Come and Get Your Love
Marvel’s original Guardians of the Galaxy film was the snarky adrenaline shot that the Marvel Cinematic Universe needed. With a colorful cast of assholes brandishing hearts of gold, the team stood as a gateway into the wacky and wonderful reaches of the entertainment juggernaut’s bizarre universe. Telltale’s take on the swashbuckling antiheroes is heavily inspired by their movie counterparts and gives players intimate access to an established team in the aftermath of a massive, improbable victory. When this many egos are stitched together, their fabric is a labyrinth that is a joy to navigate, and Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Episode 1 sets up an irreverent adventure with a surprisingly emotional underbelly.
Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Episode 1 introduces us to a familiar, established Guardians team that is on the cusp of an impossibly large victory. A team cohesive in goal quickly transforms into an egotistical cocktail of conflicting personalities. As Peter Quill, players are tasked with traversing a minefield of prideful personality. Each character’s distinctive quirks make each conversation puzzling and challenging, giving the moment-to-moment Telltale gameplay a much needed layer of complexity.
These complexities shine in interactions with Rocket Racoon and Gamora, who each have diverse motivations and deep, unsolved issues. Rocket’s explosive personality leaves little room for error, whereas Gamora’s troubled past makes for stimulating on-the-fly decision making. Episode 1 sets the stage for juicy conflict with these two characters. Almost as a counterpoint, Drax’s wooden personality makes his interactions simple and straightforward, which is understandable yet disappointing. I can only hope that future episodes give him additional agency than what he was presented with here.
Telltale’s interpersonal master was always a perfect fit for the Guardian’s eccentric banter, but their frantic combat style was a larger concern. But if Episode 1’s combat sequence is anything to go on, we have nothing to worry about. The sequence effortlessly shifts from Guardian to Guardian with smooth transitions and quick, kinetic inputs. From Rocket’s shifty quickness to Groot’s defensive strength, each character is a blast to guide in action. Telltale’s choice to put players in control of the team in combat and Quill in conversation pays off and plays to the group’s strengths. If Telltale can maintain the quality of combat, Guardians of the Galaxy will handedly take the studio’s action-packed crown.
While Guardians excels in conversation and combat, its traditional adventure game exploration segments are of the typical dull variety. Star Lord’s rocket boots allow for a tiered level design that mixes up the usual environments, but the A then B then C objectives are definitely tired. After Telltale’s Batman injected new life into these segments by drawing on Batman’s master detective skills, it would have been nice to continue the trend using a variety of interesting space gadgets. One positive wrinkle is the ability to connect to your teammates over radio, which layers additional conversation over the otherwise uneventful sequences. It will be interesting to see if future episodes pile on interesting exploration mechanics or settle for disappointing sameness.
The bells and whistles help to differentiate Telltale’s diverse offerings, but their narrative threads are always the main attraction. Thankfully, Episode 1 lays the groundwork for an interesting narrative that shines additional light on the wacky corners of Marvel’s cosmic universe. The characters are heavily influenced by their movie counterparts, but this is not a retelling of the team’s cinematic adventures, instead taking the characters we love in a novel direction. Episode 1 kicks off the narrative in an unexpected way by removing what could easily have been the ultimate threat, leaving the team in an unexpected position. Mix in a powerful artifact, a desperate Kree faction, emotional remnants of Quill’s past with a climactic choice and you have the concoction that is Episode 1. With a layer of the group’s classic music sprinkled on top, the story effortlessly retains the groups swashbuckling 80’s spirit while launching them into an unknown direction. It will be interesting to see how the various threads work out in future episodes.
The Verdict: 8.0 out of 10
Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a fun complement to Marvel’s cinematic crew, offering players the palpable sense of style they’ve fallen in love with on the big screen. With an interesting narrative, engrossing conversations and exhilarating combat, the first episode sets the series on an encouraging trajectory. It cannot escape some of Telltale’s typical issues, such as boring exploration, but I have yet to run into the developers trademark performance issues. If you can’t get enough of this team of snarky assholes, Episode 1 is a great appetizer for a promising meal. While doing little to truly innovate on an established formula, the Guardians of the Galaxy fit it like a glove, providing humor and fun to spare. Time will tell whether a relatively safe introduction will pay dividends, what’s here is worthwhile for Telltale and Marvel fans alike. Plus, everything is better with a little Hall & Oates.
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Brett Williams is an Associate Writer for MONG who can’t get enough of the one-two-punch of a talking raccoon and tree. You can follow his nonexistent ramblings on twitter.