison, they’re brought together by loss only a family could understand. Peter lost his mother to cancer, Drax’s daughter (who we get to actually see versus always just hearing about her) is killed by Thanos, all these characters know what it means to have no one left. Telltale’s writers connected them on a level that’s more meaningful than that of James Gunn’s loveable misfits no one else will have us view. They’re both good takes, just different and I prefer this one.
For everything this series has done right for Guardians of the Galaxy, it’s also highlighted a constant trope shared by every medium telling stories about this team. We keep getting the same plot device of breaking the team apart and then putting them back together. It’s the team equivalent of Cyborg from Teen Titans stories where writers go through the same motions of physically breaking apart the character because he can easily be put back together. I call it the Cyborg Escape Clause. If you think about it, this Deus ex is something prevalent to the GOTG always being “broken” and “needing to come back together”.
Telltale’s first attempt at a Marvel property left me satisfied but not overstuffed. Like a decent lunch versus a Thanksgiving meal. While the finale sets us up for more adventures with one big looming thread, I can only hope Telltale’s (I’m assuming here) next series with these characters takes the same mythos shattering risks they take with their Batman games.
7/10 Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series crams the feelings you get from an hour of This is Us, but is held back by their own leashes.
On a side note:
It was announced earlier today that Telltale Games laid off 90 employees company-wide. On behalf of everyone at The Beat, we wish all of the talented staff over at Telltale affected by today’s news the best and hope they land on their feet soon. Thank you to everyone at the studio for continuing to make fantastic stories in the worlds people love. To those signaling Telltale’s collapse, stop it. There’s a rubicon of difference between a studio closing its doors and making a hard but necessary move. It absolutely sucks for everyone involved and industry speculation helps no one.