Telltale's Guardians of the Galaxy series slows down with Episode 2. After an action-packed first episode, the second's slower pace leaves room for more substantial character moments. On occasion, however, that space is filled with manufactured drama, as key decisions revolve around playing favorites with the Guardians in a way that comes off as petty high school drama instead of the culmination of natural tension among the group. Fortunately, there's enough mystery in the story to carry the episode through to its to-be-continued ending, drama and all.
Most of the episode consists of point-and-click exploration and conversations with less of a focus on Telltale-style quick-time events. Compared to the cinematic first episode, in which the game-y elements felt like interruptions, this episode flows a lot better, albeit more slowly. The few quick-time sequences that are present don't feel like the game is checking in to make sure you're paying attention, and it flows between conversations and exploration well.
The Guardians are left reeling after the events of the first episode. Their next step is to learn more about the Eternity Forge, a relic in their possession that has the power to resurrect the dead. It's a strange enough artifact to drive the story forward without much action--it gave Peter visions of his long-dead mother, and he's not the only one who has someone they'd want to bring back to life. The first big decision involves either hunting down Gamora's highly dangerous sister, Nebula, so she can translate runes on the Eternity Forge, or going on a side mission with Rocket to see if he can bring back someone he's lost.
It's the only decision in the episode that's at all difficult. I repeatedly sided with Gamora in the first episode and chose to go with Rocket in the second, even though Nebula was definitely going to do a bit of murdering before we could catch up to her. Gamora's disapproving gaze is very cutting, but Rocket's story is worth exploring and makes him a much more sympathetic character than in the previous episode. (It also involves an adorable anthropomorphic otter.)
After that, though, the episode relies heavily on easy-to-avoid drama to fill the gaps between points of interest. I ended up siding with Gamora about something later, which upset Drax, since I'd picked Gamora over him before--but since Drax mostly just supplies comedic relief and promises to fight his way through any problem, going with the level-headed Gamora is an obvious choice, especially when it involves her sister. Talking to a mopey Drax is kind of like dealing with a five-year-old and doesn't make for the most interesting conversations, either.
That said, I was more curious about the mysteries of the Eternity Forge and my companions' backstories this time around than I was with the first instalment--even though the drama often feels forced, there's substance to each character that's given a chance to shine this episode. The prospect of resurrection gives everyone an opportunity to show more emotion, and Gamora and Nebula's conversation in particular is both important and interesting to participate in.
Even though the drama often feels forced, there's substance to each character that's given a chance to shine this episode.
Small technical hiccups break up the flow, though. The facial animations are inconsistent and don't always sync neatly with dialogue, and I had to restart a sequence because an important prompt never appeared and stopped progression. It's less an issue of performance than polish, but it interrupts the already slow pace of the episode.
By the ending cliffhanger, Guardians creates enough of a mystery with the Eternity Forge--specifically the process and cost of using it--to segue into the next episode. Emotions run high, and that works well for Rocket's story as well as the conflict between Gamora and Nebula, but other pivotal choices seem like overblown drama between kids instead of a ragtag band of heroes. It lacks action and big reveals, but it sets up a lot of different avenues to potentially explore down the line.