Much like its first episode, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, Episode 2: Under Pressure is a mixture of solid storytelling and aggravating technical issues. Though these issues are never enough to make you put down the controller indefinitely, the storytelling isn’t always gripping enough to balance the scales.
Choosing Between Friends
Tough choices are core to every Telltale experience, and so far Guardians of the Galaxy is no different. Instead of black and white decision making, where one choice is clearly good and the other evil, Episode 2: Under Pressure presents no-win scenarios.
In this episode, Starlord spends the majority of his time appeasing either Gamora or Rocket Raccoon, and pissing the other off in the process. The player can choose to help Gamora find and reconnect with her sister Nebula (classic!) in an attempt to move the plot forward. Alternately, the player could go with Rocket to his home world and help him battle the demons of his past. However, you can’t do both, and choosing one negates the other. Naturally, neither character is pleased if you don’t side with them.
Creating Our Story
We chose to follow Rocket back to the lab where he was created. The scenes that follow are touching, revealing a much softer side of the infamous Raccoon to the player. His first love, an anthropomorphic otter named Lylla, is a fellow experiment in the laboratory. The two attempt to escape together, but tragedy strikes. It’s a simple story, but it goes a long way in explaining Rocket’s blasé attitude towards love and friendship.
We neglected to chase down Nebula – a decision that caused the Guardians a headache in the long run. Nebula manages to get chased down by the Nova Corps, and the Guardians need to save her from the attack in order for her to translate some ancient runes. Gamora, still upset with Starlord, reconnects with her sister after going toe-to-toe for a brief spat. It makes us wonder exactly what would have happened had we pursued her immediately, but then again, we’d miss out on some of Rocket’s character development.
The gray area presented by these choices is refreshing compared to the dichotomy of good and evil present in many video games. Still, it’s frustrating that neither character, no matter what you do to side with them, ever seems completely pleased. Starlord’s goal is the keep the Guardians together. Unfortunately, the game never seems to be at a point where you can genuinely lose any member of your team. There are still three episodes to see how this plays out, but as of now, the stakes don’t feel particularly high.
Telltale Tools: Under Pressure
As with the first episode, Episode 2: Under Pressure suffers from inexcusable technical issues. The Telltale Tools engine has been around for years, but recent updates haven’t seemed to help matters much. There’s constant stuttering between scenes, and dropped frames abound. Additionally, you’ll go through loading screens between every environment change. Moving between rooms? That’s a five second wait. Going to a new world? Expect that number to multiply.
Technical faults like these are more forgivable with graphically taxing games, but the visuals in Guardians of the Galaxy are basic to a fault. The characters are almost clay-like in appearance, but this stylistic choice comes across as lazy rather than artistic. Games don’t need state-of-the-art visuals to hold artistic merit, but if a game runs as poorly as this, you’d expect it to look a bit more polished than this. It’s a budget release, with the season pass only at $20. But even then, Telltale has been at this too long for their games to look like they belong in the previous console generation.
Still More to See
Like any episodic game, final judgment should be reserved until the season is complete. Though we felt a bit bored as the story crawled by, it still had pockets of humor and genuinely touching moments. Telltale knows how to pull on the heartstrings and tickle the funny bone, and Episode 2: Under Pressure shows them doing what they do best. The episode also further cements their flaws as a developer, letting us down on too many technical levels.
They present the Guardians much like they are in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, they develop these basic relationships by letting the player choose their own path. These choices, paired with well-written dialogue and an often emotion story, keep the experience moving forward. Perhaps that will ultimately be the game’s saving grace.
Once all of Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series is out in the wild, we’ll give our final verdict. Until then, we will continue playing through each episode as they are released and give your our hot takes. In the meantime, keep an eye on The Game Fanatics for all your gaming news and reviews.