Telltale Games are no strangers to comic book adaptations, some of the studio’s biggest products being their critically acclaimed narrative-driven adaptations of Image Comic’s The Walking Dead and DC Vertigo’s Fables series (The Wolf Among Us). When it comes to superheroes though, one would imagine things would get a bit messy. Telltale’s appeal comes in their crucial decision-based storytelling, everybody knows it now, your choices affect certain characters and major story points. While something like this worked great in a post-apocalyptic story such as The Walking Dead’s and a murder mystery like The Wolf Among Us, the prospect of such a format being used for the likes of DC and Marvel’s characters, whose appeal comes from watching guys punch stuff, was confusing at best. Telltale definitely aren’t known for their quicktime event action sequences after all. That said, when Batman: The Telltale Series released in monthly episodes in 2016, it came as a huge surprise. It should have been obvious just how well a character such as the famous Caped Crusader would translate to their format, focusing on the detective side of Batman and the PR side of Bruce Wayne more than the action. Since DC had such a nice video game treatment, now Marvel has recently renewed interest in the video game industry, so they’ve handed some of their most beloved misfits to Telltale’s mostly trusted formula. The result is very promising so far.
Episode 1 of Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series follows Star-Lord and the gang, who are almost identical to their movie counterparts, having acquired a powerful treasure during an unexpected mission from the Nova Corps. Little to their knowledge, a powerful enemy is on the hunt for this treasure and will stop at nothing to claim it. Knowing how things generally go with the Guardians, one shouldn’t expect them to have the upper hand for long.
From the moment the game’s menu starts with comical images of the characters and Electric Light Orchestra’s ‘Livin’ Thing’ playing, anybody familiar with the 2014 movie should feel right at home. Telltale Games perfectly manages to capture the atmosphere of James Gunn’s universe. The characters mostly retain their personalities; this is still a separate universe, uncanonical to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but Peter Quill is still yours to control. From the first episode, you can choose to keep Star-Lord as his usual cocky self, an utter loser or a caring family man. I managed to make some central characters mad at me in the first episode alone just by gloating maybe a bit too much, but it’s very impressive to see that in just the first episode the characters can and will very quickly turn on each other unless you play a good guy family man the entire time, but there’s no fun in that. I was also surprised to see some flashback sequences delving into Peter’s past with his mother and Yondu that not only help to flesh out this incarnation of the character and differentiate him from Chris Pratt’s interpretation, but also helps the player appreciate the Guardians as a family.
But, of course, since this is a Telltale Game, there is a major flaw the developer refuses to overlook: the performance, or more specifically, the outdated game engine. Telltale have been using their Telltale Tool engine for roughly a decade now, and like any proprietary game engine, it has more than run its course. While it has seen significant upgrades in terms of visuals, Telltale’s game engine is simply archaic. The game sees wild performance spikes on consoles, visual glitches and stuttering that can bring the game to a screeching halt. I understand that this developer has a lot of titles in the works, but it may be a better idea to put some of them on hold to ensure that these titles actually run halfway decently in 2017. It’s not a good thing when the player is so paranoid of a single frame drop resulting in a crash because of this paper thin game engine.
Technical faults that plague all of this developer’s titles aside, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series- Episode 1: Tangled Up in Blue left me with great anticipation for what’s to come with my Star-Lord in this great narrative-driven episode with writing true to the movies and comics it hails from, perfect use of licensed music that the franchise is known for and fantastic voice acting. It captures the tone of its source material while offering a unique, more connected take on this great team. Hopefully, it keeps up through the rest of the series, which I’ll be taking a look at once again when it wraps up later this year.
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Publishing
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC
Release Date: 18th April 2017