Initially, I was skeptical about this title. Let’s just say Square Enix’s last foray into a Marvel licensed game didn’t exactly leave a good taste in my mouth. However, I couldn’t help but fall under Guardians of the Galaxy’s charm despite my hesitation. Maybe I’m just a sucker for 80s music, or maybe getting a giggle out of me is an all too easy accomplishment. Whatever the case may be, what I know definitively is that Eidos Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an action-packed good time that had me grinning from ear to ear throughout the whole journey.
Guardians of the Galaxy starts with a more fresh-faced and newly established Guardians of the Galaxy. Peter Quill still has yet to shed his reputation as a space pirate while Drax and Gamora are newer additions to the team, trying to find their place aboard the Milano as Rocket keeps digging into their sides about how new they are.
This story begins with Guardians looking to score a sweet space monster bounty for the infamous Lady Hellbender to build a reputation among the more sketchy spacefaring employers in the galaxy. From there, some natural hijinks ensue thanks to our devil may care cast of characters and spirals into a multi-planet spanning story with consequences for the whole galaxy. Along the way, you will meet a doomsday cult, a space llama, a great cast of supporting characters, and a damn fridge that never stays shut.
This story was a highlight for me, and I felt it could be right at home inside the panels of a comic book or on the silver screen. The writing team did an outstanding job knowing when to expand its scope and keep the story’s momentum going; there is hardly a dull or uninteresting moment present. And thankfully, every main character is likable and multidimensional, with each having hard choices to make as their plotlines progress. Peter Quill is a wise-ass with a heart of gold, Gamora is a tough-as-nails badass, Rocket is a quick-witted chatterbox, Drax is as literal and formidable as ever. And Groot, well, Groot is Groot.
This motley crew repeatedly goes after each other’s throats and, at other times, has very tender and endearing moments with one another. Peter Quill may take center stage, but this is far from the Star-Lord show. Every character has their own moment in the sun that solidifies their position within the team, and each one has a great character arc. Watching the banter and group dynamic evolve across the 12 or so hours you’re with them is remarkably satisfying.
I half expected for this game to hit me with the worst, most cringe-worthy comedy that it could muster, seeing how video games generally land in the out-of-date and tone-deaf side of humor. However, Guardians of the Galaxy is intelligent and witty with some excellent situational comedy. Characters bounce off of each other, and there is a wonderful chemistry between them. Despite these characters talking your ear off the whole time, I never felt the constant banter annoying.
There are some branching dialogue options that you can choose from throughout the story, but their consequences are generally pretty minor. I would call it a diet decision-making mechanic as most options end up rewarding you with maybe one less door that Rocket has to hack or one less group of enemies you need to face. Any big screw-ups just result in the game giving you the chance to input the correct dialogue options anyways. This isn’t Mass Effect levels of agency with how the game turns out but seeing how a decision you made a chapter or two ago made your life a little easier later is rewarding enough for this type of game.
Everything comes together amazingly as Star-Lord commands his teammates and utilizes everyone’s unique strengths on the battlefield. Each guardian specializes in a specific attack style, almost reminiscent of an action RPG party. Rocket handles long-range explosives for AoE damage, Groot is a crowd control tank capable of locking down battlefields, Drax is a stagger-building powerhouse, and Gamora is a DPS machine.
The Guardians have four unlockable abilities each, and the real fun of the combat system comes from discovering what combos you can create with each guardian’s abilities. In one instance, you could have Groot constrain every enemy on the field and then have Rocket blow them all up, or maybe have Drax bowl through a crowd of enemies, filling their stagger meter, and Gamora slices through the weakened enemies as a finisher. I was delightfully surprised at how many different ways I could mix and match everyone’s abilities. Best of all, Guardians of the Galaxy rewards these combos with damage multipliers and extra XP at the end of an encounter should you find yourself getting into a good hot streak.
Peter Quill himself has his own unlockable abilities, with his weapon of choice being his signature element guns which are capable of, well, wielding elements. Teammates also tag in and will fight with you when you engage in melee combat, and it just added that extra bit of gameplay that solidified how fun the teamplay aspects of this game are. It’s no Arkham Knight with its tag-team fighting, but watching Peter Quill uppercut an enemy into the air and then seeing Drax body slam them into the ground was always fun.
