After being pretty disappointed at the entirety of the latest Walking Dead season, Telltale has left me wanting more. I’ve considered myself a fan for quite some time, and was exceptionally interested when they announced their adaptation of the popular Guardians of the Galaxy franchise. After playing the first episode, I was surprisingly pleased, but I’ve been fooled by a strong start before. Does Episode 2 of Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy continue the trend of quality, or dip to a familiar disappointment? With a title of Episode 2: Under Pressure, maybe Telltale is aware of the bar they have to meet.
Note: This review contains spoilers for Episode 1 of Guardians of the Galaxy.
A Study of Character
For anyone who’s seen the films and/or read the Guardians comic, you’ll be instantaneously aware of the differences between that story and the Telltale one. Episode 1 saw the death of Thanos (who is currently building up to be the biggest villain in the Marvel cinematic universe), and Episode 2 sees a bit more change to the form. This time around, the episode focuses on the Guardians themselves, and explores their back stories.
We still get a continuation of the drama surrounding the Eternity Forge, a mystical glowing totem that brought Peter Quill back to life at the end of Episode One. In fact, little screen time is wasted, as almost every scene or dialogue exchange has some weight and meaning. The overall arc concerning the Eternity Forge and its powers remains ever interesting, although the main villain still lacks conviction.
Although each character gets quite a bit of time in the spotlight, this episode mainly focuses on Star Lord and Rocket’s back story. Once again, the changes that Telltale have made to some of the core character lore keep things interesting, even if you know them inside and out. Both Star Lord and Rocket get surprisingly emotional and gripping flashback scenes, some of which is absolutely top tier Telltale.
A New Challenger Approaches!
Tasked with solving the mystery of the death-defying Eternity Forge takes the Guardians of the Galaxy to several different locations, and we stumble into a few new faces along the way. Although one of the two new characters only appears for a brief scene, it was nice to see the cast fleshed out a bit more. I won’t spoil the surprise, but the additional characters only added to the quality of the storytelling. At no point did Episode 2 feel bloated or convoluted. The episode is both lengthy and extremely well paced, and I never found myself bored or uninterested.
Speaking of being well paced, a large amount of that can be attributed to the inclusion of various play styles. Yes, Guardians of the Galaxy is still a Telltale game; you’ll be pressing button in quick time events and make tough choices that affect the overall narrative. I won’t spoil any of them, but I found even the smaller choices to hold a decent weight to them; something I’ve found missing in newer Telltale games.
Substance and Style
One of my biggest complaints with The Walking Dead: A New Frontier was the lack of free form movement. Although Telltale has gone for more of a cinematic approach with their latest titles, the best of them combine the tone with substantial gameplay. Essentially, I don’t want to watch an hour long cut scene, I want to play a video game.
Guardians of the Galaxy hears my cry, and answers it in variety. Not only does the second episode contain multiple free form movement sections, but encourages exploration of the ship and surrounding areas. While on the Guardians’ ship, you can do a bunch of stuff. From checking in on fellow teammates to making video calls to the Nova Core, Guardians sets itself apart as a pretty substantial experience. Most of this content is secondary, and not needed to complete the game. However, I can’t deny that I had a good time rummaging through Star Lord’s email box.
Not only do you get to walk around as Star Lord, but you also get to participate in epic fights, exchange some gunfire in a space dogfight, and more. I was pleased to see the Star Lord’s jet pack boots make a return, and although limited in use, provides a nice level of layering to late exploration.
The Bottom Line on The Guardians of the Galaxy: Episode 2 – Under Pressure
Color me impressed, because Guardians of the Galaxy: Episode 2 was one of the best Telltale episodes I’ve played. For this early on in the five part episodic series, it was surprising to see such hard hitting emotional scenes and the amount of world building. On a technical level, Guardians is great, only succumbing to the “Telltale stutter” as I like to call it. Unlike The Walking Dead, the game ran great and rarely saw any frame rate drops. When they did happen, they were expected.
Thanks to superb action set pieces, gripping character building, and interesting progression in the overall narrative, Guardians of the Galaxy: Episode 2 gets a high recommendation from me. Not only is it good, but it’s decent in length, clocking in at well over 2-3 hours. My interest never wavered, my excitement rarely dropped, and my attention was focused. It’s not a perfect Telltale episode, but it’s the closest I’ve seen since Tales from the Borderlands. If you were waiting to see if the story was worthwhile, trust me when I say it is. If you haven’t started Guardians of the Galaxy yet, and you like adventure/cinematic gaming, you’re missing out.