Welcome to our Game In Progress review of Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy: The Telltale Series. Nick Wanserski will be reviewing each episode of Telltale’s latest game series as they are released, diving into the story so far and the choices Star-Lord has made along the way. As always, we invite you to play and comment along.
This installment covers the second episode, Under Pressure, and discusses specific plot details of the entire series so far. You can find the rest of Nick’s reviews here.
As Under Pressure, the second episode in Telltale’s Guardians Of The Galaxy series begins, the Guardians are still stewards of the random sci-fi MacGuffin name generated Eternity Forge, an ancient Kree artifact capable of bringing the dead back to life when certain requirements are met. It’s also been feeding Star-Lord visions of his mother, leading him to hope that following the path the forge laid out will result in the means to revive her. Thanos, whose death in pursuit of the Forge was the crux of Episode 1, is nowhere to be seen. Instead, Nebula, Thanos’ other adopted daughter and Gamora’s sister, is introduced. The two women have an uneasy relationship thanks to Nebula’s belief that Gamora betrayed her and her father when she no longer wanted to kill for him. For a Telltale game, with all the feelings and dialogue trees that heritage implies, it’s a fitting dollop of familial drama, heightened by the persistent threat of a sword fight breaking out.
While the game features a few big action set pieces, the focus remains squarely on Star-Lord’s relationship with his friends. Each scenario reiterates the same basic pattern: Nearly every decision of consequence you make pits two characters in your crew against one another. Prioritizing one companion’s desires invariably upsets the other, leaving every conversation a binary question of who you want mad at you until the next interaction.
As of this episode, there aren’t any major noticeable consequences for constantly disappointing one person or another in your party, other than the regular displays of sincere disappointment that make your battle-hardened crew of space warriors come across as having a surprisingly deep well of acute sensitivity, like a Brontë novel with warmongering space zealots. It would all risk becoming a little reductive and tiresome if this episode didn’t delve into a surprisingly emotional quest for Rocket Raccoon. So far, the game has made Rocket the most difficult to side with in any given exchange. His short-sightedness and abrasive personality almost exclusively results with him on the losing side of an argument, but ceding to his wishes this time around yields a side story as adventurous as the concept of kicking off the season premiere by killing Thanos. Without going too deeply into details, it succeeds in wringing a lot of well-earned pathos out of Rocket’s relationship with an adorable anthropomorphic otter.
The biggest letdown of this episode is the way it neglects the first chapter’s most interesting question. With Thanos dead, the characters were left without purpose and in danger of splitting apart. It provided a good perspective on what it takes to hold such a random group of people together—how companionship can become friendship and whether even that is enough to keep people with multiple, wildly different desires pointing in the same direction. Now that the team is busy being chased around by a vindictive Kree warrior who wants the forge for her own generically evil purposes and travelling between a galaxy’s worth of abandoned temples to uncover nefarious secrets, the Thanos thread has been dropped without ceremony. That said, as the season continues, it’s becoming clear that Telltale knows how to put together a funny, well-paced serial. And Under Pressure ends on a compelling cliffhanger, providing yet another reason to return to the series.
While the character models in Telltale’s game are distinct from their movie counterparts, the voice acting is definitely an attempt to evoke the film’s actors. What was distracting in the first episode becomes less noticeable here, helped in no small part by writing that increasingly distinguishes the characters from the movies.
Telltale’s Star-Lord is a bit more self-aware and wrier than Chris Pratt’s doofy charm. Gamora’s icy calm cracks in front of Nebula, revealing a deep core of rage underneath. Drax is the most underused of the characters who can speak full sentences and doesn’t contribute much beyond gruff proclamations. Groot is Groot. The ubiquitous Nolan North voices Rocket with a jarring similarity to Bradley Cooper’s work on the film, but since his character is pretty well codified between the comics, movies, and this, there’s not a lot of room to create a distinct persona here.
The only noticeably distracting voice in the whole cast is the pirate chief Yondu. Interestingly, if you’re not actually Michael Rooker, who plays Yondu in the films, trying to sound like Michael Rooker easily becomes cartoonish. Game Yondu has a caricature-ish, Southern-fried accent more befitting a space chicken than a space pirate.
Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy: The Telltale Series
Episode 2: Under Pressure
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Platforms: Android, iOS, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One
Reviewed on: Windows
Price: Digital: $25 for full five-episode season; retail: $30, available May