Telltale’s first trip into the MARVEL Universe has certainly been a mixed bag for me with sadly more downs then ups. Now we have reached the finale episode and much is at stake for the Guardians thanks to decisions I have made along the way. I had a lot of hope going into this final episode that it could go out as well as it had started for me but sadly it failed to get me hooked on a feeling!
*Spoiler Warning for choices made in previous episodes*
So where are the Guardians as I jump into the finale, well thanks to previous player choices I have made, they are broken up. By choosing to side with Rocket in the last episode Gamora has left the group following the death of her sister Nebula and Groot has left with Mantis. Drax is also dead, having chosen to sacrifice himself to save the others by taking it upon himself to go fight a giant cave worm in the hopes that it will bring him to his family in the afterlife. Not to mention that Hala, who was sometime infused with the power of the Infinity Forge after I made the decision to destroy it, is now on a killing spree in her attempts to draw out Starlord in order to get her revenge.
Yeah, the Guardians are in a mess right now, but then this is exactly what the whole point of this series has been. Right from the opening episode in some very forced dialogue exchanges, the seeds were sown that Peter would have the arduous task of trying to keep the team together with various dialogue exchanges with characters shaping relationships either good or bad. But this always felt flat to me, especially when you consider that the game uses one of the more annoying Telltale storytelling mechanics of the “no win scenario” where the choices given to the player to shape character relationships mean whichever option you take, you lose as someone always ends up walking away unhappy. For me this had always been Rocket as his desire to leave the team was threatened right from the start and right up to Episode 4 but then it all suddenly switched around with a choice to try and win his loyalty back resulted in Gamora then leaving instead which for four episodes as the least likely outcome.
The biggest problem with this finale is that this aspect really became the entire point of the story, with Hala suddenly become a fight you kind of have to do but everything else revolved around getting the band back together thanks to a sudden reveal by Mantis, who conveniently returns with Groot just at the right time, that she has the power to find people just by using the emotions of a people to reach out to find the ones they care about. This serves not only to waste about ten minutes with some really empty gameplay which is supposed to have some kind of emotional reaction to each one but it only unravels previous events. For example it really only cements the fact that all through this series the focus for Peter has been on keeping Rocket, Gamora and Drax happy with those three and where they are before the final fight with Hala. It is just so lacklustre in the delivery that fails to have the effect Telltale wants it to have. Worst thing is how it quickly nullifies the dramatic ending to the previous episode with Drax thought dead, actually just sitting on that rock looking a little upset he was left behind even though it was his idea to make that sacrifice. It was just all a little anticlimactic which didn’t help or feel like any sort of journey completion for me.
The opportunity for Peter to play the leader and “getting the band back together” overwhelms the finale pushing the fight with Hala into nothing more than an afterthought really and very lame quick time event fight which felt clumsy in its execution. That really is the main issue I have had with this as a series, too much filler and padding and not enough real substance. It does have some nice touches though but these are few and far between with the only real stand out moment being the opportunity to pick one of the songs used through the series to play during the final battle and credits. There is just so little to really do here that it was not surprising that the length of time for the achievement to pop for completing Chapter 5 of this episode came just six minutes after completing Chapter 4. In fact looking at the achievements and it does seem as though many players on Xbox One have already abandoned this series as each one had a Diamond status with less than 4% showing for other players having completed the same chapter.
Overall I am just really frustrated with this game series from Telltale as it features from fun and nicely put together moments between the Guardians but so much of this series just felt like filler around a very short story that barely fits into the traditional five episode run for Telltale games. The series began with the Guardians making short work of MARVEL big bad Thanos which was surprising but quickly became more of a tale of how the Guardians are as a family with Peter responsible for trying to keep the team together and happy. But when you realise midway through the series that most of the player choices are forced into taking Path A or B, you just feel robbed of any real ownership of those choices. Now I could go back and decide not to destroy the Forge for a different spin on the story but I still feel as though the team breaking up as it did would still happen just as it did, someone would threaten to leave and if I was to focus on them to try and change their mind it would only lead to the other choosing to go and pretty much certain that Drax would always sacrifice himself to fight a giant space cave worm thingy.
It lacked the impact it could have had as I always ended up thinking about the film version of the Guardians which when the soundtrack kicked featured different and perhaps less known songs, made this look like a pale version of the Guardians of the Galaxy at times. Voice acting is good but it still suffers the bugs and annoyances that all recent telltale games have such as visual bugs or unresponsive QTE moments. The main story could have easily been wrapped up in three episodes so that is an additional two episodes of just delay tactics and padding to make this a full series. Though there is a tease which would hopefully make for a good follow up series, this first attempt fell flat both in terms of gameplay and satisfaction for me. This series was not all terrible but still by no means the best Telltale could have done with the license for my money when you see how well they have taken to the Batman universe in two seasons.
If we are to get a second season then I hope Telltale focus more on the fun the Guardians can and should be having and spend less time filling the obvious gaps in the story design with empty padding and just go full on guns blazing with a cracking story. For an ensemble piece they could do well to go back and look at Tales from the Borderlands, which had multiple characters and a strong story that made each episode fun to play but here it just felt like a couple of episode too many for this story.
I really hoped to like this series especially with such a strong opening episode but it hit the rocks quickly and sadly just never recovered.