Reviewed on PlayStation 4
This review contains some light spoilers
It’s a rare thing to step away from a game and just think “wow.” It’s even rarer to be overwhelmed with satisfaction and sheer exhaustion. But after putting down the controller upon finishing Who Needs You, the fourth episode of their Guardians of the Galaxy series, I couldn’t help but sit there and reflect upon my time with it. This, I concluded, was the comeback the series needed, that it deserved. It wasn’t a pilot, or a season finale, but this two-hour episode nonetheless delivered the most bang for my buck that I have ever experienced from Telltale. Furthermore, Who Needs You is one of the greatest Telltale episodes I have ever played. It is the closest to perfection that I have seen in a long time.
In typical Telltale fashion, Episode Four picks up right where More Than a Feeling left off. Having destroyed the Eternity Forge to keep it out of Hala’s hands, the Guardians now face her wrath (unfortunately for them, she’s also just absorbed the Forge’s energy while trying to save her dead son). The temple collapses around them, sending Peter and the others tumbling into a cavernous abyss, where most of the episode subsequently plays out. Hala’s return was ultimately short-lived, however. I was excited to see her reappear at the end of the otherwise anticlimactic Episode Three. But after crying over the Forge’s destruction and attacking the Guardians for a second time, Hala doesn’t actually do much to pursue the titular heroes. In fact, she never appears again throughout the episode.
It was a bit of a letdown to have no real antagonist in Who Needs You, especially as the penultimate fourth episode typically leads up to the final conflict that will bring all the pieces together (it seems obvious that Hala will show up again in the season finale). And yet, her absence here allowed Telltale to do something a little unorthodox—Guardians opts to break things apart a bit earlier than one would expect. Without straight-up spoiling everything, I will say there are deaths in this episode, hence the emotional distress I felt at its conclusion. Every decision is meaningful, and things continue to be stressful and unsteady amongst the Milano crew. It’s up to Star-lord to sort things out, as per usual, and there seems to be a lot more decision-making in this episode than ever before. These choices have some devastating consequences, and I’ll admit that this episode shook me to my very core. It was tense, but an absolute blast.
The largest conflict seen in this episode continued to be that between Gamora and Rocket Raccoon. While Gamora is still trying to save her sister, Nebula, after being badly wounded in battle, Rocket is still considering abandoning the Guardians altogether and striking out on his own. Add in the stress of being trapped on a planet full of hungry worm monsters and you’re left with an episode full of constant bickering and fragile situations. Previously in season I opted to take Gamora’s side more often than not, as I felt bad for her sister issues. But after finally reuniting her with Nebula, I’ve begun to take Rocket’s side in arguments, so he doesn’t feel ignored. It’s this back and forth between keeping my teammates happy that provides a level of stress that’s extremely realistic. Whereas other Telltale series have been about keeping individual characters happy (or not) for your own personal gain—such as in The Walking Dead—or even series like Game of Thrones where there are multiple storylines and different people to impress within each one, Guardians is all about the team.
Most players come into this series already knowing the Guardians of the Galaxy as an inseparable team of superheroes, a tight-knit family. Knowing that someone will always be upset makes the quarrels so much harder to manage (and Star-lord is stuck with them, no matter what). Episode Four was, in this way, loaded with difficult scenarios. One thing to point out, though, was the lack of carryover from Episode Three to Four. All of More Than a Feeling led up to the fate of the Eternity Forge, and the Guardians were pretty evenly split with their decisions. I knew I’d angered Rocket and Drax with my decision to destroy the forge, and was fully expecting their wrath come Episode Four. Unfortunately—or fortunately, depending on how you look at it—there wasn’t much anger between the Guardians at the start of Who Needs You. It just felt unrealistic that everyone would’ve gotten over the fact that they can no longer bring their loved ones back from the dead, and work together to break out of a cave. I was so hesitant with my nerve-racking choice to destroy that thing, and I just wish it had paid off for some, and really affected my relationship with others, as that decision would in real life. Nobody would get over something like that so easily.
