Blasting Off Right – Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Episode 1 Review

Telltale Games is a pretty popular developer, and has mostly centered around creating adventure games based on popular franchises.  Their main franchise, The Walking Dead, is currently in its third season.  Along with that, they’ve produced episodic series on Game of Thrones, the Borderlands franchise, Batman, and more.  Their latest attempt is aimed at Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, with the first episode in the five episode series releasing today.  Does Telltale’s adventure game formula work well with Guardians?  Let’s dig a bit deeper.

Guardians of the Galaxy Tangled in Blue

Star-Lord and Friends

Telltale’s: Guardians of the Galaxy draws a lot of inspiration from the Marvel Cinematic Universe version of Guardians of the Galaxy.  The characters are similar in appearance to the film versions, but have some minor visual changes.  Personalities are about the same, so if you were a fan of the crew in the film, you’ll enjoy this batch as well.

Our beloved protagonist and leader Peter Quill, better known as Star-Lord, is a bit of a man-child.  There’s the oversized friendly tree Groot, and the perpetually literal Drax.  Rocket the Racoon is a feisty and obnoxious character, voiced to perfection by Nolan North.  Finally, Gamora the green assassin completes our group of heroes.

Guardians of the Galaxy Telltale Crew

Speaking of voice acting, the entire episode is voiced pretty damn well. Every one does a great job embodying their characters and bringing them to life.  The voice actors were able to breathe new life into already established characters, creating a new take on the beloved group.  The new voices and appearances take a bit to get used to, but after a while I found myself just as attached as I was with the film cast.

 The Guardians Start a New Adventure

Thankfully, Telltale decided to whip up a brand new story for our Guardians rather than rehashing one of the two films.  In this first episode, titled “Tangled Up in Blue”, we meet up with our titular characters aboard their trusty ship.  After a stylish introduction of Star-Lord himself, he receives a distress call from the Nova Corps.  The Nova Corps need the Guardians help, as super-villain Thanos has begun an attack on a nearby planet.  The team heads off after Thanos, and the episode opens up with a bang.

While the beginning fight with Thanos is excellent and contains the best fighting sequences since The Wolf Among Us, the context around it is weak.  The game assumes that you have a base understanding of the franchise, or have seen the first film.  There’s an expectation of knowledge, as the game lacks a lot of solid explanation.  This is good news for long-time fans, but could be off putting for those who are new to the franchise.

While Thanos starts off the episode, he’s hardly the overall focus of the series.  Instead, this seems to be focused on a mysterious artifact known as the “Eternity Forge”.  I won’t spoil it’s secrets, but the relic lends to a pretty cool story sequence.

Guardians of the Galaxy Eternity Forge

The Telltale Touch

Most Telltale games have a very distinct style to them, and I would say that Guardians of the Galaxy is really the first one to break the mold.  From the opening cut scene onward, it’s pretty easy to notice the change.  Textures seem much more detailed than what I normally expect from a Telltale outing.  The style is still cartoonish in a way, but the art design is much more realistic rather than the frequent use of cell-shading.

I really enjoyed the refined visuals, and noticed the polish extend past pure visual clarity.  Animation and lip syncing has improved, as well as overall performance.  The game runs well, but still has the unfortunately familiar “Telltale stutter”.  This occurs occasionally as the game switches scenes or settings.  There will be a slight one or two second pause before animation kicks back in.  It’s almost expected at this point, but still disappointing to see.

The normal gameplay loop of Telltale adventure games is here, and works well with the Guardians franchise.  You choose responses during dialogue trees, do some minor exploration, and engage in quick-time event action sequences.  There wasn’t much in the way of puzzle-solving in Guardians of the Galaxy, but the quality of the fight scenes made up for that.

qGuardians of the Galaxy Thanos Fight

Exploration has also been expanded a bit, as Star-Lord can use his trusty thruster packs to hover around and reach higher locations.  It’s a neat mechanic, and although it’s only briefly featured, I hope it makes a return in later episodes.

Guardians of the Galaxy Thruster Pack

The Bottom Line on Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Episode 1

As an introduction to a new direction for the oddball superhero group, Episode 1 of Telltale’s attempt is an excellent tease for what’s to come.  If the writing stays on course and the narrative becomes compelling, I feel like Guardians of the Galaxy has the potential to be one of Telltale’s best.  The bold new push towards high quality textures and realistic animations is impressive, and the inclusion of classic Telltale charm is appreciated.

Guardians of the Galaxy Conversation

“Tangled in Blue” did a great job as an opening episode, as it definitely got me excited to see more.  It’s a bit too brief, finishing up in around an hour.  However, it was a great hour of entertainment that makes me eager to continue the story.  If you’re a fan of the Marvel film adaptations and you like Telltale games, this is a no-brainer and a must purchase.  For those who may not be entirely familiar with the franchise, I’d suggest you watch the movie before picking up the game.  As a stand alone episode, it’s not mind blowing.  However, it’s a perfect way to set up an action packed season.

Rating: 8.25

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