Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Episode 2: Under Pressure
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Android, PC, iPad, iPhone and Microsoft Xbox One
This review may contain SPOILERS for the previous episode of Guardians of the Galaxy!
If Marvel has taught us anything, it’s that taking a fatal blow to the chest is anything but deadly. In Phil Coulson’s case, it earned him a directorship. For Peter Quill, it gave him the knowledge of possibly reuniting with someone from his past. After a jaunty but otherwise lightweight start to Telltale’s new franchise, Under Pressure brings some gravitas to the series with a focus on Rocket’s past.
Outside of Peter and Gamora, the Guardians’ backstories have been a little thin on the ground, so it’s nice to see the Eternity Forge being used as an integral narrative tool to explore some of the crew, rather than a typical MacGuffin. Rocket, in particular, got short shrift in the films, with very little being made of the fact that he was a talking raccoon. It makes sense to use external media to supplement the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially hot on the heels of a decent second film, so delving deeper into lore is very much welcome here.
Following on from an action-heavy first episode, there are far fewer quick time events this time around. The ones that do pop up are simplistic almost to the point of insult, whether you’re manoeuvring your ship out of the path of missiles or kicking Kree in the face. And as your search for the Eternity Forge’s origin and meaning sends you after Gamora’s cybernetically enhanced sister Nebula, you’ll also be tasked with helping out Rocket and his quest to be reunited with a loved one from the facility in which he was created.
The order in which you make such decisions may seem crucial but, as with most Telltale games these days, the end result differs little. There is far more downtime in this episode as well, which feels at odds to the urgency at which people are pushing you onwards. Wandering around the ship is fun, if rather inconsequential. Drax’s driving motivation is to prove useful given his new lack of purpose, but his moping has the undesired effect of making the funniest character of the group a sullen bore. Gamora, too, is as bland as she was previously, her rivalry with Nebula failing to raise any kind of spark. And Groot is, well, Groot, a character far more suited to blockbuster action than one-way conversation in a point-and-click game.
Flashbacks to Peter’s childhood conversations with his mother return but prove awkward in the context of the story, slotted home to try and provide some purpose for a character who is feeling as adrift as Drax. More tension which flares up with Nova Corps simply feels manufactured in the absence of a true antagonist — Hala, so pivotal to the first chapter, is nowhere to be seen here. You’ll meet up with Yondu (whose voice is a far cry from Michael Rooker’s) and revisit the temple you battled Thanos in previously. This cheeky piece of asset reuse is tempered by the return of the time scanner, a tool which lets you review events via echolocation which occurred previously, in order to solve basic puzzles. When we say basic, we mean it, but they do serve to break up the wandering and chatting somewhat.
But if the general flavour of the episode is vanilla, Rocket’s touching backstory adds some well-needed sprinkles to the mix. His relationship with Lylla, an otter in a similar situation as him, is touching. Finding a way to break out of their holding cages throws up a few nice puzzle-driven scenes, and though the conclusion is never in doubt, it doesn’t prevent this from being the meatiest part of Under Pressure. Unfortunately, Nolan North’s brilliant work with Rocket inadvertently serves to undermine the rest of the episode by highlighting just how much of it is simple filler. At just under two hours you might expect more from such a diverse cast, but by the time the credits roll, barely anything new has been learned about the Eternity Forge. Even the customary Telltale cliffhanger feels like a cop-out.
The glacial pace doesn’t just affect the story, but the humourous vibe that the first instalment managed to craft so brilliantly, too. The sight gags and deadpanning from the crew are nowhere to be found, leaving the burden of engagement squarely on the shoulders of a featherweight story which simply does not do enough to carry it. As such, the next episode will prove to be pivotal — both in terms of shaping the series’ arc, and in confirming whether this spin-off was worth Telltale’s investment in the first place.