Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy finally get their own standalone game, but is it a journey worth taking for fans of Star-Lord and co?
We live in an interesting time in the video game world as it pertains to licensed superhero titles. While Spider-Man and Batman were household names prior to Insomniac’s games and the Dark Knight’s Arkham titles, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has shined a spotlight on some lesser-known franchises, making Guardians of the Galaxy a series viable for its own videogame adaptation.
Eidos-Montréal’s Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t tied to the MCU at all, but fans of the films should have no trouble diving right into the plot and its cast of characters, and that’s key – since the character work and storyline are the beating heart of this game.
In fact, if you have a love of the cast from the movies, TV show, or comics, then it’s hard not to be swept up in Star-Lord and pals’ latest space adventure.
From a plot, acting, and character standpoint, Guardians of the Galaxy is amazing. It’s clear that Eidos-Montréal has reverence for the source material and poured a lot of heart into crafting an engaging story that has just the right amount of humor and charm while still presenting an over-the-top threat to the universe.
Throughout the journey, you’ll be playing entirely as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord. While you could have easily wound up playing as each of the five heroes, this choice actually works out fairly well, as much of the game has you interacting with your teammates and selecting numerous dialogue options.
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Dialogue is top-notch and the delivery of lines is spectacular. The jokes land and the emotional sequences hit harder because by now we’re all familiar with these characters and their personalities.
Drax, in particular, is probably the most improved from his MCU incarnation and offers much more substance as a member of the team. There’s much less comic relief here and it’s for the best.
Without going too deep into the plot, I’ll just say that it’s good and kept me engaged even as certain gameplay elements occasionally bogged my enjoyment down a bit.
Fun gameplay vs lackluster control(s)
By far my biggest gripe with Guardians of the Galaxy is its controls. Or should I say “control”? By which I mean I have an issue with a single button that if solved would significantly improve my enjoyment of the game.
Throughout the game, you’ll be unlocking special moves for members of your team, including Star-Lord. By pressing L1 on your controller, you’ll pull up a screen to select a Guardian and subsequently, what attack you want them to use in combat.
Star-Lord’s abilities, however, are tied to L3. A button that I found myself hitting all too often in the middle of combat completely in error. The game does let you either tap or hold L3 to bring up the menu, but even with the hold option, I still found myself constantly bringing up the menu in the middle of combat.
Here’s the big problem: you can’t dodge, attack, or do much of anything when this menu is up. This means if you’re trying to double jump to a platform, you can find yourself accidentally hitting L3 and falling to your doom or unable to get away from an incoming attack.
Or I can find myself accidentally performing one of my special abilities because I pressed L3 while I was trying to do something else. It’s not like this happens all the time and can be avoided in certain fights, but when you have loads of enemies on screen and you’re trying to dodge and weave through attacks, in the heat of battle, hitting it can just happen.
Brutal. It’s not game-breaking, but it can be frustrating. And I hope the devs can give players more control options in a later patch because accidentally impeding the Guardians’ progress through an accidental button press is frustrating.
Aside from this issue, general combat, maneuvering Star-Lord and solving puzzles are all fun. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but what it does do is offer up quality gameplay most of the time.
Even moments where you’re just walking from location to location with your team is engaging because of the frequent dialogue tree opportunities. Again, the heart of this game is its cast, and while these dialogue options have no bearing on the conclusion, they are a nice addition and can change up the story just enough to offer different experiences for players.
When you are in combat, directing Groot to root enemies with his branches and then calling on Rocket to blow them up with an explosive is fun. Luckily, new attacks are unlocked at a good pace, so no combo really outstays its welcome.
Plus, outside of your special moves, you’ll be able to gain access to a series of elemental attacks also used for puzzle solving. They manage to add some spice to the gameplay, which can admittingly grow a touch stale.
If you are in trouble, however, you have the option to perform a “huddle” and give a speech to your comrades to restore health and cooldowns. Following the speech, one of the game’s licensed tracks will play, providing some nice oomph to a rumble.
Personally, I think the game would have benefited from the music being implemented a touch better, such as with a game like Metal Gear Rising, which has songs tailored for each boss battle. Regardless of how impressive the soundtrack is, it may be one of the most under-utilized parts of the game and sometimes feels like a missed opportunity.
One other gameplay mechanic to mention is there are a handful of segments where you pilot the Milano and engage in dog fights. These were actually quite enjoyable and I’d love to see what the devs could do if they put time into a full Star Fox-style game, because these three or so missions were already vastly better than Star Fox Zero (what a mess of a game that was).
Visually solid, just not stunning
Graphically, Guardians of the Galaxy is fine. It should be noted that ray-tracing wasn’t live on the build I played and being a cross-gen title, it won’t hold up compared to games specifically designed for PC, PS5, or Xbox Series X.
That’s not to say it doesn’t look nice, I just was never blown away by the look of the game – which is unfortunate considering how the environments have so much variety to them.
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At one point you could find yourself exploring the slums of Knowhere and then the next going to the depths of a creepy cave or traversing the obligatory snow/ice level. In the latter of which, I didn’t leave any boot prints after running through snow, which broke immersion somewhat.
The video-gamey things
Not to nitpick, but just to address: there are some issues with this game that are more industry-wide and plague a lot of titles than just Guardians.
As much as I’ve expressed my love for the story, there are times where the pacing of the dialogue doesn’t match with what’s happening on screen and conversations abruptly end.
Gamora could be telling a story one moment and because I took a right turn somewhere, I triggered a new conversation or a cut scene. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is. Luckily, the most important story elements aren’t so easily missable, but I’d rather not miss anything while also not having to wait around before advancing.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy also suffers from linear level design and finding component parts that you can use to upgrade Star-Lord’s health and other properties. Often times finding these parts boils down to walking a bit off the set path and they’ll be tucked away in a corner, but there’s no deeper purpose to exploration than that, which is a shame given the varied environments.
There are some much cooler optional collectibles that require a bit more problem-solving to discover, but walking off a bit to locate parts isn’t the most riveting experience – I’d have preferred if these items dropped from enemies to keep things flowing a little more.
On the other hand, there was a moment in the game where I may have interacted with an obstacle too soon and then prevented me from selecting an ability to traverse in a level. Instead of needing to manually reload the checkpoint, the game seemed to recognize this issue and reloaded me back to before the bug occurred.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy delivers superhero thrills and genuine heart with an engrossing story, lovable characters, and fun (if predictable), gameplay.
Despite control issues and occasionally holding it back, Eidos-Montréal crafted a game that prevails more than it falters. While it doesn’t break any new ground, like some of the MCU’s entries, it still feels like time well spent with its characters.
Reviewed on PlayStation 5