Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Episode 5: Don't Stop Believin' Review
Sony PlayStation 4Also available on Android, PC, iPad and Microsoft Xbox One
This review may contain SPOILERS for the previous episodes of Guardians of the Galaxy!
The Guardians are divided. Whether through grief, anger or just plain stubborn-headedness, it’s up to Peter to reconcile the team and defeat Hala whose arc was barely touched upon in the last episode despite being a huge threat to the galaxy. Fortunately, she’s on hand to give a press interview and restore the normal balance of good versus evil, and thanks to a convenient power of Mantis’ which had been kept quiet until now, Peter can locate his friends just by thinking about them really hard.
Don’t Stop Believin’ is the aptly named final chapter of Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy point-and click; a whole heap of disbelief needs to be suspended as deus ex machinas are unleashed all over the place to get the crew where they need to be for the final showdown. Peter’s mind is pulled this way and that to recall some key points from throughout your adventure, while serving as a reminder to the player of what they’ve experienced over the last few months. Of course, the Guardians were never going to be apart for long, but it’s surprising how many of the decisions you may have made about the group dynamic are simply ignored, or glossed over. Rocket’s turnaround in demeanour, for instance, is wholly unbelievable.
What is equally surprising is how diverse the storyline of this finale is compared to previous Telltale series. Aside from the aforementioned make-up of the group itself, a number of major decisions from earlier episodes actually make a tremendous difference in how events play out here - whether it’s your decision about the Eternity Forge, how you handled Drax’s offer, and even the flashback to the camping trip with your mother. These and many more tie into notably different scenes, and the ending in particular should be commended for the way it branches off into plotlines and potential future stories as well as tying up many of the loose ends that were left drifting after four episodes.
While these are significant strides forward in Telltale’s handling of branching narrative, the less said about the actual story itself, the better. Hala has been a woeful villain throughout, a one-note bore with a generic Eastern European accent and barely explained motives. This isn’t really improved upon here, but depending on your choices you may find yourself sympathetic to her plight before the credits roll, if only because of the conflation with Peter’s own backstory.
Groot, being the only member of the Guardians not to get an episode dedicated to his past, is granted ten minutes or so of flashback time to explain how the crew all met — but other than a rudimentary claw game scene, and a few conversational choices which pan out exactly as you’d expect, we learn very little more about the walking tree.
The majority of the best lines come, as always, from Drax, but the general humour is as strained here as it has been throughout the season. The music and voice work are as on-point as usual, but other elements of the game feel like more retreading of old ground — dodging debris with directional prompts, hitting X to press a button… it all feels too familiar. The final pre-battle decision making is ripped straight from Mass Effect 2’s playbook but with all of the risk removed (at least, in our playthrough), though the action sequences which involve the entire party remain a thrilling highlight that almost makes you forget the simplistic nature of the gameplay. This is countered by the exploration sections of the game, requiring you to wander around and interact with every highlighted icon (or not, if you get bored), and then move on. Like other Telltale franchises, puzzles have all but been abandoned so these sections serve as little more than exposition and downtime between the QTE segments — which remains a clunky method of delivering a story.
Whether you deem the wrap-up satisfactory will largely be down to how invested you are in the characters, and despite a brief uptick in the series’ quality last episode and a better second half of the season overall, it simply does not feel like Guardians has done enough to earn that investment. Encumbered with a weak villain, Star-Lord’s adventure seems far more casual than it should be, even while heavy themes of loss and sacrifice have been peppered throughout. A post-credits finale hints at a “new” story which may induce some warranted eye-rolling, but overall most of the loose ends are tied up here, if a little too neatly. Is a second season justified? On the basis of these last five episodes the answer, disappointingly, is no.