In 2014, Marvel Studios released Guardians of the Galaxy, introducing mainstream fans to a ragtag team of unlikely heroes. Meeting rousing success, the film generated new interest in the franchise, making it one of the most popular Marvel properties today. With that success, it wasn’t long before a video game appeared, with Telltale Games taking a shot at telling their Guardians of the Galaxy story. Since then, Marvel has been investing more in the gaming space, with a revival of Marvel Ultimate Alliance, a successful Spider-Manfranchise, and even Square Enix’s Avengers game. Now, Square Enix and Eidos Montréal take the inspirations of the current Guardians of the Galaxy franchise to make their own rendition. Not only did they understand the assignment, but it’s clear that this new game was a labor of love from many Marvel fans.
While the Guardians of the Galaxy have had many members, the new game keeps things simple for the mainstream audience. Peter Quill, an Earthling with half alien parentage, gets forcefully taken out into space before becoming the infamous outlaw known as Star-Lord, named after his favorite band. Along the way, he recruits other teammates, including the Halfworld experiment Rocket Raccoon, the lone Planet X survivor Groot, the adopted daughter of Thanos, Gamora, and finally, the powerful war hero, Drax the Destroyer. Together, they form a reluctant team that manages to scrape by while trying to avoid trouble from the law. Fans of the film should be more than familiar with this team by now. Even so, there will be plenty of other familiar faces and references to see throughout the game, showing plenty of fan service.
What a Bunch of A-Holes
With a familiar team, Eidos takes inspiration from the comics and films to make their own version of these heroes. Using some new designs and a mixture of different ideas, the Guardians still manage to feel right at home in this new interpretation. In true Guardians of the Galaxy fashion, the story starts off small before escalating to a threat on a grander scale. While the game will have players encounter many foes, none will be more dangerous than the Universal Church of Truth. Despite the odds being stacked heavily against them, the entire fate of the universe will lie in their hands. There will be rescue missions, daring escapes, galactic dogfights and more as the Guardians do whatever it takes to save their butts… and of course the galaxy.
The story itself is actually pretty perfect for the Guardians. Even with many enemies to encounter, they’ll come across just as many allies that may or may not hate their guts. They’ll explore their pasts, learn more about each other’s motivations, and deepen the bonds that form them into a true family. There will be just as many fights with foes as there will be amongst the team itself, and it’s up to Star-Lord to be a leader and keep his team together. As the player, you’ll be able to make some of these important decisions yourself. While many of the choices determine dialogue, some will even determine the outcome of events. Perhaps this is a tribute to the work of Telltale Games, though it works well for the replayability of the new game.
Hooked on a Feeling
When it comes to some of those decisions, sometimes you’ll dig deep with a little therapy session. Not only will teammates have something to say between missions, but you’ll even find items that remind them of their past. Little quirks like Gamora’s doll collection or Drax’s Katathian history lessons all help to deepen the characters. While liberties were taken with some origins, these characters still feel pretty true to their source material. Accuracy aside, there are some pretty emotional moments to experience in the game. Whether it’s exploring Rocket’s past on Halfworld or reminiscing about Peter’s mother, things can get pretty heart-wrenching.
Of course, while things can get serious, the game balances it out with a heavy dose of humor and wit. You’ll have wise-crackers like Star-Lord or Rocket while Drax has his literal interpretations of scenarios. Even Gamora makes some intentionally cringe-worthy puns to help balance herself out in battle. Then there’s Groot, who just vibes throughout everything without regret. The banter among the team is constant, and you’ll have plenty of standout moments during their escapades. It’s pretty on brand for these characters, and the writing team did a great job showcasing their personalities here.
I am the Warrior
Story and writing aside, there’s still the gameplay elements to discuss. Players will take control of Star-Lord as they go from mission to mission across the galaxy. Guardians of the Galaxy is mainly an action game with some light RPG elements thrown into the mix. While you jump, dodge and shoot with Star-Lord, you’ll also eventually gain access to the elemental properties of your blasters. This gives the power of ice, lightning, wind, and fire, each having unique properties and uses, both on and off the battlefield. While they’re powerful in combat, they also have a lot of involvement in the puzzles of the game. Overall, they’re very fitting weapons for a video game setting, but also accurate to the comic book source material.
While Peter’s arsenal is powerful, perhaps his most powerful ability is his command of his team. By holding down a shoulder button, you’ll have access to the Guardians Mode. This grants you the skills of your teammates, allowing you to direct them to use their unique abilities to turn the tide of battle. As you use these skills, you’ll increase a combo meter while also potentially multiplying your damage output. It works surprisingly well, creating a good flow to the battle as you collect more skills. Rocket will utilize high tech gadgets and explosives while Drax will stagger foes with powerful attacks. Gamora can attack multiple enemies with her sword and Groot can entangle foes to immobilize them. Perform well in combat and you’ll gain experience bonuses to gain new abilities for you and your team.
