One of the most common ways to generate a narrative conflict is to present the protagonist with what appears to be a morally ambiguous choice. This tactic frequently manifests as an opportunity to fulfill a deeply emotional desire that comes at a great cost. This tends to be superficially ambiguous, however, because the hero usually chooses to sacrifice personal happiness for the greater good.
What if the sacrifice wasn’t just of the protagonist’s personal happiness, though? What if it meant dashing the desperate hopes of some of your closest companions? We can’t hope to please everyone with our choices, but the stakes feel much higher when friends are powder kegs of pent up emotions and the wrong decision can destroy relationships forever. Such is the dilemma players are presented with as the crux of Telltale’s aptly-named third episode of Guardians of the Galaxy (GotG), More Than a Feeling.
Telltale doubles down on GotG’s focus on character relationships to the point that it’s essentially the sole focus of the episode. In fact, you’ll spend most of your time chatting with and consoling your comrades as their negative feelings about themselves and each other begin to boil over. This plays into the series’ overarching relationship dynamic and More Than a Feeling’s subplot, but it wreaks havoc on the pace of the episode as extended periods of dialogue are interspersed with scant few interactive sequences.
The consequences of player choices affecting Peter Quill’s relationships with his fellow Guardians come to the surface more frequently here, but I’m still not convinced they’re doing more than affecting the order of events and making me feel bad. The choice related to the aforementioned dilemma may be the first with significant plot-altering consequences, but that won’t be made clear until later installments.
On a more positive note, the infrequent action segments are some of the series’ best yet. The episode’s ending sequence in particular is the most enjoyable, engaging, and frankly coolest succession of action and story events the series has offered. Unfortunately, the gratifying smattering of action doesn’t counterbalance GotG’s continuing trend toward interactive movie and away from interactive adventure. What little exploration remains is still quite bad, and the singular rudimentary “puzzle” offers little gameplay value while being both boring and predictable.
One new and especially worrisome issue present in More Than a Feeling involves a lack of clarity in some of the dialogue choices. Specifically, there are a few instances where the presented text doesn’t seem to match the perceived consequence. While these decisions generally don’t amount to much more than irking the other Guardians, one in particular was tied into the decision tracking system presented to the player at the end of each episode. I didn’t recognize that I’d actually made the choice until after I cleared the episode with my decision overwhelmingly in the minority and, more importantly, not what I had intended.
The audiovisual quality of GotG remains the series’ highpoint, and episode three is steadfast in this respect. More Than a Feeling includes a diverse array of locales that succeed in breaking up the monotony of spending much of the episode indoors with the sulking Guardians, and Telltale does a fairly good job of tying the music into the plot. Additionally, though there are few instances where it matters, the controls during these visually appealing exploration portions are still as clunky as ever.
Although the latest episode doesn’t pull the series down in any significant way, there’s been little to no improvement in GotG’s gameplay, and it has become clear that this is of no concern to Telltale. Beyond the inclusion of what appears to be a critical plot point and player decision, More Than a Feeling displays all the symptoms of a mid-series lull. Poor pacing, lack of interactivity, and only the slightest advancement of the overarching story lead to the least impressive installment of the series to date.