Last Friday evening at the PAX East convention, con goers packed to Albatross Hall to catch a glimpse and several details about the upcoming Marvel/Telltale Games release of Guardians of the Galaxy. What unfolded was a unique perk at the game along with an informative story about why Guardians of the Galaxy exists in the modern Marvel Comic and Cinematic Universe.
Telltale Games is known previously for their massively popular titles A Wolf Among Us, Batman, and a series of The Walking Dead (TWD). In fact, the first 15 minutes of the panel was dedicated to TWD. Though I have yet to play those titles (I have Batman season 1 on my shelf, but my wife hates it when I play video games, so I'm waiting for her to take a girl's trip before I break it out), I love the rich, "comic book come to life" design of the Telltale game world.
The new TWD series, season three of the New Frontier storyline (they're calling it "Above the Law"), shares that same visual aesthetic as these past properties. Slated to for release on March 28th, it will add to an already strong catalog that should continue to please gamers.
But you're really wanting to know, what about Guardians? From the few slides shown at the panel (no video), Telltale is breaking new ground with a new style that carries the same stunning visuals, but with an entirely unique look for the company.
Creative Director for Marvel Games Group Bill Roseman took the lead once the panel turned to the Guardian of the Galaxy (GOTG) release, and his experience with the property is impressive. Basically, there would be no GOTG without Roseman.
Roseman spent 20 years with Marvel Comics, and several years back he was reassigned to handle the Marvel Cosmic Titles. After finishing the successful Nova and Annihilation series, he turned to his Official Marvel Handbook to search out a new sci-fi Marvel team-up. Having enjoyed the Rocket Racoon series in the 1980s, he knew that Rocket would be a centerpiece to the new team. Last to be selected was one of the Kirby's Monsters: none other than Groot. Roseman hand picked the team, set about creating their dynamic, and without him, the GOTG film would never have happened. As such, he is the perfect candidate to usher the Guardians into the video game world.
Sharing the stage with Justin Lambrose, executive producer for Telltale on the game, Roseman shared plenty of details about the tone and themes of the game. Guardians is all "about family," Roseman begins, which is an irony because "no one has a family." All of them "feel alone." They've come together because "you're my kind of misfit." The game, like the film, will be "filled with humor." Summarizing the success the Marvel Cinematic Universe has with storytelling, he referred to a "muddy, Marvel, magic recipe" that combines "serious stakes with humor and fun."
Speaking about the synergy between Marvel and Telltale, he recognized that they had "one shot to get this right." Certainly, GOTG shocked fans when it was released in August of 2015. Not many film goers were familiar with the esoteric Marvel space title, but they went to see it anyway, and broke box-office records. As the next big thing for GOTG, this game has to get it right. To do otherwise may irreparably damage the franchise. Roseman explains that he understand this and that he wants to use the "best characters, the best stories, to make the best games for the best fans."
The game contains an original story that is not derived from the comics or film. Marvel wanted to give the Telltale team the space to tell their own story. As such, costume design is original but immediately identifiable. Roseman believes that this allows us to be comfortable in rejoining the Guardians while leaving the game's makers free to create something where players have "no idea what's coming next."
The few slides that were shown fit that description well. Unlike the stark, heavy black outlines from previous Telltale titles, the GOTG game looks like highly detailed action figures that have come to life. The beautiful environs seem real, and the "cinematography" is very film-like, with shallow depth of field and amazing composition.
Aware that some folks may not be entirely familiar with the franchise, they've taken steps to make the game accessible. Stan Lee, Roseman explains, always said that any particular comic book may be a person's first introduction to comics, or that character, so it needed to be accessible. But Roseman said that this doesn't mean they write down to their audience. Characters will be introduced (but this isn't a origin story game), learn names, all so that "there is no confusion." They want to reach as broad an audience as possible (even claiming a PG-13 type rating) but still there are plenty of tidbits for hardcore fans.
"Chock full of Easter eggs," we'll be able to spend our time looking for recognizable pieces from film and comics. Pay particular attention to a poster above Peter Quill's bed — I guess that one is going to be good.
The plot was loosely described as this: an object is discovered that is highly valuable to the Guardians as well as evil forces. Specifically, each individual Guardian has a reason for personally obtaining the object, and their loyalties will be tested. Their desire will test "how far bonds can be pulled before they break," Roseman says. They will be "facing foes and their selves." This sounds A LOT like the film, but I have confidence that the similarities should end there.
As far as gameplay goes, gamers will be playing mainly as Quill, though at certain times they will take control of the other Guardians. How you choose will impact how you relate to the other team members as the game unfolds. Justin Lambrose adds that ultimately, the Guardians are "better as a group than as individuals."
Wrapping up the panel, Roseman dropped some tantalizing nuggets on us. First, expect more groovy rock anthems from the 1970's to accompany gameplay, though he wasn't able to say which. Also, a female character from Marvel Comics, never before seen outside of the pages of a comic book, will be making her first non-comic appearance. As well, expect many other Marvel Universe characters to appear throughout the game.
Lucky Texans at the Austin South By Southwest (SXSW) festival will be able to have a shot at watching a crowd play-through of the game next week, 6:30 pm, March 17 at the Paramount Theater. No SXSW badge is required, but I'd show up early to get one of the wrist bands they'll be giving out.
While no date for the eventual release was shared, we have a Spring 2017 window to shoot for. I'd be surprised if it didn't come out before the May 2017 release of GOTG Vol. 2, just from a marketing strategy perspective. Either way, it seems that Telltale and Marvel will not be stopping with GOTG as their only title. No specifics were shared, but Roseman had to stop himself from giving out any information about further collaborations.
Will you play it? Which Marvel titles would you like to see Telltale tackle next. Let us know in the comments!