Teamwork Makes the Dream Work
Of course, these skills aren’t the only ways you’ll use the talents of your team. There will also be parts of the environment that your teammates can interact with, both during combat and during exploration. Drax for example can lift heavy objects and throw them at enemies, or he can move it somewhere to create a platform to reach a higher area. Gamora can cut down hanging fixtures to decimate foes while also having the ability to slice through structures to advance your progress. Every Guardian has several purposes and times to shine during a mission, and it helps to display their wonderful personalities further. There’s even a few quick time event finishers and actions to keep you on your toes.
One other feature to mention for the combat is the “Huddle” mechanic. When the Guardians fill up a combat meter, Star-Lord has the option to huddle up his team. When this happens, his teammates will express their thoughts on the fight, focusing on certain key phrases. Players will have to determine the best motivational response to their words, rewarding them with a boost to their skill cooldowns and a random song from Peter’s cassette player. Should the player fail to encourage the team, only Star-Lord receives the boost. Either way, this mechanic instantly revives fallen teammates to get back into the fight. It’s a cool power-up system that feels natural to the core mechanics of the game, which is always welcome.
Dressed to Impress
As mentioned earlier, there will be moments to explore and various puzzles to solve off the beaten path. Sometimes these puzzles involve using a fellow Guardian, and others will involve using Star-Lord’s elemental blasters. They’ll almost always involve scanning with Star-Lord’s visor. Either way, you’ll have multiple moments to discover hidden components for crafting new abilities, gifts for your team, or even containers housing new costumes. While some of the outfits will come from the comic books, there will be various original ones as well. MCU fans will also be happy to know that each character has a skin inspired by their MCU counterpart. Some of these outfits can be elusive, so you’ll have to be extra observant to find them all.
As mentioned, there will be components to collect, which allows players to form new abilities for Star-Lord. Finding a workbench, Rocket will upgrade Star-Lord’s gear, allowing him to improve his overall fighting prowess. This could be a charged blaster shot, a powerful finisher punch, or even a perfect dodge that slows down time. Components are available in abundance, so you should have no problem getting fully upgraded over the course of the game. Progression is pretty gradual throughout Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and you shouldn’t expect to be fully upgraded until you get closer to the end of the game.
Turn up Your Radio
One big strength to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is the soundtrack. Not only do you have some great music from veteran composer Richard Jacques, but you also have a solid selection of licensed tracks that are on par with a Guitar Hero game. There’s even tracks from the fictional Star-Lord band where Peter gets his namesake. The Milano acts as a hub between missions, offering a jukebox for Peter’s favorite tracks to play. Songs like Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” and Billy Idol’s “White Wedding” set the atmosphere and make for a more authentic experience. It also makes certain moments more entertaining when you huddle up and suddenly hear Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” during a boss battle. It can even make certain fights more epic if you get just the right song for the moment.
One thing that was relatively surprising to me was the cast of performers for the game. In an unusual move, it seems that the developers decided to go with lesser known actors to perform the voices. There’s no Troy Baker or Ashly Burch, but what we do have is a solid selection of great performers nonetheless. The main cast sounds fantastic, really embodying their character personalities perfectly. Jon McLaren brings charisma and empathy to his performance as Star-Lord while he works well with his costars. Other stand outs include Jason Cavalier’s Drax, Emmanuelle Lussier-Martinez’s Mantis, and Alex Weiner’s Rocket. Overall, the cast was entertaining and succeeds in capturing the Guardians of the Galaxy spirit.
Why is Gamora?
While I had plenty of fun blasting foes and exploring multiple planets, it wasn’t without issue. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a full package, but it still feels a little rushed. Not only will next-gen players have to wait for a ray tracing update, but the game still has several bugs. At one point, I fell off a platform during a fight and I got placeholder text in my combo meter. Another moment had Gamora split up from the group for her own mission, but somehow she managed to stay with my group the entire time, even appearing in the cutscenes while characters are asking “What’s Gamora doing?” It benefited me in combat, but it was a little unusual regardless. My most frustrating bug was a ledge that wouldn’t let me finish crossing it, though luckily I was able to jump the gap instead.
The game being buggy isn’t surprising considering the effects of the pandemic on the industry. It’s actually kind of amazing that this game wasn’t delayed, especially after an announcement only four months ago. Thankfully, the game works more often than not, and nothing came up that completely broke the game. It also helps that the game is pretty good looking, with great variety in environments, unique character designs, and plenty of special effects. Previous generation versions might not be as good looking, but they still perform well. Next-gen players get the real treat with performance or quality modes. Even the photo mode is pretty solid, though it pales in comparison to the recent Spider-Man games. It’s also worth pointing out that the game has excellent difficulty options for players of all levels.
The Final Countdown
In the end, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a serviceable action game elevated by its story and writing. While the gameplay isn’t wholly original, it mixes the ideas in a way that keeps things entertaining and engaging. Yes, there’s a few bugs here and there, but even the most frustrating moments were outweighed by the sheer fun. With a rock solid soundtrack, great threads and fantastic vocal performances, this is one adventure you won’t want to miss. If you’re a fan of the MCU films, this is a fresh new take that you’ll settle into easily. For the comic book fans, it’s even better. Honestly, with the amount of licensing in this game, it’s a miracle it even exists. So pick up your cassette player, huddle up, and let’s get this party started.
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