Tainted Love: Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series Review

Posted in Kulturecade by - November 16, 2017
Tainted Love: Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series Review

It’s no understatement to say that the Guardians of the Galaxy have exploded in popularity in recent years, so a video game based on the characters was inevitable. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series makes a good first impression, perfectly capturing the tone of the movies and sporting some sharp writing. It doesn’t take long until the cracks begin to show, however; the most successful Telltale games make players believe that their choices matter, even if the decisions made are largely inconsequential. Guardians of the Galaxy can’t even create a convincing illusion of choice.

The plot here, thin as it is, revolves around a quest to find a magical, life-restoring McGuffin and keep it out of the hands of an evil warlord looking to revive her dead army. Initially, this setup provides ample opportunities for the Guardians to reflect on the people they’ve lost, and that dramatic thrust works for a while. It all becomes so routine by the end, though: each episode spotlights a different Guardian (even though players will primarily control Star-Lord), and while their emotional backstories are all often affecting, the addition of flashbacks in every episode only highlights just how paper-thin the game would be without them.

A lackluster story would be forgivable if the character interactions in this game were strong, but this area is where proceedings really fall apart. As mentioned above, the game starts strong, with the humor from the movies mostly intact and some engaging conflicts that will truly test your loyalties. All of this is undercut by the realization that none of your decisions matter. Despite going out of my way to appease certain characters, they often inexplicably acted like I was an awful person, only to return to being incredibly friendly a scene later. What gives? This lack of player agency makes too much of the drama feel forced and grating, and it served as a constant reminder that no matter how much the game insisted I was in control, there was little evidence to substantiate that claim. Perhaps the best example of this is a monumental decision at the end of the fourth episode in which I killed off a main character. I was stunned and incredibly impressed that Telltale put such an important decision in the hands of the player. Then, episode five almost immediately renders this choice meaningless, no matter what you did. That’s the game in a nutshell: empty promises and an endless series of plot conveniences.

The gameplay here is the usual Telltale standard. Players will walk around, talk to people, solve simple puzzles, and complete quick time events in visually cool but mechanically shallow action sequences. There are no surprises here, and a lot of the aforementioned action sequences consist solely of mashing the shoulder buttons to fire Star-Lord’s pistols, which makes the process even more hands-off than usual. There are a handful of engaging scenes in which you control all of the Guardians during large, well-choreographed action set pieces, but these moments are less frequent.

Finally, it’s worth noting the game’s use of music. There are some pretty decent tracks here, and they’re used appropriately, but few of them are as recognizable or memorable as the selections from the movies (the only two songs that come to mind are “Livin’ Thing” by ELO and “Dancing in the Moonlight” by King Harvest). All things considered, the licensed music here injects some welcome personality into the game, and I’m glad that an effort was made to keep the game stylistically similar to the movies, which I love, but most of the tracks sound uninspired.

As a narrative, Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy is average. As a video game that promises the player control over said narrative, however, it’s a failure. Fans of the characters will find some enjoyment in the fun banter, solid if largely pedestrian track list of retro tunes, and a handful of genuinely fun action scenes. But whether or not it’s worth wading through hours of meaningless choices, confounding characters interactions, simple puzzles, and stale gunfights to reach those highlights depends entirely on just how much you want more Guardians of the Galaxy in your life.

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