Leaving the theatre after seeing Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 last month, I found myself with a renewed excitement and optimism toward Telltale Games’ take on Marvel’s pulp sci-fi adventure.
While episode one, Tangled Up in Blue managed to find a way to make me dislike characters like Rocket Raccoon, whom I adored before playing the episode, episode two, Under Pressure, took steps to shape the Guardians of the Galaxy into the people I saw on the big screen in the films. While the episode only takes baby steps within its main plot, Under Pressure manages to explain what came off as boring angst and melodrama in ways that make Rocket, despite his being a raccoon, feel human. However, Rocket’s redemption notwithstanding, Under Pressure suffers from similar inconsistent writing that marred the series’ pilot, as well as the lack of visual flair that made its elaborate action sequences feel wooden.
Star-Lord remains the player character for the majority of Under Pressure, but ultimately the episode focuses more on both Rocket Racoon and Gamora’s sister Nebula, who are both dealing with loss. Rocket, hoping to use the Eternity Forge relic the Guardians acquired to revive an old friend, finds himself splintered from the rest of the group for reasons beyond the petty egos of the pilot, while Nebula is in mourning the death of Thanos and is resentful of the Guardians for their part in it.
Between the two, Rocket fares far better, and having the opportunity to not only mend his and Star-Lord’s relationship after the contrived drama of Tangled Up in Blue but also have the control switch over to him for a period of time to see his past first hand were easily my favourite parts of the episode. While I was playing as Star-Lord, Under Pressure felt like it was Rocket’s episode, elaborating on his history while planting seeds of what there was to come for everyone else.
Conversely, Nebula is the character that usurped Rocket’s place as the face of Guardians of the Galaxy’s inconsistent writing. After word reaches her of Thanos’ death, she goes to retrieve the body from The Collector, with whom the body was left in the previous episode. After a fight between her, Gamora, andStar-Lord, we calmly spoke with her about how we wanted to help her, and how we weren’t enemies. We all left, and I expected some sort of tense but cooperative conversation to follow, as we had tracked Nebula down because we needed her help. But instead, Nebula was being taken prisoner, threatening that she’d kill all of us when she got out of her restraints. Despite doing what I could to get on a relatively good page with Nebula, Guardians of the Galaxy immediately pivoted the situation in a way that didn’t add up with everything that came before, not unlike Rocket’s sudden anger toward me in episode 1.
On a grander scale, Under Pressure’s story beats feel more incremental, but they do bring Yondu, Star-Lord’s caretaker and father figure, into the mix. Yondu’s inclusion does add more attempts at humorous dynamics, specifically with Rocket andStar-Lord, but ultimately Telltale’s writing doesn’t seem to have the same edge as Guardians of the Galaxy’s movies, and none of the comedic timing that makes these dynamics move beyond loud bickering.
Most of the points the plot gets any actual agency from comes in the form of Under Pressure’s action sequences, which, while more interesting than the previous episode’s—specifically one that takes place within the Guardian’s ship while it’s in flight, turning and spinning in space—Guardians of the Galaxy’s seemingly low budget visual style deprives it of the spectacle to really sell the fighting and make it fun to watch and play.
Rocket’s story and the running theme of reviving the dead have me hopeful Guardians of the Galaxy can get on its feet and really deliver a story worthy of these wonderful characters, but two episodes in I’m starting to wonder if the series has already been dealt a bad hand in some aspects that it won’t be able to shake, even in three episodes. While the visual style undersells every fight, the inconsistent writing continues to plague Guardians of the Galaxy’s relationships well into the second episode.