Flashbacks returned again in Episode Four, this time not so heavily influencing the present-day plot, but rather providing some words of wisdom throughout the story. Drax’s past was touched upon, in which he taught his daughter how to become a warrior like him. We didn’t get to explore his family’s death or anything substantial that made him who he is today. All the player really does is uncover his (typically hidden) caring nature, which is awoken after experiencing said flashback. Peter also has another vision of his mother, where we got to see the cancer begin to affect her much worse than before. I have a feeling we’ll have to relive her hospitalization and death in the season finale. This will propel Peter to finally come to terms with her death and all of the relationships crumbling around him, while placing emphasis on the importance of family and the love he has for his teammates, no matter how much they differ. These flashbacks weren’t as impactful as in previous episodes but I at least understand their purpose in teaching a few lessons, albeit in a tasteful way.
The aforementioned flashbacks were brought about thanks to Mantis, who (once again) does nothing for this episode otherwise. Ever since her first appearance in the previous episode, her presence has continuously felt forced. She’s no longer needed to provide information about the Eternity Forge, she has no skills in combat, and all she does is touch people to spark flashbacks. While it may seem like I’m hating on her character overall, I must admit that I actually enjoyed her depiction in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. But in the Telltale series, she just feels like a completely bland, unnecessary character who simultaneously gets dragged around by the group, all while dragging the collective group down. To make matters worse, her jokes fall flat in a series that is consistently funny. I frequently found myself laughing during Who Needs You (when I wasn’t crying or shouting in anguish), This is arguably the funniest episode of the season, what with Drax’s poor comprehension of sarcasm and figurative speech, and Rocket’s quick-witted one-liners. But throw Mantis in there with her…stupidity, and it really tends to bring the room down.
Unlikable characters aside, there wasn’t much else to dislike about Episode Four. The story itself continued to be tense, yet satisfying, with a focus on strengthening relationships during times of hardship. At the end of the episode, my unpopular choices reflected the need for understanding, compared to others. I didn’t always go with my gut; I did what I knew was right, rather than how I personally felt, or rather than trying to play the part of a cocky leader. I took a step back and realized I needed to be there for my team, and make choices that benefited everyone for the good of the Guardians as a whole. The team still ended up shattered at the end of it all, but it’s nice being given the option to stray from the path and make certain decisions based on many possible outcomes. Leadership is no easy task, but I’ve shaped my Star-lord into a wise captain, rather a constantly wise-cracking one.
While the story was on point, leading toward an awesome spectacle of a finale, combat and exploration were hot on its heels in terms of successful gameplay. There were quite a few combat sequences in Who Needs You, from battling Hala in the temple, to battling a giant worm while flying through a narrow tunnel system. One battle in particular stands out, set to “Stone Cold Crazy” by Queen. Yet another episode influenced by popular Earth music – reminiscent of Star-lord’s film counterpart – makes for an always impressive fight scene. An intelligent fight scene, even, as a lot of the quick time events are set to the beat of the songs. QTE’s are just as complex as they’ve been all season, with multiple button presses, and the use of triggers to shoot Star-lord’s guns, among others. This episode utilized a lot of the Guardians in combat, including Rocket’s ability to fly the Milano through danger, and a showdown involving Drax’s knives against an army of space worms. This series continually makes basic button presses feel like truly significant actions in the heat of battle.
Telltale never fails to shake things up in terms of combat; I’m truly blown away by Guardians‘s use of music, comedy, and quick time events in such a creative way. Touching on exploration briefly, this episode includes many parts in which Star-lord must search around for clues to escape certain areas. Even his little time machine doohickey makes a comeback, helping him find the correct tunnel to explore within the perilous cave system. At one point, Rocket fixes Quill’s rocket boots so he can fly again, allowing him to hover over dangerous acid pools. The helmet headset is back too, so Star-lord can get advice from his teammates back on the ship. All of the Guardians staples are included in Episode Four, and it is just fantastic to get an episode where everything is addressed and improved upon in some way.
Episode Four: Who Needs You is a nearly perfect penultimate installment in Telltale’s Guardians of the Galaxy series. It delivers across the board in terms of a trying and emotional storyline, a pleasing quantity of exploration, and thrilling combat that always leaves me wanting more. Toss in some badass musical selections, the perfect amount of comedy (including some much-appreciated toilet humor), and barely any performance issues (save for some minor pop-ins), and Who Needs You easily becomes the best Guardians episode to date. Lest we forget the under-acknowledged gorgeous visuals of the series overall; seriously, just look at Star-lord’s jacket in the screenshot above! Aside from the occasional character or missed opportunity pulling the plot southward, Episode Four rises above the rest of this season, and cements itself as the best Guardians of the Galaxy episode by far. This series is on a fast track to quite possibly the most entertaining Telltale finale of all time.