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Review: Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Who Needs You

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Princes of the Universe

It was a few months ago at this point, but I remember being rather satisfied with Telltale's Guardians of the Galaxy series' third episode, proclaiming it a long-awaited payoff for the slow burn of the previous two installments.

Back when I reviewed More Than A Feeling, I finally felt like the choices I had made as team leader Peter Quill were building up, leading up to a world-changing - or at least plot-changing - climax, one that would begin with this new episode, Who Needs You.

I suppose that was a bit naive of me.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: Who Needs You (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: October 10, 2017
MSRP: $4.99 / $24.99 (Season Pass)

[Note: This review will reference specific plot points from previous episodes.]

To clarify, I'm not saying that the new episode is bad, by any means. Rather, than registering disappointment with Telltale, I'm saying that it was naive of me to expect that even the biggest choices of episode three would bring about a completely different story in episode four. That's not what these kinds of games are about, and they've never been about that kind of dramatic forking of the plot, no matter how momentous the choices seem.

Indeed, in absolute terms and measurements of concrete impact on the path of the narrative, the outcome explored in Who Needs You falls a bit flat. Faced with the choice of deciding the fate of the game's McGuffin, the Eternity Forge, the team is divided on whether to destroy or power up the life-restoring bauble, with Peter holding final say. But, as the chapter begins, this Telltale game does that thing Telltale games do with their narrative structure, collapsing the branches so that most players end up in a roughly similar spot regardless of which options they picked throughout the game. Though not exclusive to Telltale's titles, this structure is the thing that most inflames some critics of the company's output, who complain that it makes their decisions meaningless.

Once upon a time, I would've been in that group, and if we're being honest, I did expect more dramatic differences in the outcome than what I got, even speaking as someone who's made his peace with how these types of games play. Yet, despite this slight disappointment, I came out of Who Needs You more certain than ever of just why this structure works, and is what Telltale's games do best.

That's quite a feat, considering that the opening half of Who Needs You feels like a sort of cop-out. Rather than working out the rift that was forming over the Eternity Forge and its use, the Guardians are thrown into a life-or-death situation that sees their relationships seemingly repaired, and even strengthened. All this time, we'd been sold a crisis that purported to irrevocably break the team, but at some points they seem closer than ever.

And then things turn. More than nearly any other Telltale title I've played to date, this episode of Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series does, in fact, play out in two  meaningfully different ways. Sure, the differences may not be as dramatic as, say, choosing a route in Fate/stay night or making that key decision in The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings, but the twists and bombshells contained in Who Needs You work towards establishing an ending cliffhanger that feels genuinely distinct depending on Peter's behavior.

This is all enforced by the strength of characterization in the rest of the game. What I didn't quite understand before, and that Telltale clearly got, was that a "meaningful choice" can be "meaningful" in more than one way. It doesn't have to be locked to some concrete count of paths or endings. Instead, a choice can be made meaningful if the player can be convinced to care about its effects, or about the characters involved in making it. And that's the thing that Guardians of the Galaxy has done best so far. Using flashbacks, emotional dilemmas, and a heavy dose of dysfunction, all built on a structure anchored by familiarity with the cinematic incarnation of the team, Telltale's built a worthy interpretation of the Guardians, and in this episode particularly, a number of really wrenching moments that even surpass these same characters treatment in their source comics.

Unfortunately, though, despite the quality of the episode, one complaint does remain, and it's one that Guardians hasn't shaken the whole season so far. Mainly it comes down to tone, in which, unlike other Telltale games, there really does feel like a "right" way for things to end up at the end of Who Needs You. To avoid spoilers, I'll just say that having the major plot points play out a certain way just feels...wrong, bordering on a betrayal of the characters so far, all for a few big bombshells that Telltale sold the likes of The Walking Dead and Batman on. The second feels much more in line with the vision of the Guardians that Telltale's sold us so far, as well as with the mood of the game overall. 

Having one path through the game seem like the "correct" one doesn't feel like the greatest sign for Telltale's formula as it applies to the Guardians of the Galaxy, but if nothing else, Who Needs You sets up the story for some real excitement as it hits its conclusion.

[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]


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Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Who Needs reviewed by Josh Tolentino

7

GOOD

Solid and definitely has an audience. There could be some hard-to-ignore faults, but the experience is fun.
How we score:  The destructoid reviews guide

 
 
 

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Josh Tolentino
Josh TolentinoAnime Editor   gamer profile

When not posting about Japanese games or Star Trek, Josh serves as Managing Editor for Japanator, Dtoid's sister site for the best in anime, manga, and cool news from Glorious Nippon. Disclosure... more + disclosures


 



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