So far Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series has been a really mixed bag for me as both a MARVEL and a Telltale Games fan. It started strong but a poor follow up in episode 2 sullied the experience. Episode 3 came with a huge decision for players which would shape how their game would continue and end for the series, something recent Telltale games have used in order to provide both replay value and additional dramatic choices for the player. Now we have finally reached the penultimate episode to the series and the fall out from what my choice was in Episode 3 would play out….or so I thought, but instead Episode 4 left me both bored and slightly frustrated.
*Spoiler Warning for Episode 4 and previous episodes based on my player choices ahead*
So the big decision or player choice in Episode 3 was to either save or destroy the Infinity Forge, a device so powerful that it could return any person from any time period back to life but only if another life was sacrificed to maintain balance. With Hala fighting to take control of the Forge as well as Rocket wanting to use it to bring his old friend to life, Peter Quill in my game was caught up in a powder keg of pressure trying to make a choice. In the end I chose to destroy the forge which yet again in my game pissed off Rocket but pleased Gamora and had a disastrous impact on the main villain of the series Hala. Now I wanted and hoped that the pacing problems would balance out as we race towards the series finale but instead Episode 4 is slow between the action sequences and whilst it has solid story moments I came away yet again disappointed.
The problem I have with this episode is pretty much the same that has really kept me from fully enjoying this series, the pacing which just drags the storytelling between action sequences and forced player choices is almost mind numbing at this point. This episode opens with replaying the final moments of the previous episode as my decision to destroy the Infinity Forge results in the collapse of the temple and resulting firefight with Hala, now seemingly infused with the power of the Forge knocking the Guardians off the platform and all falling to an underground cave system. It all serves as a chance to pretty much stop everything, for the Guardians to take stock on their current circumstances and also for the player to catch a breath and think about choices made and their outcomes whilst still focusing on the main themes of this series.
Those themes are of Peter desperately trying to keep the Guardians together despite the story constantly putting in conflict which means that no matter who you try to side with or at the least keep a neutrality to, someone is going to get upset and someone will grow closer to Peter. So far for me this has boiled down to Peter’s relationships with Rocket and Gamora where I have tried to help Gamora repair her relationship with Nebula but at the price of alienating Rocket who is threatening to leave the Guardians for good. Game of Thrones: The Telltale Series had the same issue for me, I really do not like having player choices with no real good result and that no matter which answer I picked in dialogue scenes and now four episodes in, it is truly draining on me each time it pops up and all I can do really is pick which character to piss off the least. There are some light hearted moments which then immediately ignore the fact I have just upset someone when they suddenly join in or make jokes in the next scene making it hard to keep track of who is the most upset with Peter when a possible opportunity comes to build bridges.
Which is a shame because again the strength of the series is in the flashback for each character which for Peter means going back to him as a child just as his Mother is becoming really ill which we know is a huge moment in Peter’s life, with a planned trip to go camping taking a dramatic turn as Peter’s Mum passes out at the wheel forcing Peter to take control of the car to prevent them crashing. It leads to his mum finally being honest with Peter about just how ill she is, giving them a really tender moment. Next the flashback moment switches to Drax after previous episodes showed us Gamora and Rocket. This is for me so far the stand out story moment in the series as we see Drax and his daughter as they prepare for her Warrior’s trial with player choices affecting how Drax responds to her. Up till now Drax has almost been the punchline to the humour in his direct responses so to finally see his interaction with his family, especially his daughter is very touching and handled both beautifully by the writing but also in the player options given to guide his responses making it all the more emotional knowing that Drax loses this family.
This episode also has two pretty dark moments which I will not spoil, but they both have a surprising impact on the story now in the later stages approaching the end which for at least one of them I genuinely did not see coming though I have no doubt will probably be undone in the finale but still, it was certainly a moment with weight for the story going into the final episode. Which just fuels my frustration with this series which has amazing moments of brilliance in story telling and use of the Guardians of the Galaxy license but at the same time it suffers from poor pacing, lack of actual content which makes the series fill dragged out and QTE events so lazy it becomes boring.
With Batman: The Enemy Within serving as a second season and already two episodes in, Guardians of the Galaxy already feels like a good idea that ran out of steam. The fact it has been seven months since episode one started has certainly not helped keep the momentum in this game for me and having so much of it focus on player choices that only leave the player feeling like they cannot win no matter which option they take is so infuriating at times. I will be happy to get to the final episode and can only hope that all the player choices will have a rewarding pay off.
Episode 5 has a lot of work to do to salvage this first trip into the MARVLE universe for Telltale, but right now not even the Avengers showing up can help it!