Review: Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Under Pressure 

Guardians of the Galaxy

Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Under Pressure (PC [Reviewed], PS4, Xbox One, iOS, Android)
Developer: Telltale Games
Publisher: Telltale Games
Released: June 6, 2017
MSRP: $24.99 (Season Pass)

[Note: This review contains some spoilers for Episode 1 of the series.]

Luckily, the answer to the above question is “yes”. Under Pressure reveals a little more about Telltale’s apparent approach to Guardians of the Galaxy, and it’s one which should alleviate somewhat the concerns I had about Tangled Up In Blue.

In fairness, time – and the recent film – has warmed me somewhat towards the first episode. While the plot felt perfunctory and the choices less impactful at first, the strength of characterization in the writing and around the fringes of the narrative showed the bonds of the Guardians quite well. That trend continues here, and also shores up the central plot to push the team into new situations without pulling them apart.

And while it still doesn’t quite sell me on the notion that a team this tight could be broken up so easily, Under Pressure shows that Telltale appears to be using the season as a slow burn of sorts, allowing both the choices made and the characterizations to build up over time and acquire weight and momentum. I found myself weighing my decisions against the way I had treated the same members in previous interactions, wanting to balance things out despite “knowing”, as in all superhero stories, that I couldn’t really break up the team through my ham-handed decision-making. That ability to make a choice feel hard despite knowing factually that it really isn’t is a very good sign, and something I haven’t felt about a Telltale game since the first season of The Walking Dead.

Guardians of the Galaxy

This works well with a small cast that’s together through the duration, with little threat of sudden twists or unexpected deaths to contend with. Superheroes like the Guardians fit this bill perfectly. Rather than separate the Guardians and isolate them into their own bespoke narrative tracks, Under Pressure allows players to explore the histories of the Guardians through the machinations of its McGuffin, the “Eternity Forge”.

Besides resurrecting the dead – a feat demonstrated at the end of Tangled Up In Blue – the artifact allows for exploration of memories. Peter continues to get moments in the past with his dead mother, but Under Pressure‘s rodent of the hour is Rocket Raccoon. Rocket stole the show last time thanks to Nolan North’s stellar performance, and also because Rocket’s got more personality than the other Guardians put together.

Guardians of the Galaxy

It’s also interesting to see some more light shed on Rocket’s tragic past. Not even the films bothered to give people outside of Peter or Gamora a backstory, and Telltale’s interpretation of Rocket’s history feels like a good middle ground between its more “realistic” MCU-inspired setting and a character whose comic-book origins lie in the same kind of “weird” Marvel obscurity that birthed characters like Spider-Pig and the Pet Avengers.

Ultimately, while Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale SeriesUnder Pressure‘s array of choices doesn’t quite feel as “consequential” as one might expect of the typical Telltale pitch, the new episode improves on the promise of the first outing’s strengths in characterization, while still building up the main narrative into something a tad more engaging. Only the future will be able to show if these decisions will snowball properly, but the series now has me wanting to actually see that eventuality, which means it’s done its job.

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