Review: Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy – The Telltale Series (PS4)

Review: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy - The Telltale Series (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • Xbox One
  • PC, Mac
  • iOS, Android

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4
  • HDTV

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
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Title: Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy – The Telltale Series
Format: Blu-ray Disc / PSN (TBD)
Release Dates:

Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Original MSRP:

ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 16
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
Telltale at this point is a machine. They continue to roll out high profile properties to varying degrees of success and show no signs of stopping anytime soon. Their latest adaptation comes from The Guardians of the Galaxy which is nicely timed to coincide with the sequel film releasing on May 5th.

It’s not surprising at this point to know that the writing continues to be solid and the gameplay mechanics are for the most part what we’ve come to expect from Telltale.


Episode 1: Tangled Up in Blue
Release Date: April 18, 2017
Episode 1: Tangled Up in Blu

Episode One wastes little time jumping into some major action as your group of ragtag heroes almost immediately find themselves face to face with Thanos. The battle is fast paced and shows off the Quick Time Events which are fairly standard.

The action is quick in terms of storytelling but the QTE’s themselves have fairly forgiving windows to press the action buttons. This is not a problem as I would assume that as the game goes along those windows will be shortened.

I wasn’t expecting the story to have me battling Thanos so soon and I was pleasantly surprised with that interaction and how the story itself moves past it. Once taken care of, the game evolves into focusing on the relationships of the Guardians.

Most of the episode is about the interactions between the group with you controlling Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) and establishing his relationships with the other members of the group.

To say there is tension here would be putting it lightly. Everyone in the group has different motivations and the story puts them in the position to think about the future of the group. The writing is really well done in this episode as each individual feels established and each has the potential to be fully explored as a character. I can already see the opportunities for some of the characters to go to dark places and there being plenty of room for drama.

Episode One establishes the characters and story to great effect and I am looking forward to seeing where the game goes in future episodes.


Episode 2: Under Pressure
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Episode 2: Under Pressure

After a brush with death, Episode Two kicks off with the Guardians beginning to learn about the power of the Eternity Forge artifact they retrieved from Thanos. This leads to great conflict between the team as Rocket and Gamora have completely different plans for how they should move forward, putting Star-Lord in what is probably the biggest decision presented so far. Should he side with Rocket or Gamora?

There’s a major emphasis on Rocket’s past, shedding light on his origin which is absolutely tragic. Learning about Rocket’s past really builds his character and sets a clear reason behind his motivations in the first episode and the series going forward.

Gamora’s main story is set up here as we are introduced to her sister, Nebula. Nebula is currently tearing her way through the galaxy in response to Thanos’ death. This forces the Guardians to intervene and also ask Nebula for help because she may have answers to what the Eternity Forge is capable of.

Gamora is torn between her hatred and love of her sister and this leads to some questionable writing for the character. There are a couple of parts where Gamora’s motivations don’t match up perfectly with the story in terms of logic. It’s not a huge flaw, but something that came up once or twice that made her come across confused and selfish.

There isn’t a lot of action in this episode which is fine because Telltale is trying to build the characters up one at a time. There is a somewhat underwhelming space battle and a brief fight at the end and that’s about it in terms of action.

Episode Two is a great one for Rocket and weak for everyone else. Luckily Rocket’s story is strong and gives me hope that each episode will focus on an individual character and hopefully improve on giving the other characters something of value to do on the side.


Episode 3: More Than a Feeling
Release Date: August 22, 2017
Episode 3: More Than a Feeling

As I suspected, each episode appears to be set up as a vehicle to build each of the Guardians’ by looking into their past. In this episode the focus is on Gamora and Nebula. We spend a lot of time with these two characters and see how their relationship was fractured and just how sinister their adoptive father Thanos was.

To say Thanos was a manipulative monster is an understatement, here we see exactly how he played his daughters for his personal gain and how that affected them.

Elsewhere in this episode we spend more time with Star-Lord, seeing his past and specifically his relationship with his mother. Telltale is focusing a lot on the concept of family in this series in both how beautiful and how destructive it can be.

The Guardians are a dysfunctional family and seeing why they are that way can be linked to their former lives. Each character is a different level of broken and together they are trying to be whole no matter how difficult it can be.

As for the action, this episode has a lot more in comparison to the last. We have action scenes in the Gamora and Nebula flashbacks and a pretty good fight towards the end of the episode. The action is fast though not challenging and we have some more simple puzzles in there as well.

Overall Episode Three is my favorite so far. It has a lot of funny moments and does a good job correcting the issues I had with Gamora in previous episodes. I’m still intrigued by the story and I am looking forward to knowing if we will see the rest of the crew’s past, specifically if we get anything about Groot’s origin.


Episode 4: Who Needs You
Release Date: October 10, 2017

Episode Four is the culmination of all the tension built up from the previous installments. It’s an explosive episode that deals with loss and the total breakdown of the Guardians.

If you’ve read my previous recaps or are playing the game you will know that each episode focuses on a specific character as the B-story and this one is focused on Drax, though it isn’t given as much time as the previous Guardians had.

