Telltale recognizes the importance of laying narrative groundwork in its games, establishing character motivations in early episodes with an eye toward payoffs in later installments. That strategy is evident in More Than A Feeling, in which the titular Guardians have a well of competing motivations and desires established through backstories and flashbacks. That tension gives Episode Three the most emotional resonance so far, but the reoccurrence of another ancient temple, along with some technical problems, hold things back.
An important new character enters the scene in the latest episode; Mantis’ first appearance in the Telltale version of the Marvel universe echoes the naïve but earnest portrayal established in the recent film treatment. Her empathic powers provide a good bit of the humor, and establish the impetus for emotional conflicts to come to a head between several of our leads.
The most important of those conflicts is the backstory between Nebula and Gamora, a fraught sibling rivalry with life-and-death consequences. The flashback mission about what created the original rift between the two is fun to watch unfold, especially since we get the opportunity to see it from both perspectives.
Both Gamora and Nebula have been profoundly shaped by the results of that encounter, which can also be said for most of the rest of the cast and their own personal losses. While it’s a theme we’ve seen throughout the season up to this point, the idea of losses that profoundly shape us has special significance, as the opportunity that these losses might be wiped away begins to tear the team apart.
With the whole galaxy to explore, I admit to some disappointment that this story once again winds its way toward another not-so-mysterious ancient temple. It’s such a notable repetition that Rocket even jokes about the location’s tedium upon arrival. Instead of a thrilling new vista or wonder to uncover, the third episode’s finale unfolds in a space that looks remarkably like other places we’ve already visited.
Meanwhile, the traits that have so far defined the season endure without much change. Facial animation and voice work combine suitably well to squeeze some genuine emotion out of the colorful alien heroes, and the writing elicits some smiles, if only rarely chuckles. Action scenes are welcome, and present some cool combat exchanges. However, they still feel stilted, especially as brief stuttering loads sometimes pause the action in crucial moments.
While I’ve yet to run into any irreparable technical problems, I had to deal with a temporary progression bug in Episode Three, in which an essential conversation pop-up didn’t appear, halting my ability to move the story forward. On a subsequent reload of the sequence, the problem inexplicably resolved itself, but not before I’d spent half an hour trying to figure out what I was missing.
Telltale continues to do some fun things with these familiar comic-book heroes, especially in fleshing out character backgrounds in compelling ways. More Than A Feeling wraps up the initial conflict, and lays out a new one to carry us into subsequent episodes. If this installment fails to dramatically up the tension, at least it maintains a solid storytelling pace, and fans of the galaxy’s most loveable space misfits should continue to find moments of fun.