Coming a little under a month after the last episode, Don’t Stop Believin’ wraps up the saga of Guardians of the Galaxy: A Telltale Series. It’s been an up and down road for Marvel’s intergalactic heroes, but one that has largely steadied over time. Telltale’s vision of the team finally reached its high point with the previous episode, Who Needs You, despite Star-Lord and company being ripped apart. Last episode set the stage for a climactic showdown, with Hala on the warpath and the Guardians either separated or presumed dead. One way or another, the battle between evil and roguish good was going to be decided.
Going off of where I left my team, the Guardians of the Galaxy had been whittled down to a duo. Peter Quill and Rocket Raccoon are still together, but with Drax presumed dead, and Mantis, Gamora and Groot off on their own, the Guardians are more or less finished. That doesn’t stop an Eternity Forge infused Hala from continuing down her path of vengeance, however. Even with the team fractured as bad as it’s ever been, Star-Lord knows that only the Guardians can stop the rampaging Kree from destroying the Galaxy. The question is: how could he possibly reunite his battered and bruised team?
I was very curious as to how Telltale’s take on the Guardians of the Galaxy was going to conclude following the catastrophic events of Who Needs You. Would the studio really follow through with destroying one of Marvel’s most popular teams? The short answer is no. In fact, the speed at which the team is reunited is almost comical.
Groot and Mantis show up almost immediately, while Drax and Gamora are just pep talks away from coming back. Though this is definitely good for sequel opportunities and comedy, it kind of takes the fangs out of the major decision of the last chapter. Telltale has always been big on emphasizing that every decision has a consequence, but this one really didn’t. It feels like the team wrote themselves into a corner, and rather than figure out a unique way of pressing forward, kind of just hand-waved everything back to normal.
It’s weird that this big choice is such a non-factor in Don’t Stop Believin’, because the other huge decision of the series, whether or not to destroy the Eternity Forge, completely changes things. I reluctantly destroyed the Forge, because it felt like the right thing to do, but after finishing my playthrough of the game, I looked up what happens when you don’t destroy it. What I found was a story that not only felt bigger, but one that also wrapped up rather differently. The studio clearly knows how to craft a tale with stakes, but why cap it at a single big decision? I don’t know if it was a decree from Marvel or not, but I can’t shake how underwhelming the team reunion is. Regardless, if Telltale chooses to create a sequel, I’ll be interested to know which ending they build off of.
Fortunately, even for how disappointing the reunion of the team is, Don’t Stop Believin’ is still an entertaining, and emotionally resonant conclusion. Telltale continues to develop the relationships between the members of the team, and the dialogue among them remains highly entertaining. Whether it was a side-conversation between Drax and Gamora or one last talk between Peter and his mother, I found myself smiling throughout the chapter.
It was also nice to get a look at how the Guardians first came together via Groot’s flashback. As you’re controlling the sentient tree for this portion of the game, your dialogue options are limited, despite your inner thoughts saying something else. Even without that bit of humor, though, the memory would still be worth revisiting just to see Peter Quill’s porn star-esque mustache. It’s ridiculous, but things with the Guardians tend to be that way.
Much like the last chapter, Don’t Stop Believin’ also features a solid action sequence set to a classic rock staple. Backed by Heart’s “Crazy On You,” the Guardians’ showdown with Hala aboard her ship is a series stand-out moment. Each member of the squad manages to contribute to the fight in a meaningful way. It may have started with Quill’s decisions, but his family comes together to back him up when it matters most. In fact, the conclusion of the Hala saga is the high point of the episode, as it comes to a head in a surprisingly emotional manner. The ability to juggle between comedy and heart is one of the reasons why the Guardians of the Galaxy films are as strong as they are, and it’s great that that same tricky balance is replicated successfully here.
Telltale’s dated engine is once again a thorn in the side of Guardians of the Galaxy. Despite some solid art direction, the series looks dated graphically, and that is on full display here. Something about the movement of the character models still looks off, and some of the time, they didn’t even properly mime dialogue.
Not helping matters is the fact that a vast majority of Don’t Stop Believin’ takes place in previously visited locations. And the one new location you go to, Star-Lord’s inner mind, is just a bunch of rocks in a blank void. The episode looks surprisingly cheap at times, like a story that ran out of money before it could properly wrap.
Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series mostly sticks the landing with Don’t Stop Believin’. While it frustratingly walks back one of the biggest choices in the series, the full experience is both funny and poignant. Telltale was able to deliver strong backstories for each member of the team, which helps flesh each of them out in ways that I wasn’t expecting coming into the series. There are still issues to be had with the series, namely Telltale’s usually lackluster action sequences and their dated gameplay engine, but Marvel fans should look past these problems. Beneath the janky gameplay, there’s a strong story that follows in both Telltale’s and the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s footsteps.
This review was based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we were provided with.
Despite walking back the massive cliffhanger from the previous episode, Don't Stop Believin' is a funny and emotionally strong conclusion to Telltale's Guardians of the Galaxy series.