The backstory of Drax is referenced often as his motivations stem from his tragic past. He never goes into details, we just know that his family was murdered by Thanos. Telltale decided not to explore their deaths and instead choose to explore his relationship with his daughter which is a smart move. Showing their deaths isn’t as effective as showing how much they meant to Drax.

In the flashback we see Drax spending time with daughter while training her to be a warrior though not a lot of time is spent here which is a shame. What we do see is how much Drax loves his daughter and why her death has haunted him for so long. I wish we could have seen more with the family though I suspect time constraints made that impossible.

The main story continues to explore the strained relationship of the Guardians. They continue to unravel and after a clash with the main villain and barely escaping a dire situation they end up completely fractured. The action in this episode is really well done and the best so far in the series. The last action sequence in particular is paired perfectly with a classic rock song that makes it feel more epic than it really is.

Episode Four is by far the best episode so far as Telltale’s writing is able to present a great story that explores the troubled relationships within the Guardian’s family. From a gameplay perspective it’s still a Telltale game so outside of QTE action sequences there isn’t much besides some really boring platforming sequences that feel more like time killers than worthwhile content.


Episode 5: Don't Stop Believin'
Release Date: November 7, 2017

After watching the Guardians fall apart at the end of Episode Four, I was excited to see where things would go to build them back up. Unfortunately the story feels rushed, the reunion comes way too soon, and there’s a pointless section with Mantis where Peter must use his emotions to locate the fractured team.

I was disappointed with how Telltale handled this part of the story, not because it was bad, but because it was so rushed and that it can be felt throughout the final episode.

In previous episodes we were shown each team member’s past so I was expecting to see Groot’s backstory in this episode. Instead we see the first time the Guardians met each other while trying to break out of prison.

It’s a fun story and Star-Lord has a mustache and that’s cool, but I wanted to see Groot’s backstory. I understand due to his speaking limitations this would have been difficult though I’ve seen stories in games told with no dialogue before so it wouldn’t have been impossible to do.

This entire episode is building to the final encounter with Hala which felt very lackluster and way too similar to the previous battles with her. The writing does the heavy lifting towards the end to make the final encounter feel important.

The finale has a predictable feel-good ending and despite my issues with the pacing and logic, I walked away from the overall experience happy.

Visuals:
The game looks pretty good. Telltale has a set style that this falls in line with. The presentation does not have the appearance of a comic book like The Walking Dead or Batman. There are no hard lines to mimic the style of comics, instead the game takes a more clean and straightforward approach.

The art appears to take a bit from the movies and comics together to comprise the art style, though I think at this point the comics have taken inspiration from the movies so it’s hard to differentiate the two. For the most part I like the designs of the characters, but I have issues with Rocket Raccoon and Groot.

Because Telltale Games has never been great at facial animation it causes these two characters to suffer the most. Something about these two in particular looks kind of stiff and plastic when they move and speak. It’s a small gripe that over time I’m sure I can get used to but it’s hard to separate them from their movie counterparts that are far more capable of showing emotions.

Unfortunately there are still technical issues that always seem to pop up with Telltale games. There’s some hitching that takes place when characters are interacting. Nothing too egregious, but it’s definitely noticeable.

Audio:
If there’s one thing the movies have established about The Guardians of the Galaxy it’s that they must have an awesome soundtrack and Telltale have succeeded on this front. Episode One features songs from Electric Light Orchestra and other great bands from the 1970’s and 1980’s. The songs all fit the style established by the movies and I didn’t come across a single one I didn’t like.

The voice actors for the core group of main characters are great. Most notably, Nolan North as Rocket Racoon is an excellent choice. Telltale did a great job acquiring voice actors that were not cast to mimic the movie actors and instead that best fit their version of the characters.

Online/Multiplayer:
First seen in Batman – The Telltale Series, Crowd Play returns. This is where multiple people can vote on each choice made in the game. It’s restricted to local multiplayer only because it requires people to be able to vote on decisions quickly and doing so over the internet would have too many issues with delay and lag. I haven’t tried it personally because I don’t like playing games like these with other people, but it is available for those that do enjoy that type of experience.

Conclusion:
Telltale is able to capture the heart of the Guardians of the Galaxy and continue their run of successfully applying their formula to another licensed property. The writing is able to explore the idea of family using the various relationships on the team and the decisions I made felt like they had an impact on those relationships.

The story is rushed towards the end which takes some of the wind out of it, but the development team has been able to wrap it up with a nice bow and hint at the future of the franchise.

The gameplay mechanics aren’t breaking new ground and if you have a preset bias against the Telltale style of games this won’t change your mind. With that said, fans of the The Guardians of the Galaxy, both the films and comics, should be happy to play as them in this format.

Score:
7.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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Written by Michael Cwick

Michael Cwick

Just a nerd from the Windy City. I’m actually really bad at describing myself because I get all self-critical and self-conscious. Follow me on Twitter, @The1stMJC, to see my borderline insane rants on tv shows and other non important subjects. If I’m not tweeting I’m probably just watching Buffy or Firefly for the millionth time.

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