Review | Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series – Episode 1: Tangled Up in Blue
Marvel has been taking a bit of a backseat on video game development up until lately. Despite their success with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they haven’t been doing many games based on those movies like they used to (unless you count Disney Infinity 3.0). Seems like they’re trying to make sure their properties get the high quality treatment they deserve, being careful who they license them to. Sony and Insomniac are making an untitled Spider-Man game, and Capcom is making Marvel vs. Capcom: Infinite. Another company they reached out to was Telltale Games, a developer with a reputation for making excellent stories. The Guardians of the Galaxy franchise is one of their more recent properties to shine in the spotlight, and Telltale was entrusted with making a game starring the popular team.
Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series is not quite a movie adaptation, and though it uses elements from the comics, it doesn’t utilize any existing stories. Telltale shows a team of misfits that are recognizable for people that may have enjoyed the first film, but they still take their own liberties. There are definitely elements from the films that are borrowed, which can be seen just from starting the game. The main menu starts with seeing a cassette player with a tape labeled “Rad Mix” inside, playing “Livin’ Thing” by Electric Light Orchestra, similar to the “Awesome Mix” from the film. The Guardians are reaching for a strange relic in goofy fashion, climbing on top of each other and putting themselves before others. It does well to build the characters and the mood right from the start, and it prepares the player for a fun ride. This review will be as spoiler free as possible, but be warned that there will be a brief synopsis of the story.
Taking its name from a 1975 Bob Dylan song, Episode One: Tangled Up in Blue, starts off with well edited shots of Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, getting a distress call from the Nova Corps. His cassette player on full blast with the Buzzcocks “Why Can’t I Touch It”, he clearly is in no hurry to give them attention. The player is immediately given a lot of details about Star-Lord, helping us learn about him, even with the dialogue choices he can make. He is given the chance to clear his criminal record for himself, his team, or even strike future incidents entirely, all just to help out the desperate Nova Corps. However the player responds, the mission begins and players are reacquainted with the other members of the team.
It becomes clear that the personalities and voices are heavily based on the film, with plenty of the characters acting much like their silver screen counterparts. While it takes a departure from how the developers handled Batman: The Telltale Series, it probably works in their favor for taking the familiar route for fans of the film. While not quite Chris Pratt, Scott Porter’s Star-Lord manages to be both likeable and detestable, making him perfect for the morality of the players choices. Nolan North does an excellent job as Rocket Raccoon, standing out just as much as Bradley Cooper does with the role, not to mention bringing the perfect attitude to the rodent. Brandon Paul Eells does well enough with Drax, though I feel like Drax could be given more material to work with given his lack of understanding basic concepts.
Of all the cast, Emily O’Brien’s Gamora feels the most unique, separating herself from the shadow of Zoe Saldana. She brings a certain power to the role while also maintaining the emotional depth of the character. As the only female member of the team, it probably isn’t unusual that she would help balance out the group with a level head. Adam Harrington also gets a nod, voicing the lovable Groot using a less gravelly tone than Vin Diesel, but still bringing plenty of charm. There are a couple more fine performances as well, one of which seems to be completely inspired by the film version of their character, even down to the appearance. There are some characters that are also referenced, but no voice has been given to them yet. Hopefully we get to see or hear them soon, as there is great potential in having them involved.
Moving on to the story, without getting too specific, the Guardians are tasked with stopping a notable villain from the Marvel universe from obtaining a special relic known as the Eternity Forge, which seems to act as the MacGuffin for the game. The relic shows signs of mysterious powers that aren’t fully explained in this episode, but it turns out that there is another villain waiting to claim the relic as well. The game uses a fairly new villain that many might not be familiar with, but it works well here, even if said villain can be compared to Ronan from the movie. Star-Lord and his team must do everything in their power to keep the Eternity Forge from the wrong hands, even if they may be the wrong hands themselves.
Getting to the gameplay, the game should feel familiar to fans of Telltale Games and their point-and-click style adventures. Players will use quick-time events to interact with various scenes and make quick decisions before time runs out. There are some moments when players will have to explore an area to progress the story, which adds a few interesting changes, most notable of them being the vertical movement with Star-Lord’s rocket boots. The communicator with the team is a nice way to keep things interesting as well, as Star-Lord can speak with his team when separated from them, gaining information about their situation. Combat also has a nice addition with the ability to shoot Star-Lords dual pistols, which adds a real sense of interaction with the fight sequences.
Speaking of the action scenes, they’re incredibly stylish and well choreographed to showcase all the abilities of the team. It is worth mentioning that Groot feels a bit left out of the combat, only given one real moment to shine. Hopefully this can change in future episodes, but for now, the rest of the team gets plenty of moments to show off their stuff. One specific battle lets players control the whole team, really laying the smack-down on a powerful adversary. The game really takes advantage of showing off real teamwork, as most Telltale games give players just one character to use during a fight.
Visually, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series is easily the most impressive looking game from Telltale. It truly looks like a next-gen game, utilizing lots of high powered rendering, high quality textures, advanced lighting, and more. Environments look out of this world and characters are full of life and detail while still maintaining that Telltale Games style. Like The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier, this game takes full advantage of the engine, again leaving out the letterbox style from Batman: The Telltale Series. The animation is also among their best, which gets plenty of time to shine during the epic battle sequences.
Also like The Walking Dead: The Telltale Series – A New Frontier, this game performs incredibly well. The frame rate never had any noticeable dips and it’s clear that Telltale has done a lot of improvements with their debugging. It’s getting to a point where it isn’t even worth mentioning performance for Telltale games since it’s barely even an issue anymore. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series truly does well to live up to the rising popularity of the franchise, with a stellar presentation and an interesting story so far. Hopefully it can get noticed by fans of the series, especially since the new movie comes out in just a couple weeks. Telltale Games should be proud of their work on this franchise and with this excellent start, hopefully they can keep the momentum going for the rest of the season.
Final Score: 9 out 10