Due to the nature of some of my criticism of this episode, there are some lite story spoilers ahead.
It’s been a long time since we’ve seen what I consider a true filler episode in a Telltale game. With very little in the way of plot advancement and few brief character moments, the second episode of Guardians of the Galaxy falls flat in a way that I never expected this series too. Granted, we’re only two episodes in, so any expectations I had coming into this one were only based on the excellent first episode and the source material, but come on, it’s the freaking Guardians of the Galaxy! How do you make that not the best?!?
Well, apparently, you surround one excellent character moment with some shaky writing, some meandering exploration scenes, and one semi-false choice. But on the positive side, one of those meandering explorations earned us some Hall and Oates. So yeah.
Under Pressure starts as the first episode ended, with Peter “Star-Lord” Quill’s apparent resurrection thanks to the Eternity Forge. As can be expected, the rest of the Guardians freak out a bit, because people don’t just come back from the dead. A couple joke’s later, some exposition about how the Etermity Forge requires a sacrifice to bring someone back (and that Thanos was holding it when he died), and everyone’s calmed down enough to realize that Hala the Accuser, the Kree badass that stabbed Peter to try and take the Forge, is still on their tail and they need to vamous. With a portion of the ship damaged, they head off to find the one person that can help them, Space Merle Yondu.
Up until this point, we had a well paced, kind of rocking Guardians episode. Then Rocket, who spent the whole last episode making bad suggestions, asks Peter for a favor, without revealing any information about said favor. Now, as one knows, you never, ever grant a blank check favor, much less promise one, but feeling that even though they were crap ideas, I was not the best to Rocket the last episode, I promise that we’ll head off to Halfworld as soon as we get the ship fixed for said non-disclosed favor.
Enter Gamora, with a lead on her sister, Nebula, who also just happens to possibly be able to translate the alien gobbledegook that is written all over the side of the Forge in neon green, hologram script. Nebula, who is strangely pro-Thanos in this series, is chasing down the Nova Corps group that the Guardians gave Thanos’s body to last episode. We’re given the choice to go aid the Nova Corps or keep the promise to Rocket. I chose Rocket, against every screaming goody two shoes cell in my body.
Here’s where the writing kind of goes off the deep end for the episode, and where it lost me. I will not reveal exactly what happens on Halfworld, as the story that is told is sad and goes a long way to explain Rocket’s bad attitude towards things he cares about. Suffice it say that someone he loved died, and he was hoping to use the Forge to bring them back, in the same way that Quill was brought back. This is fine, all well and good, except that, as they all know because it was fairly explicitly laid out, the Forge requires a sacrifice to power it, and as that was used up with Quill, it can’t currently bring someone back. So Rocket tries it, and it doesn’t work. Why did we have to come all this way to confirm this? Why did we have to torture Rocket by walking through his past in one of the Forge’s induced visions, and then have ZERO payoff, beyond a “well yeah, I thought it wouldn’t work” dialog option?
Skipping over some of the story involving Nebula, the Guardians get the information they need from the Forge, which sends them back to the ruins where they killed Thanos. Cue meandering exploration, some VERY lite puzzle solving, and the big reveal… They need to go somewhere else for more information. This means that despite the wonderful Rocket moment on Halfworld (the vision, not the Forge part), we’re only slightly less in the weeds then we were at the end of Episode 1.
Given their track record the last few games, getting an episode like this near the beginning of a new series is a bit mind boggling. Sure, when you deal with episodic content, the occasional expositional episode is required to make sure all the story/lore elements are all in line. But with them exploring almost none of that, along with making Rocket seem like even more of an ass by having Peter keep a promise they both know would not work out immediately, I can’t help feeling that Under Pressure is the kind of down note that the next three episodes are going to have to work twice as hard at to build up from.
Other points of interest that don’t need much mentioning but this is a video game review so might as well: Under Pressure looks and plays like Episode 1. Same engine, same look, same everything mostly. The music kind of played a back seat this episode. The song selections were good, only popped up twice, with an optional third if you find the tape deck in the Milano while you’re wandering around the ship. Sadly, the Hall and Oates song that plays gets overridden if you leave the vicinity of the tape deck. Also, and this is just nitpicking, but the Milano has entered the realm of TARDIS, where it is clearly larger on the inside then it is on the outside.
Hopefully, Under Pressure is just a momentary blip in a great series rather than a signal of rocky storytelling to come. Given their reign as the all around favorites of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it would be a shame for other stories featuring this dynamic cast to simply be regulated to “just ok” status.
Reviewer and Editor for Darkstation by day, probably not the best superhero by night. I mean, look at that costume. EEK!