Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Episode 4: Who Needs You Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Android, Nintendo Switch, PC, iPad and Microsoft Xbox One
This review may contain SPOILERS for the previous episodes of Guardians of the Galaxy!
The penultimate installment of a Telltale series is historically its weakest, and with a series like Guardians of the Galaxy — which up to this point hasn’t really done enough with its huge and varied universe to justify its existence — this situation seemed unlikely to change. Indeed, as the heroes end up plummeting down a near endless abyss only to remain unscathed at the other end with no explanation bar Peter and Mantis’ survival, it seemed like Who Needs You was actively trolling any player looking for some semblance of narrative continuity. Yet, in the space of a couple of hours the episode claws its way back to become the series’ best entry yet, whilst still a far cry from Telltale’s peak output.
The aftermath of your battle with Hala is all but ignored aside from a pre-credits sequence which serves only to dump you into another underground area to escape from. Indeed, the entire main plot of the series is essentially jettisoned to make way for more poignant interpersonal moments throughout, an odd decision but perhaps the correct one given how flimsy the entire main arc has been up until this point. In a weird way, ignoring the Eternity Forge entirely and focusing on the dynamics of the Guardians is possibly the best thing that Telltale could have done to fill in a tricky gap before the (presumably) bombastic finale.
As has been the case with the previous three installments, the episode focuses on a particular Guardians character. This time around, Drax is under the spotlight, and while his familial loss has been ground into the memories of anyone who is willing to hear it over the course of the series and both films, here it’s treated with a little more subtlety. Courtesy of some mind-delving shenanigans from Mantis, we’re treated to the moment the big blue guy sends his daughter off to become a warrior and, in a simple but very effective scene, underlines exactly how much she means to him.
Less effective are the relentless toilet gags peppered throughout, and a running joke involving a colon which is as unfunny on its tenth usage as it is the first time you hear it. The series’ joke quota has never really hit the level of the opening chapter, and it feels like Guardians tries a little too hard to be wacky at times. Flying a ship out of the anus of a massive worm might have sounded like a great idea on paper, but it doesn’t deserve the amount of dialogue milked from that scenario… actually, “milked” may not be the best word to use here, but you get the idea. That sequence is also home to the Most Irritating Telltale QTE 2017, if not the entire back catalogue. Puzzles are simplistic affairs as you may expect, but pummelling players with a split-second prompt that requires you to locate the reticle and drag it onto a target at a snail’s pace is grossly unfair, especially as it involves sitting through the same thirty seconds of dialogue every time you fail.
Other action sequences incorporate the standard direction or direction-plus-button combos from previous chapters, and they’re mostly done well. The music is, as always, superb, but the game is home to a number of bugs — not least a key glitch at the end of the game which saw one of the character models half-disappear during a pivotal scene, and then remain in that state for the rest of the game. Given it took place at a crucial juncture in the plot, the result was the loss of all emotional build up, and much cursing at the screen. A surprising turn of events was stymied yet again by Telltale’s desperately archaic graphics engine, and solidifies the need for an overhaul. The well-publicised company restructure may hopefully focus on that as a priority, as at this stage the developer is simply self-sabotaging.
Even with the bugs and groan-inducing attempts at humour, there is enough interesting groundwork laid in What You Need to make up for its shortcomings, and leave us hopeful of a finale with some emotional punch. Whether some of the more surprising decisions and outcomes seen here will be reversed remains to be seen — the Eternity Forge and its powers will no doubt play a key role in episode five — and though the reset button looms large, this fourth chapter has reversed some of its predecessors’ glaring faults. And who wouldn’t be interested in a second season if it features the incredible “Smeeter Twill and the Protectors of the Universe”?