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Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Episode 5 - Don't Stop Believin'
Score: 80%
Publisher: Telltale Games
Developer: Telltale Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure

Introduction:

I began Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Episode 5 Ė Donít Stop Believiní consumed with dread, but by the time the credits rolled, I was grinning like an idiot. I have no idea how, but they somehow stuck the landing. As a fan of the series and of decent writing in general, the last episode left me pretty disgusted. Even though one of my most cynical predictions comes true less than ten minutes into this finale, it doesnít prevent Telltale from ultimately righting the ship, bringing it all home with the classic trademark wit and heart weíve come to expect from this Marvel property.

Canít Stay Mad at You:

Episode 4 Ė Who Needs You ended with one of the most shameless, manipulative plot developments Iíve ever seen from Telltale -- and Iíve seen quite a few of them. Regardless of how you approached the "big choice" near the end, most of the Guardians of the Galaxy have abandoned Star-Lord. Narratively speaking, their reasons for doing so are either complete and utter nonsense or due to some whiplash-inducing breaking of character. But the real reason for this predicament is that, for some reason, the writers felt like they needed to hit this plot point. Itís obvious and unnatural; just incredibly poor storytelling from every angle. Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Episode 5 Ė Donít Stop Believiní sees all of this stupidity conveniently resolved in its opening chapters, rendering Episode 4 a pointless, time-wasting moneysink for all involved parties. Part of me is still marveling at just how bad it makes the game look, but the rest of me is just relieved that the writers didnít actually try to run with it.

So getting the Guardians back together is of paramount importance, and doing so is a two-part mission. First, Peter has to find them, and with the help of Mantis (of course, she wasnít gone for long), he does exactly that. Youíd think the second part -- actually convincing them to return -- would be a bit trickier; but thanks to some mnemonic intervention from Groot (unquestionably the heart of this dysfunctional family), they all get a reminder of exactly why they need each other. Perhaps it would be too much to expect a more character-focused flashback from the Milanoís resident Flora Colossus, but it features a couple of solid gags, some obvious, others not so much.


Render unto Hala:

So itís all nice and good that the Guardians are friends again, but not only is Hala the Accuser still out there, sheís gearing up for a galactic pogrom against humanity. In my playthrough, Peterís destruction of the Eternity Forge resulted in Hala being grievously wounded, but infused with the latent power of the life-taking/life-giving artifact. Halaís beloved son Bal-Dinn was momentarily resurrected, but subsequently disintegrated. The insane Kree matriarch pledged vengeance and, for all intents and purposes, has already begun carrying it out. So itís up to the Guardians to stop her.

Rocket comes up with the best possible idea (not to be confused with a good idea by any means), and itís up to Quill to divvy out responsibilities. The choices are pretty obvious for those who have even the vaguest idea of how these characters operate, but the setup almost hearkens back to a key moment in Telltaleís best game to date, Tales from the Borderlands. While it doesnít approach those lofty heights, it nevertheless puts a neat little bow on most of what came before and even manages to tug at the heartstrings a few times for good measure.

But the biggest surprise is a fairly strong subversion of my long-lived (and almost always-validated) assumption that player choices donít matter in these games. Having seen all the achievable endings for Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series, Iím equally shocked and impressed. And the rest, Iíll simply have to leave to you to discover.


Conclusion:

I didnít think that Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series: Episode 5 Ė Donít Stop Believiní would redeem what came before it; I was definitely wrong on that count, and Iím happy to admit it. That being said, I did expect the finished product to ultimately make an incredibly strong case against the episodic release model, and I feel completely vindicated in this opinion. Itís generally a good series overall, though from episode to episode, itís amazingly uneven. Just do your best to play it through as quickly as you can; itíll likely make the gameís storytelling problems feel more insignificant than they really are.

So now that all the episodes can be judged as a collective whole, I donít feel particularly conflicted about giving Marvelís Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series a recommendation. This goes double for fans of the series for whom Telltale fatigue hasnít yet set in. Itís got its share of low notes, and theyíre pretty low -- but itís got more highs, and those are way up there.


-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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