As you utilize your teammates, you will build up your huddle meter, which, when full, will rally the whole team. Here, you can decide to boost morale if the team is struggling or, if they’re doing well, refocus everyone to avoid succumbing to their own cockiness. A successful huddle will grant the team a health boost and instant cooldown on their abilities., Not to mention, the game starts playing some bumping 80s tunes in the background. It’s a neat mechanic that adds another element to how tightly knit this group is to each other. Still, it does break the flow of combat up for a little too long, and I found myself using it only in dire situations or prolonged instances of battle.
Unfortunately, the combat system does take a while to come into its own. For the first quarter of the game, I felt like the combat was simply a shooting gallery for Peter Quill as he shouts orders at everyone to do the same ability for the millionth time. Still, there is much more to it than what first impressions might have you believe as long as you stick with it.
The only time combat began to feel genuinely laborsome was in the boss battles, wherein combat felt less involved, and boss battles began to feel more like set pieces than actual challenges. As the Guardians of the Galaxy, you’re going to fight a lot of larger-than-life foes, and with that comes the technical limitations of making a beast the size of a skyscraper something that you can actually takedown. Expect to shoot at many weak points and overall lather-rinse-repeat style of boss encounter throughout the game.
I completed the game on medium difficulty, but I could honestly see harder difficulties making this game a lot more fun to tackle. With the robust difficulty settings present in the game, you can definitely fine-tune the experience to be just how you want it.
The teamwork in Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t stop when you’re off the battlefield though, you’ll need to use everyone’s abilities to explore each world. Groot can make bridges, Rocket can weasel into small spaces and create hacking opportunities, Gamora uses her ninja-like skills to get to hard-to-reach places, Drax lifts heavy things and puts them down somewhere else. Traversing around worlds requires combining team elements, like having Drax carry a platform somewhere so Gamora can scale it and cut down cables up above, opening a new passage. This team-based puzzle-solving broke up a good chunk of the linearity of Guardians of the Galaxy but isn’t particularly challenging.
You’re going to want to explore these worlds to unlock all of the excellent costumes for each guardian, ranging from some comic book deep cuts to the movie outfits that everyone is well acquainted with. There are also scrap parts hidden throughout the world that you’ll want to collect in order to upgrade your element guns, suit, visor, and boots at workbenches. Each perk you earn is meaningful and changes how you interact with the game like the Rapid Reload, which adds a skill check reload mechanic a la Gears of War. These aren’t just stat boosts to DPS or defense that many games lazily fall victim to.
Where Guardians of the Galaxy stumbles are in the technical aspects. Peter Quill is a stiff guy to control sometimes, and his animations are often awkward. The first time I triggered the jumping animation, I was left puzzled because the movement was so sudden and didn’t actually appear to be transitioning from standing to jumping. There are little bits and pieces in some animations during gameplay that never felt fluid and felt more like watching a program go from one state to another. Which, when juxtaposed to the fantastic animation in proper cutscenes, was very jarring. It does feel like Eidos Montreal is still having some growing pains as they rework their Dawn Engine to favor a third-person action game instead of their previous first-person Deus Ex games.
Some other nit-picks would be the Watch_Dogs-esque floor puzzles that do very little for me yet are far and few between. Also, everything requires a scan before you can interact with it, which was a little annoying at times. Listen, Eidos, I have seen this same crack in the wall dozens of times, and I know it requires Drax to punch through it; I don’t need to scan it to make sure of that.
It’s easy to look at Guardians of the Galaxy and write it off as generic or derivative. That was certainly the impression that I got when it was first revealed. And, admittedly, Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t do anything new or particularly bold within the action-adventure game genre.
What Guardians of the Galaxy brings to the table is an entertaining combat system centered around combining team elements for optimal results, coupled with an excellent and meaningful upgrade system that all creates a fun gameplay loop. Throw in a remarkably clever and well-written story, and Guardians of the Galaxy becomes what I consider to be an exceedingly enjoyable and palatable game. Anyone can pick this game up and find something to love about it, and that is Guardians of the Galaxy’s greatest accomplishment.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy – Review
When the issues of a game are rolled and stomped by its greatness, then it’s something to invest on if you have some spare.
A great, very complete Guardians of the Galaxy story
Fun, team-oriented combat system
Lots of accessibility options
Meaningful upgrade system
Takes a few hours for the combat to unlock its potential
Mechanically simple and less involved boss battles
Generally buggy and often mechanically stiff gameplay