The last time I reviewed a Telltale game, I noted that it’s debatable whether it was a game at all. Since then, I read a comic by Aaron Williams (my web-fu isn’t strong enough to locate it) that suggested that Telltale games are nothing more than “Choose your own adventure” books with a graphics interface. I don’t disagree, but I plan to continue reviewing them (Batman: The Enemy Within waits in the wings) because: (a) I wanna; (b) there is an interactive element (in form of QTEs) that you don’t get in a paperback. (I must also acknowledge (c): Strictly speaking, I haven’t finished playing this one yet, since I plan to start from the beginning, make only bad choices, and see what happens.)
The story of GotG:TG diverges from both the comics and the first movie almost immediately: Within the first ten minutes you fight and defeat Thanos. As you might guess if you know anything about the Guardians, things don’t go smoothly after that: Rocket is getting fidgety, Gamora wants to go after Nebula, and you (as Peter Quill) have to choose between them. A new MacGuffin emerges: The Eternity Forge, which has the ability to bring the dead back to life. Some of the Guardians want you to use it, others want you to destroy it, and you wonder whether you can use it to bring back Meredith, your mother.
Although this isn’t an “origin story” as such, you get a chance to see the formative days of all the Guardians (except Groot), via flashbacks. The overall story is rather mundane (as “saving the galaxy from certain doom” stories go), but the chance to see what motivates these characters elevates the experience from “ho-hum” to “it’s worthwhile to play this.”
The overall look of the game is inspired by the movie, though the characters don’t physically resemble the actors. The voices are clearly different, taking mostly the vocal cadence of their movie counterparts while making only a small effort to sound like the film actors. The layout of the Milano is straight from the movie. This makes sense, since while enough people are familiar with Batman that it’s safe to present an entirely new story, most folks would only be familiar with the Guardians from the Marvel movie.
With that said, there are two big elements from the movie that dominate the story; one works and the other has problems. The one that works is Peter’s relationship with his mother. You get to choose how young Peter reacts as he comes to understand that his mother is growing sick. Even though you know the outcome, it’s still affecting. You can’t get much more personal than the relationship of a child and a mother. (There’s no mention of Peter’s father. It looks like the Telltale designers did not have access to the script for GotG 2.)
The one that doesn’t work for me is the music. It’s clear that Telltale couldn’t afford the rights to more than three or four well-known songs from the 80s. I grew tired of hearing “Living Thing”, since it’s the background music to the initial game menus. As the game goes on, there are action sequences where the game’s designers must have written “put popular song in the background here” but the game’s producers couldn’t supply one. It’s irritating to see Peter put on his headphones, only to have generic music come out. It doesn’t help that some chapters have titles taken from well-known songs that you know Telltale could not possibly afford. It creates unfulfilled expectations.
Overall, I give this a thumbs up. It’s not as good as Telltale’s Batman games, but I laughed more often at the Guardians’ antics than I did at Bruce Wayne’s.
Mild spoiler: At some point in the game, you will be able to control what Groot says. I leave it you to speculate on what choices you’ll have in his dialog tree.
Edit: I have to back down on my claims about the music. It turns out that what I thought was generic background turned out to be songs that I didn’t recognize. There’s a Spotify playlist of all the game’s pop music.