The Guardians Reunite For The Final Battle Against Hala!
This is it: it’s time to reunite your team, and make one last stand against Hala’s armada. The season finale of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series picks up with our heroes going their separate ways, leaving no one left to keep Hala’s son from resting a gun against Starlord’s head. From there, the player has only one episode to escape imminent death, bring the Guardians back together, concoct a (suicidal) plan to stop Hala, and save the galaxy! So get ready, because Episode five: “Don’t Stop Believin’”, wraps up the season at the speed of light!
Needless to say, this episode goes places…a lot of places. Given the lack of setting variety in episode four, Telltale ramped up the traveling to not only get the Guardians back together, but to remind the player of what exactly they’re protecting. Hala’s forces are a galactic threat, so it’s nice to see a little more of the galaxy aside from abandoned temples. Returning to the sights of each flashback also gives the game a nice contrast between past and present. For instance, Halfworld’s experimental facility has become a plant-infested ruin, which raises some questions about just how long Rocket has been living on his own.
Episode five also nails it with the final Guardian’s memory. Playing up dialogue choices as Groot is amazing from start to finish. If sincerely answering all questions with the same three words wasn’t enough, the origin story of the Guardians has plenty of other comedic nuggets to keep a smile on your face. Groot’s memory takes the pattern the season established and marvelously threw it on its head. This flashback has no deep emotional character development, no sense of sacrifice or loss, it’s just good ol’ fashioned fun! This flashback is just what the characters—and more importantly, the players—needed.
Far as fighting goes, “Don’t Stop Believin’” pulled out all the stops for the final battle with Hala. While the song choice (Heart’s classic “Crazy On You”) didn’t mesh as well as previous pairings, the fight’s choreography went above and beyond almost every other sequence in the season. Each Guardian shows off his or her strengths and ingenuity in ways they hadn’t done before. Groot burrows his limbs into the floor to hold Hala in place while Starlord and Drax prepare to drop a control panel on top of her; Gamora disarms Hala of her spear while Rocket plants bombs on the blade, ready to explode once the Kree leader summons her weapon back. Working together as a team against a single enemy reflects the first episode’s battle against Thanos, only this time the Guardians really get a chance to show off!
Unfortunately, the speed at which the story wraps up denies the player a chance to see some potentially great decisions. Starlord assigns a role for each Guardian while attacking Hala’s flag ship, and the player gets a wonderful chance to mess with the team’s dynamic. Have Drax hack the computer while Rocket stands as his bodyguard, or have the silent assassin Gamora make a huge distraction while Groot flies solo to steal Hala’s helmet. There’s a gold mine of comedic moments in executing the attack plan, but aside from a few chuckle-worthy lines nothing gets done with it.
The wrap-up also messes with one of the most decisive choices in the entire season: what to do about the Kree. The binary option whittles down to either trusting Hala’s son to lead them—a vanilla “pacifist” character you know for perhaps three minutes of interaction—or using the Eternity Forge to annihilate the warrior race all over again. The choice seems so rushed and forced that it borders on being pointless, especially since the repercussions for wiping out the Kree amount to “I can’t believe you did that.” With at least one more important choice (one that actually has some emotional support from previous episodes) to make, this obsolete “pure good or pure evil” decision just feels unnecessary.
Now that Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series has a complete season under its belt, one can plainly see that the game’s best moments are also the funniest. Like the films it emulates, the Guardians of the Galaxy have a few moments of emotional character development and self-reflection, but what sets them apart from other MCU superheroes is their willingness to set aside morals, responsibilities, and even facts of reality to give the audience a fun time. The Guardians are a ragtag group of misfits out to save the galaxy, even as their shenanigans threaten to do more damage than the threat they’re actually fighting. The team pokes fun at their situation, even when it feels like death is just around the corner. Focus too much or too long on their past and regrets, and you threaten to drain away the unique remorseless fun the Guardians of the Galaxy provide.
For those who want a colorful space adventure following a team of part-time sheriffs, part-time bandits, pick The Guardians of the Galaxy. For those who prefer a solemn, introverted, and often dark journey through a hero’s past and present, pick Batman. Telltale made a valiant effort tackling both models of storytelling at the same time, but the presence of one seems to have watered down the appeal in the other.