On paper, the Guardians of the Galaxy are the perfect fit for the Telltale model. The ragtag team of space ruffians, each with their own conflicting agendas and warring personalities make for some entertaining back-and-forth that works well with the studio’s decision based narrative. Throw in some apocalyptic antagonism and you’ve got all the ammunition you need for some explosive, action-heavy set pieces. But after ten years of point-and-click investigation and quick time events, it feels like the Guardians may have arrived to the Telltale party a little too late.
Much like last year’s Batman outing, the Telltale incarnation of the Guardians take inspiration from both the movies and the comics. Thanks to some note perfect voice work and impressive character models, Rocket, Groot and Drax are all the better for banking on their silver screen counterparts. On the other hand, Peter Quill/Star Lord and Gamora visually may take cues from their comic book origins, but have been given a cinematic remix in the personality department to make them instantly recognisable to those more familiar with the film series.
Telltale have a unique method of putting their own spin on a beloved franchise and Guardians of the Galaxy is no exception. By setting up their take on the team as separate from both comic and film versions, this gives them plenty of wiggle room to create a compelling story that players can feel a part of, without having to worry about any serious canonical implications in the process. Case and point being that a huge plot twist occurs in the opening moments of episode one, but one which fans won’t have to worry about fitting into established timelines or existing story arcs.
Talking about the story at all would mean immediately stepping into spoiler territory but Guardians of the Galaxy provides a juicy hook early on that will no doubt have players gripped for the remaining episodes. In true Telltale fashion, it also opens the door for plenty of moral dilemmas that in some way will not only shape the story, but the very dynamics of the team in the process. With friends like Rocket Raccoon and Gamora squabbling for your attention, who needs enemies?
For the most part of the episode, you’ll play as Peter Quill, the de facto leader of the Guardians. Gameplay will feel familiar to anyone who has played a Telltale game before, with episode one providing a whistle-stop tutorial of the studio’s gameplay model across its six acts. As the most relatable member of the team, this gives you the chance to customise the character to fit your personality. Conversation sequences will constantly put your relationships with other Guardians to the test. While keeping all of them happy all of the time is a challenge, it proves that this franchise was better suited to the Telltale format more so than other Marvel super hero teams.
Where the decision based gameplay falters however is where it really matters. There are a handful of crucial, story-changing decisions to be made throughout the episode and while making the ‘right’ choice is difficult, knowing where to look for these route-changing moments is anything but. Flagged up long before you take control, Telltale’s tried and tested formula looks obvious and all too familiar during these moments, to some degree undoing some of the hard work that’s come before to make the experience so immersive.
Point-and-click investigation sequences are a welcome break from the dialogue heavy narrative and do include some notable Guardians’ specific mechanics. Star Lord can use his rocket boots to navigate vertically in some areas, expanding your navigational range significantly more so than what we’ve seen in previous Telltale games. Furthermore, you can also activate a time scanner in certain areas, a tool which provides a playback of recent events so that you can locate clues and items with ease. These are nice features that help Guardians of the Galaxy stand out from the crowd, but beyond that there’s little to challenge your inner detective during these quieter moments of the game.
Similarly familiar are the quick time event set pieces that make up the game’s action sequences. Dictated by on-screen prompts, players must press the required buttons on the keyboard or mouse in order to execute an attack or defend themselves from the enemy. What is noticeably impressive about these scenes is that they’re choreographed in a way that it switches between each of the Guardians effortlessly, giving players the chance to utilise each one of their special abilities. From Star Lord’s rapid fire pistols and Rocket’s devastating arsenal of explosives, to the swordplay of Gamora and Drax, these action sequences are filled with variety, making up for some of the lacklustre and tired mechanics in other gameplay departments.
However, even these cinematic action scenes play second fiddle to the impeccable writing from the Telltale team. While similar games have always been known for their engrossing plots, Guardians of the Galaxy is the funniest and warmest take on the model since the grossly overlooked Tales From the Borderlands. Using the back story of Peter Quill alongside the relationship with his new family, each conversational choice and plot decision packs plenty of weight that has repercussions both narratively and emotionally. This tale may take place in a galaxy far, far away, but the core themes are relatable and very much down to earth.
Telltale’s debut in the Marvel Universe is an impressive one, helped out by some brilliant writing, recognisable players and plenty of studio magic. The Guardians of the Galaxy manage to cover this niche genre’s greatest hits all within one episode with all the vigour and excitement one expects from a cinematic franchise. However, despite some impressive action sequences and impactful story telling, you can help but be overwhelmed with a sense of deja vu. Let’s hope they build on this momentum and deliver during the difficult second album.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.