Y’know, Telltale have been making the same game for a pretty long time now. Since The Walking Dead game came out five years ago to critical acclaim, they’ve continued to bang that same drum over and over. For the most part I don’t mind, because they generally tell a good story. In the end though, the story has always been window dressing for what is essentially the exact same game every time.
It was after finishing the first part of their Guardians of the Galaxy series that I sat back and thought it was high time they needed to upgrade their tech. For how many games they’re putting out, connected to so many big franchises, you’d hope they’d build on their engine and make the games perform better and better. Which shouldn’t be difficult considering how little goes on in screen compared to some recent action games.
Their shot at the Guardians really fell flat for me and left me feeling pretty disappointed with the whole experience. I loved the movie for its strange but snappy sense of humour and its fast paced action. The game lacked both of those things. The engine made the action lumbering and hitchy. Even worse, the nature of the response system in dialogue took a lot away from the humour of the franchise, forcing awkward pauses between comebacks. It doesn’t help that I felt the writing for this paled in comparison to the humour and performances of the actual movie.
I’ll admit that the modern Guardians of the Galaxy as they exist in the comics have the movies to thank entirely for their re-invigoration as a series, but they still feel original. The game feels too much like it’s pandering to the movie than anything, despite using the more traditional comic book designs for Gamora and Drak. Drak feels like a meme generator, rather than an actual character, taking what made him funny in the movie and just boiling him down to that every time he opens his mouth. And yet it’s never executed as well. I’d never thought I’d say this, but Batista’s performance was a lot of the reason that character worked.
Another big thing that made the Guardians movie so great was its soundtrack, playing great songs from the 60s to the 80s to juxtapose the fantastical science fiction happening on screen. The Telltale game tries to do the same thing, the only problem is that it only licensed two songs and it uses them both two or three times throughout the game. They kind of lose their impact when you’re hearing them on repeat. The sad thing is, if they’d invested a little more money into giving the game a more robust soundtrack, it might have made it for me. My first interaction with the game was the menu screen, which shows the Guardians fighting amongst themselves in slow motion over It’s a Living Thing by ELO, which gave me high hopes initially. That’s because this is the best thing about the game. Hell, I’ll just show it to you.
I know Telltale can do comedy, they made Tales of the Borderlands a couple years ago which, like Guardians, blended snappy comedy with off the wall action, and I adored that game. But even then, during my game of the year lists, I complained about how the game’s frame rate tanked during the game’s final climatic action set piece, turning it into a slide show. It’s something I should have been far more angry about, but I was just so in love with the game’s writing that I forgave it.
Guardians didn’t do anything I would describe as anything beyond average, and so doesn’t get the free pass. If Telltale are going to continue to take these huge franchises in and exploit their fanbases for gain (because lets be honest, that’s what this is.), they at least, need to upgrade their engine and get it running at a solid 60fps, and justify running at that speed too. The games are starting to feel archaic, despite only being around for five years. With most people owning a decently powerful PC or at least one of the current gen consoles these days, there’s little excuse to see games running as poorly as Telltale’s games do in this day and age especially considering how little goes on on screen at any time.
At least they didn’t make Rocket a cockney again.