Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series didn’t get off to an amazing start with Episodes 1 and 2. It definitely hit a low point with Episode 3. Even the first hour or so of Episode 4: Who Needs You continued the downward trend of uneven humor, outdated graphics, and boring gameplay. Why, then, are we impressed with the last half hour of this newest episode? Why are we starting to think Telltale is turning this ship around?
Because the stakes are starting to become real.
I Want to Break Free
The beginning of Episode 4: Who Needs You finds itself at the bottom of a pit. Literally. Hala, the Kree leader who is shaping up to be the season’s ultimate enemy, fused with the Eternity Forge and now has the power to absorb souls from anyone she touches. She and the remaining Kree knock the Guardians to the depths of the Sacred Shrine. There, tensions run high, and the Guardians are at each other’s throats more than ever before.
As they fall, the player is treated to a touching flashback between Peter and his dying mom. She tries to drive them up to a campground on the day she’s supposed to check into the hospital. She wants to give her son a positive final memory of her. Here, the emotional resonance of Peter’s past strikes a stronger note than ever before. But once you’re stuck at the bottom of the pit, the Telltale tedium sets in.
Rocket’s mad at Gamora, Gamora’s giving all her attention to Nebula, and Drax is constantly oblivious. These dynamics have changed very little since Episode 1, and for the next hour you spend your time wandering through cavernous wastes trying to find a way out. The stale gameplay from the rest of the series is present, the dialogue isn’t particularly humorous, and the main plot has been abandoned completely. Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series has it a literal low.
Another One Bites the Dust
But then something unexpected happens. After Drax has a flashback of him training with his deceased daughter (which is touching, but expected), things get real. While escaping from a massive stone-worm in the Guardian’s ship, the underrated Queen cut “Stone Cold Crazy” kicks in, and the entire team is in survival mode. The usually boring quick-time events start to feel imperative as Starlord attempts to fix the ship’s engines mid-escape. The Guardians start working together, with Gamora and Rocket steering the rickety ship.
By the time the crew flees the worm and escapes the caverns, two members are dead. Well, potentially, depending on how you play the game (it is Telltale, after all). Following three and a half episodes of feeling like there’s no stakes, things begin to hit hard. Though keeping the Guardians together seemed like an overarching goal for Starlord, it didn’t feel real before. But now it does.
By Episode 4’s end, everyone is potentially split up as what’s left of the group watches a news report of the Kree destroying an entire planet. And if you thought the dead characters would make a lazy comeback to life, the credits show you the state of the guardians. Two of my members were dead, three had left the party, and only two of us remained.
Don’t Stop Me Now
Even though the majority of Episode 4: Who Needs You felt like it was just going through the motions, the ending solidified it as perhaps the best episode in the season. Decisions that once felt vague and meaningless now cut to the core. I honestly don’t know who will be around by the end of Episode 5. I don’t know if the remaining Guardians will come together (though I suspect they will). And, frankly, I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to save the galaxy by season’s end.
Who Needs You jolted this Telltale Series back to life as it killed off its characters. Even if it still leaves you wanting in the graphical department, and even if it continues to chug at an oddly low frame rate from time to time, they’ve finally hit the right notes where it counts – the story.
Now we can’t wait to see how this series ends.
Keep an eye out for our review of the entire season after Episode 5 hits. Which, if Telltale keeps its word, should come out before the end of the year. For all your news, reviews, and more, stay tuned to The Game Fanatics.