The second episode of Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy (GotG) series, Under Pressure, picks up immediately after the frantic climax of the first and wastes little time dispensing with its Marvel Cinematic Universe-inspired humor. The events at the conclusion of the series’ debut installment have left the crew shaken and questioning their understanding of the laws of the universe, while the frightening power of the Eternity Forge continues to reveal itself in unexpected ways.
The most accurate and concise description I can provide for Under Pressure is that it’s simply more of the same. This is both good and bad, as the game continues to be strong in certain areas and lacking in others. While there are no major steps back in episode two, areas for improvement remain stagnant.
The visuals are still great, with the albeit brief visit to Halfworld a welcome departure from GotG’s gloomy-yet-weirdly-neon locales. The music is still fantastic, and though I neglected to mention it in my review of episode one, the voice acting is generally pretty strong with but a few below-average performances. The humor is hit or miss, with cringeworthy Peter Quill one-liners interspersed with moments that genuinely made me laugh.
The most glaring area in which episode two fails to make any notable improvement is in its gameplay. Specifically, the quick time events are perhaps even more bland than in episode one, and the exploration segments are just as uninspired. Worse yet, the only real place you get to freely roam is an area you’ve already explored in the first episode. We’re now 40% through this series, and while there’s still time for Telltale to adjust and make improvements, it seems that the interactive portions of GotG may be relegated to tacked-on drivel rather than seamlessly integrated parts of the experience.
On the plus side, the pace of the story has picked up notably, and the dynamics of the relationship-based dialogue choices are in some ways more interesting than in the first episode. When making one particularly impactful choice on where to take the Guardians, I was given several opportunities to change my mind. Was this the game’s way of telling me I made the “wrong” choice or a guileful way of testing my resoluteness?
These interactions are likely just part of the underlying mechanism the game uses to track character relationships wherein, as in episode one, seemingly singular interactions affect multiple relationships in multiple ways. You see, you still end up doing essentially the same things but in a different order depending on your choices. The impact then appears to boil down to who you anger and who you please, though the ultimate consequences of these decisions are still unclear. At the very least, these second-chance opportunities certainly made me question my choices and added an additional layer of substance to character exchanges. As an aside, it should be noted that there seems to be an increasing number of frivolous dialogue choices whose only obvious intent is keeping the player engaged.
The highlight of Under Pressure is without a doubt Rocket’s emotionally charged flashback sequence. This underscores the developer’s stated intent to focus the spotlight on one of the Guardians per episode. I thoroughly enjoyed the flashback and thought it added some much-needed, and welcome, depth to the Rocket character. It remains to be seen how these character-specific focus points will manifest going forward, but they’re definitely something to look forward to as the series progresses.
In ways both positive and negative, Under Pressure is more of the same for Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy. The relationship-focused decision trees continue to be interesting yet opaque, while the interactive aspects leave much to be desired in terms of quality and player engagement. I’ve knocked down the gameplay score (and thus the overall score) a tad to reflect both its stagnation and lack of creativity, but there’s still room and time for improvement.