When episode three of Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy reached its climax, I was worried that the interactive-adventure format tried and tested by the studio was beginning to run out of steam. Furthermore, it seemed like by creating a series based on Marvel’s most unlikely heroes limited them in what they could and could not do with these characters. By the time I had finished episode four however, it seems that many of these fears had been laid to rest.
Episode four, sub-titled “Who Needs You”, takes a break from the main storyline by showing us what Telltale does best – character development. Still reeling in from the universe-shattering events of episode three, this relatively self-contained chapter gives the Guardians some time to reflect on the choices they’ve made and think about what steps to take in order to put an end to the Forge-infused Hala for good. While much of the action feels like filler before the grande finale, the balance between conversational decision making and puzzling gameplay make this one of the most interesting episodes to date.
At the core of the episode is the green-skinned muscle man Drax, who finds himself at somewhat of a crossroads in life now that he has avenged the death of his daughter at the hands of Thanos. As with previous episodes, his backstory is fleshed out through flashbacks, as we learn more about the relationship he had with his daughter. It’s arguably one of the most emotionally-charged scenes in the entire Guardians series, proving once again that Telltale are the masters when it comes to delivering pathos and poignancy in a video game.
This all leads to an unexpected plot twist during the episode’s fast-paced end game sequence. Without delving too far into the spoiler territory, the events that unfold forces the Guardians to confront one another at a crucial time when the fate of the galaxy hangs in the balance. It not only makes for a satisfying cliffhanger, which will certainly spice things up as we head into the final episode, but also marks one of Telltale’s most downbeat scripts to date.
Perhaps the only downside to Drax’s backstory is that we don’t get enough of it. However, this leaves plenty of time for the episode to pick up on character threads left dangling after the last few episodes. Star Lord’s painful memories of his mother and how he handles her fate is equally as tear-jerking, while Gamora’s complicated relationship with Nebula put the Telltale decision making engine to work, bringing previous choices into play in order to not only dictate their fate, but bring some surprises into the mix as well.
New recruit Mantis plays a big role in all three of these storylines, putting her character to much better use than the recent film did. And while Rocket and Groot don’t get a huge amount to do for much of the episode, they are at hand to provide equal amounts of laughs and drama throughout. With a roster this big, it’s impressive that Telltale have managed to provide a role for each of these unique characters at such a late stage in the series.
Where the episode falls is during the exploration and puzzle sequences. Much of the episode involves figuring a way out of a labyrinth of caves and fixing the Melano in order to get back to the task at hand. Unfortunately, much of these puzzles rely on the player clicking on every interactive point in the room in order to trigger a cutscene and push the story forward. However, these scenes are peppered with great dialogue and hilarious gags that make them worth playing.
The episode also appears to be light on world-shattering choices, at least compared to previous episodes. One decision early in the game which asks you to choose a side between two bickering Guardians is resolved almost as quickly as it is made. Similarly, most of the choices made in previous episodes come back around this time around, but while some are emotionally-charged and worth the wait, others fall flat and are played out with little fanfare.
While the big name villains have been given the month off this time around, much of the antagonising comes from rock-eating space worms. This helps keep the focus on the Guardians themselves as far as the story is concerned, while giving them something to fight against physically while they battle their own personal demons. It also introduces some stealth sequences into the mix which makes a change from the usual bombastic explosive action that previous instalments have had forced upon them. “Who Needs You” is light on overall action, but when it does make an appearance, it’s worth the wait.
It will be interesting to see how the many dangling plot threads will be rectified in the upcoming final chapter of Guardians of the Galaxy. While episode four fills in many of the blanks as far as backstory is concerned, it’s difficult to see how the Guardians themselves can overcome their personal differences before heading off towards the final battle. Let’s hope that Telltale manage to do so in a manner that isn’t rushed and is respectful of the characters they have lovingly spent time re-inventing over the course of this series.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.