The dust has yet to settle on ‘The Walking Dead: A New Frontier’ finale episode from last week but Telltale Games are already moving full speed ahead with the second episode to MARVEL’s Guardians of the Galaxy: A Telltale Series Episode 2. Following a fast paced opening episode that saw the defeat of The Mad Titan Thanos to the Guardians, all was not well in the group with relationships already strained and a new enemy rising to challenge our heroes. It was time hit play on the Awesome Mix Volume 2 soundtrack and get cracking…
*SPOILER WARNING: Decisions from Episode 1 and 2 will be discussed*
Well I say Awesome Mix Volume 2 but in reality, much like Episode 1, Episode 2 ‘Under Pressure’ does not quite have the same quality in song choice as fans will know from the big screen films. It is highly noticeable, especially in the attempt to have an epic opening space fight in this episode but the song choice falls flat, just as the QTE sequence to kick this episode off. Sadly it set the tone for the rest of this episode for me.
Episode 1 left off with Peter Quill in position of the Eternity Forge, a strange alien relic recovered from the defeat of Thanos but now the focus of a new villain in the Kree warrior Hala the Accuser, who wants to use the power of the Eternity Forge for her own ends. That power is seen as the episode ends with Peter Quill being brought back to life after seemingly being killed by Hala. Episode 2 picks right up from this moment with a fun little sequence that sees the Guardians responding to this apparent miracle leading to a nice little opportunity for the player to pick an option to in order to prove that Star Lord is Star Lord, I went with dancing. Now the player can understand exactly why Hala is hunting down the Guardians to retrieve the Eternity Forge, in order to revive the Kree people.
Under Pressure finally adds a fan favourite character as Yondu is introduced. Now this take on Yondu is pretty much a complete copy of the character portrayed by Michael Rooker in the films. Now whilst this will be the most recognizable version for fans after the films, it is a little on the nose and noticeable that it is really just a copied performance from dialogue with Peter Quill down to the humour used for him with other character interactions. The first episode was really a blend of what fans would know from the films and animated TV shows visually but the performances where different enough to stand on their own but now we see the first real lifting of a film performance for the game. Instead of being excited to see Yondu finally, I was left feeling a little let down with the choices made for his introduction.
One of the elements of the opening episode that continues in Under Pressure is that almost every single character dialogue builds Peter’s relationship with his fellow Guardians. Now this has good and bad sides to the coin, more often than not the results of a conversation will leave one character happy and one character unhappy and that feeling of no good way of keeping both characters happy is frustrating. This version of the Guardians suggests they have been fighting together for a long time before defeating Thanos forces them all to start reflecting on their time together, but it goes dangerously close to Peter baby sitting some stroppy kids instead of a band of heroes. Where the direction of the story is determined by such dialogue changes I can understand it, but in simple conversations as Peter explores the ship, it just feels unnecessary and forced.
The highlight of this episode has to be the option of learning a bit more about Rocket’s past. A common theme of recent Telltale Games, something that began with The Wolf Among Us, is the player choice of where to go next in the story. Here the player is given the choice of two options in order to investigate the Eternity Forge, to either go with Gomara to locate Nebula who could help in deciphering the writing on the relic or granting the request of Rocket to take it to Halfworld to aid a friend of his with the power it has to bring dead people to life again. Each option will have a consequence depending on which path you take. Now for me this is really a no-brainer decision considering how heavily the story has driven home that Rocket is very unhappy and wanting to leave the Guardians, so helping him feels like the best way to not only keep him with the Guardians but just to be nice for someone clearly struggling right now in the team. Taking this option means that Nebula, on a mission to retrieve the body of Thanos, locates the body with whomever you chose to give the body to in the first episode; the Nova Corps or selling it to the Collector. Choose to go with Rocket and Gomara will be less than thrilled with Peter!
But the choice for me was worth it, offering a very tender moment with Rocket that gives real insight into his character. I will not spoil what happens because it is something completely worth discovering through playing but this is perhaps the best piece of writing for this series so far. The voice acting is spot on in delivering the emotion required in telling some back-story for Rocket that not even the films have touched on. This will be one of the standout moments for this series for fans I feel and is well written and executed.
The episode then follows this up by the introduction of Nebula, provided the real strength for episode 2 and once again, the inspiration is clearly taken from Karen Gillan’s performance and look from the films. But it also showcases the same niggles I had with the first episode in that the QTE action sequences just end up feeling flat. The fight with Nebula is spoiled by slow QTE moments that appear to lag during the sequence and is something that happens through out. It is a distraction from what is happening on screen and again, it is another noticeable flaw that adds more meh than wow.
Sadly after really enjoying the opening chapter to this series, Under Pressure as a second episode just has too many issues that scupper the pace far too much to really enjoy it. At just shy of two hours long, the constant interruptions of loading screens break the flow far too much for me.The main story itself hardly progresses at all and though I really enjoyed the Rocket side story and introductions of Yondu and Nebula to the mix, this felt more like a third episode to me, that with an ending that perhaps has to be the laziest cliff hanger in a Telltale Game in recent years, just left me cold which was rather unexpected.