Telltale’s game franchises have been rather inconsistent over the past two years. I was once floored by games like The Walking Dead and The Wolf Among Us, but slowly found myself becoming more disappointed with subsequent releases. With mediocre seasons of The Walking Dead: A New Frontier and Batman: Season One leaving a foul taste in my mouth, it was going to take something significant to change that. Then, Guardians of the Galaxy premiered. The first episode was outstanding, and the follow up episode was just as well done. However, Telltale’s third episodes are commonly more fluffy than I’d like. Perhaps Guardians of the Galaxy will be the exception?
NOTE: This article will contain light spoilers for EPISODE ONE and EPISODE TWO of Guardians of the Galaxy. It will NOT spoil Episode 3.
This review will be relatively short, because in comparison to the first two episodes, Episode 3 is significantly shorter. Wrapping up in just over an hour and a half, Episode 3 is a decidedly more passive experience than what I’ve come to expect from this series. Therefore, it’s hard to talk about the narrative content without giving too much away, so I’ll attempt to be as vague as possible.
When we last saw the Guardians, Gamora and Peter Quill were walking into a blinding white light. Brought to a mysterious temple in their pursuit of the power of the Eternity Forge, the previous episode ended with these two heroes approaching said light. Episode 3 picks up directly after that, and focuses on Peter and Gamora quite a bit. The other Guardians get their time in the spotlight, but Episode 3 is much more focused on Gamora and Nebula’s past, as Peter’s ongoing attempt to resurrect his mother.
Telltale has a tendency to start their episodes with flashbacks, and Guardians: Episode 3 is no different. This is doubly true, as both Peter and Gamora get their own look into the past. In fact, Gamora’s flashback is more lengthy and prominent, somewhat putting Peter’s mother-drama to the side.
As Guardians of the Galaxy progresses, new characters pop up with each episode. Episode 3 also has a new arrival, which I won’t spoil. However, the characters are starting to line up with the commonly known Marvel cinematic universe. This is both a blessing and a curse. On one hand, it’s great to see favorites from the film series pop up in the game. On the other, I much prefer some of the new and original characters that have appeared.
In Episode 3, you spend time making decisions and choosing dialogue for the entire Guardians crew. This is a nice way to make the player feel like they have a hand in the entire crew, but I found it to be distracting at points. For example, when given control over Nebula’s voice options, I’m often torn. Do I create the sort of Nebula I’d like to see, or do I stay true to the character?
Episode 3 is a more story driven experience, with less in the way of action and free roaming. There are only two action scenes, and even less substantial free roaming scenes. This is fine, as I don’t need a Telltale episode to have these things in abundance in order to be good. However, when the game runs like absolute crap, the rest of the flaws are magnified by 100%. The first two episodes of Guardians of the Galaxy ran great; I barely saw any hiccups or signs of stuttering. Episode 3, not so much.
Before I get into it, it’s important to note that I played this episode on an Xbox One. Having consulted others, it seems like the Playstation 4 version runs well, and I’m assuming the PC version runs fine (assuming you have the proper rig). The Xbox One version, well, it sucks. Not only is there a crazy amount of visual stutter, but the audio also skipped as well. Sometimes the audio would skip when the game would visually stutter, sometimes it would skip for no reason. These two issues nearly ruin the action scenes, and tear you out of narrative immersion.After reinstalling the episode, I still had the same issue. Perhaps it’s my console, but with Telltale’s track record on visual stutter, I find that hard to believe.
The Bottom Line on Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Episode 3: More Than a Feeling
In terms of moving the story forward, Episode 3 does a decent job. It definitely feels more padded out than previous Guardians episodes, with a few glaring issues. New character introductions are nice, action is still fun (when it’s not horrendously affected by stutter), and the writing is still solid. The storytelling can get a bit circular at times, and some scenes are downright redundant, but these things don’t ruin the story.
However, the technical performance does nothing to aid the experience. The constant audio issues and frame rate stutters pull you out of narrative immersion, making emotional moments less impacting. This is especially disappointing for Episode 3, as it deals with themes of emotional baggage and repressed emotion. These themes come out well in the story, yet their power is muddied up by poor execution.
Episode 3 isn’t bad, it’s just okay. The technical performance knocks it down a few notches, and even without these issues, the story doesn’t impress me. If anything, Episode 3 is a mid-season slump that I’m used to, just worsened by performance. I hoped that Guardians of the Galaxy would be the exception, but it’s more of the same. If you’re looking for massive story revelations, you’re going to have to wait until Episode 4.