Before 2014, only hardcore Marvel fans knew about the Guardians of the Galaxy. Initially, it seemed a bizarre choice to add a talking raccoon and a walking tree with limited dialect to a cinematic roster that already included Captain America, Iron Man, and Thor.
But director James Gunn did the franchise proud. Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, and Groot became household names. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 was naturally forthcoming.
And now, comic book fans can enjoy a new game, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, featuring the unlikely heroes. But is it worth your time? How accessible is it? And considering the team’s changes between mediums, are these the characters you’ll recognize from the movies?
What is Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series?
Receiving a distress call from the Nova Corps, the Guardians of the freakin’ Galaxy head off to fight the mad Titan, Thanos. But they discover he’s in possession of a mysterious artifact called the Eternity Forge.
Fortunately, they’re able to steal it from Thanos. But because it’s immensely powerful, a few parties want the Forge… including each member of the Guardians!
This is an episodic game — the first part, Tangled Up in Blue, was released in April 2017. The adventure continues across four further downloadable instalments that are available either individually or through a season pass. Some find such downloadable content (DLC) annoying — why can’t you just buy the complete game?! — but it works for The Telltale Series because the cliffhangers are reminiscent of those you’d find in a comic. This title feels like a miniseries.
You’ll likely know Telltale Games from its critically-acclaimed 2012 title, The Walking Dead (and its various sequels). If you’ve played that, you already know what to expect from Guardians of the Galaxy. CEO Kevin Bruner explained why the superhero team was perfect for gaming adaption:
The energizing blend of humor, emotion, teamwork, and full-on sci-fi action-adventure of the Guardians provides an enormously satisfying space to explore through Telltale’s unique style of interactive storytelling.
Founded in 2004, Telltale specializes in sci-fi/fantasy episodic releases. These include Game of Thrones (2014-15), Jurassic Park: The Game (2011), and Back to the Future: The Game (2010-11).
What’s the Game Actually Like?
Things start off well indeed, with Electric Light Orchestra’s Livin’ Thing. That’s especially pleasing given Mr. Blue Sky‘s prominence in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.
Going back to Bruner’s assertions about why Guardians of the Galaxy works, the game certainly embraces its jovial nature. With a wonderful soundtrack, apparently from Star-Lord’s “RAD Mix” cassette, The Telltale Series immediately feels like an accurate reflection of the franchise. The playlist is dotted throughout the series (largely confined to cutscenes) but the soundscape is nonetheless impressive throughout. You’ll definitely need earphones for this one!
There’s a good balance between gameplay and non-interactive elements. You’ll find more of the latter in the first episode, as it serves as a tutorial and sets up the main narrative. This means it’s slower than others that plough you straight in the action, but then again, comic fans appreciate a decent story.
Still, Telltale is synonymous with personalized experiences. Games alter depending on which choices you take, so even cutscenes involve you in decisions. Playing as Peter Quill, at least in Tangled Up in Blue, you typically get four dialogue options at various stages throughout. Even the most seemingly-inconsequential retorts result in a warning like “Gamora will remember that.”
Okay, it’s not always a warning. If you compliment a character, a similar note appears. Presumably, you win the respect and loyalty of your team. Nonetheless, if you’re staying true to character, you should be as brutally insulting as possible.
It’s not all dialogue, of course. You get to explore areas, solve puzzles, and brawl. Naturally, things get more exciting in the first boss fight — against Thanos. The battle is balanced out well between the Guardians, though Rocket doesn’t initially get much to do.
Navigation is simple and effective, especially on phablets. But if you miss even the smallest detail, it can be annoying to re-tread the same ground. Flying around as Peter is great for a while, though you’re soon itching to get your hands on other characters. Just imagine the fun you can have as Groot or Rocket.
One of the neatest ideas is Peter’s timescan, the notion from the first Guardians movie expanded upon to help you in minigames. It essentially creates ghosts: Thanos bats away members of the Nova Corps, then walks through you to take an elevator. It’s more exciting than it sounds.
We’ve yet to find out where all this goes, but Tangled Up in Blue is a promising start. This episode takes around two hours to get through, so the full five parts should be worth the price of admission.
Is This for Fans of the Comics or Movies?
Bill Rosemann, Marvel Games’ executive creative director, enthused:
Stan Lee always said, every Marvel comic could be someone’s first comic ever. So we approach things with that goal of accessibility.
How true is that of The Telltale Series, considering the Guardians‘ popularity grew exponentially following the film?
It’s actually an interesting mix of comic book and cinematic ideas. Notably, this roster is the same one from the movie; in the books, these aren’t the original Guardians. In fact, it took until April 2008 for Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Groot, and Rocket to team up — alongside Quasar and Adam Warlock — under that mantle. (Before then, the Guardians consisted of Major Vance Astro, Martinex, Starhawk, Nikki from Mercury, Charlie 27, and probably the name most familiar to movie fans, Yondu.)
Telltale’s interpretations of those characters are pretty screen-accurate, at least in their personalities. Their looks, however, stem more from their comic counterparts. Drax is more angular, and his markings more distinct. The same can be said of Gamora, notably on her face. Quill looks nothing like Chris Pratt; this version is the definitive comic look. Groot is fully-grown, not the baby from Vol. 2. And Rocket is simply Rocket.
But Does This Even Work?
It really works, actually. The graphics as a whole are lovely, especially considering the scope of the game. Space looks beautiful, as do familiar environments like their spaceship, the Milano (taken strictly from the movies), and Knowhere. That’s the interdimensional hub based in the decapitated head of a Celestial. Keep that in mind when going to theaters to watch Vol. 2.
Plus, because the story starts with Thanos, it’s a good primer not only for Vol. 2 but also the coming Avengers films.
Big-name stars don’t voice their characters for The Telltale Series, sadly, but the actors capture their essences well. Of particular note is Nolan North, who voices Rocket. He’s lent his voice to basically every successful game franchise ever, and a few duff ones too.
North is familiar to Marvel fans as the titular antihero in 2013’s Deadpool game, as well as Giant Man in Ultimate Avengers (2006). He also voiced John Jameson in Ultimate Spider-Man (2013-15), Hawkeye and Ghost Rider for Marvel: Ultimate Alliance (2006), and various characters in Wolverine and the X-Men (2009) and The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes (2010).
We Are Groot
Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series is an enjoyable game that really captures the tone of its origins. And it’s accessible to all. Some basic knowledge will aid your enjoyment of the episodes, but if you’re a newcomer to the Marvel Universe, you’ll get along just fine.
However you feel about Telltale’s previous efforts, this will surpass your expectations. Try Tangled Up in Blue; for just $4.99, it’s well worth your time.
Have you tried the Guardians game yet? Do you feel it matches up to the movie or comics? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!