Bring It On Home To Me
Satisfying endings aren’t an easy thing to create in any medium, much less games. Developers are rarely pushed to provide a truly great ending, especially considering that statistically, only a fraction of players ever even see those endings in the first place.
To its credit, the latest episode of Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series does tie up a number of loose threads and serves to bring proceedings to a conclusion, while laying the seeds of potential stories for future (as yet unannounced) seasons. And yet, I can’t help but come away from the saga feeling like this ending in particular was made with the intention of just wrapping things up, rather than doing truly right by the stories and characters told in the series thus far.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Don’t Stop Believin’ (PC [reviewed], PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: November 7, 2017
MSRP: $4.99 / $24.99 (Season Pass)
This fact is made all the more frustrating by the previous episodes’ success at getting players invested in seeing what might happen to the Guardians themselves, and watching this motley crew get their due. I would not be nearly as ambivalent about how things turned out with this episode had I not been so taken with previous ones, especially the third and fourth outings. In essence, if I had cared even slightly less about the Guardians, then I’d feel that the conclusion put forth in Don’t Stop Believin‘ would be more satisfying. Unfortunately, now it feels like less than they deserved.
Without getting into spoilers, the episode opens on what may be the Guardians’ lowest point to date, depending on the choices one has made in episodes prior. The team has essentially broken up, leaving Peter Quill practically alone in the universe, and still has to stop the Kree villain Hala from wreaking havoc on the galaxy at large. He needs to get the band back together.
A moment like this would be a great (if grim) starting point for the second half of a longer season, but because it’s coming in at the end, the need to wrap things up to get to the finale ends up robbing the characters’ various crises of much of their drama. Things are resolved a little too cleanly, a little too conveniently, in too short a time for it to really feel earned. Don’t Stop Believin‘ patches the emotional equivalent of a bursting dam with a narrative band-aid, and would have us think such a thing can hold.
At the risk of speculating, the compressed timeline for this episode also seems to be showing. The season finale comes barely a month after the previous episode, and the animations and action sequences are pretty wooden and unattractive compared with the bang-up job done in episodes three and four. Some conversations barely have any animation at all, and locations visited in prior episodes are revisited here, with little in the way of new scenery or interesting takes on the old environs.
That’s a real shame, considering that sparks of Telltale’s brilliant characterization of the Guardians themselves still shine through. When they’re made, the jokes do land, and the attention to detail that one might expect of such a game persists in spots (like reflecting the current state of Groot’s flower growth). One particular moment revisiting the team’s first meeting is so good it almost justifies the rest of the episode being kind of a damp squib.
In the end, Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series‘ finale is more a whimper than a bang, but it’s not disappointing enough to taint the good times I’ve had so far with this crew. I can only hope that the narrative seeds planted here turn into something substantial in the future, as this is a family I’d like to stick around with, if I can.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]