Telltale must have been rubbing their hands in glee at being given the rights to release a Guardians of the Galaxy Telltale game just before what will undoubtedly be the biggest superhero film of the summer. That said, it becomes clear while playing the first episode of this 5-part series that this game is primarily a reimagining, rather than a companion or pre/sequel to the movie.
Starting up the game, the iconic 80s soundtrack blasts alongside visuals of Star-Lord’s walkman, both core ingredients of the franchise and the rest of the game pays homage to that throughout. Within minutes you receive a distress call from the Nova Corps requesting help to kill Thanos, ‘destroyer of worlds, big glowy gauntlet, wrinkly chin‘ and from then on your quest develops. Hardly a groundbreaking start but the plot goes from strength to strength thereafter.
As someone who hadn’t played a Telltale game prior to this, I was expecting it to be a walking simulator, idly mashing the space bar to pass through pages of scripted dialogue and experiencing the same as everybody else. Upon playing the first 20 minutes it becomes apparent that battles are integral to both the story and gameplay and you’ll need to know the layout of your keyboard or controller to make sure you don’t slip up. Despite bashing a few keys by accident, I had no problem navigating through the timing-based battle scenes, finding that if you don’t catch something in mid-air or shoot a gun at the correct time, one of your travel companions will come to the rescue, making the end result pretty much the same.
From the very beginning of the game, the easily identifiable humour of the movie and comic series is present, introducing main characters and giving the player various options which it states will affect your future progress and storyline. However, they don’t feel like they affect the story to a point where a second playthrough siding with different characters and making alternate choices is necessary to enjoy the whole experience. In fact, when I tried to replay the episode, it actively attempted to discourage me, stating that everything I had achieved would be lost, rather than offering a new save file.
The biggest let-down in Telltale’s Guardians Of The Galaxy is the game engine, which makes it feel like a game from the beginning of the decade. Yes, the graphics are mediocre at best, but the controls and lack of movement fluidity are inexcusable in this day and age, even if your game is due out on iOS and Android. On multiple occasions I found myself pressing down a key to move, yet because I’d pressed it too quickly, the character hadn’t responded and I needed to press it once more to get them moving again. This, coupled with the middling visuals is likely to alienate many of those people who weren’t previous fans of the series.
For those picking this up as Guardians Of The Galaxy aficionados, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. The character scripting and delivery is fantastic, providing the perfect dose of humour with a carefully worked plot and a cast of characters you’ll go out of your way to interact with, avoiding the laborious dialogue in other companion-heavy games (*cough* Mass Effect Andromeda *cough*).
As a franchise with such strict lore, the major events of the plot in what is only episode 1 surprised me by how much Marvel were willing to allow Telltale to include. Without spoiling anything, I was waiting for a seemingly major event to be revealed as a ruse but as of the end of the episode it isn’t to be. Whether this stays as it is in future episodes remains to be seen but how quickly the story develops for what is essentially a game that’s purely riding the coattails of its blockbuster movie, it provides a lot more substance storywise than what I was expecting from it.
All in all, despite a slew of visual glitches and indefensible movement problems caused by Telltale refusing to seriously upgrade their engine, the excellent writing and abundance of humour stops Guardians Of The Galaxy from sinking into the pit of ‘crap video games based on commercially-successful movies’. The fascinating character interactions and engaging storyline that never ceases in springing up surprises around every corner makes this a must-play for fans of the series and those who want a bit more after coming home from watching the feature film.