They’re dysfunctional. They can barely stop themselves from killing each other. And guess what? They’re the galaxies only hope. Now doesn’t that just make your day. . .
Marvel’s space-faring super team are jumping into their own galaxy spanning video game with Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy. Is their foray into the gaming world a supernova of awesome? Or should it have been left to circle away into the oblivion of a Black Hole?
Developed by Eidos Montreal and published by Square Enix, Guardians of The Galaxy is the second game to come from Square Enix’s deal to produce games based on Marvel properties. With the first been Marvel’s Avengers from Crystal Dynamics, which didn’t go down well with many, Guardians of The Galaxy had a lot to prove long before any footage of the game was first seen. In fact, the game still had a lot to prove come launch.
Like Marvel’s Avengers, Guardians of The Galaxy is Eidos Montreal’s Interpretation of the Marvel heroes. Inspired by the comic source material and the MCU movies, Guardians of The Galaxy throws a whole bunch of comic characters and lore at you while going about its own way with this story and universe.
Peter Quill is a not-quite smart space pirate looking to go, somewhat, legit. His latest brain child is the Guardians of the Galaxy – or as known to some, The Gardeners of The Galaxy – a heroes for hire outfit in desperate need of a cash influx. The plan: go somewhere they’re not supposed to go to capture a monster to sell to Lady Hellbender. Of course, as the plans of dysfunctional misfits usually pan out, everything goes pear shaped and they’re left with a bounty on their heads and a fine to pay to the Nova Corps. Of course that’s just the beginning and things get considerably worse. Before long, it isn’t just the galaxy that’s at stake but the whole flarking universe.
While the game takes its character depictions from The Guardians of The Galaxy movie, it supersedes that movie with far superior writing, characterisation, enjoyment and. . . well far superior everything really. The games strongest point is by far the story and writing. Across the campaign, you’ll get to know the team far more intimately than you might have expected. Why is Gamora known as the deadliest woman in the galaxy, just how did Drax kill Thanos and just why does Rocket have so many issues? It’s all addressed here over the course of the campaign.
Like Uncharted, the characters continually banter during actual gameplay and not only in the cutscenes, of which there are many. It could have turned out badly, and is actually one of the things I was wary of when going into the game after watching the gameplay trailer, but Eidos Montreal has done a stellar job of making the dialogue witty and revealing. So much so that I would stop just to hear conversations play out, to see what would be said and revealed. It makes the team’s journey from one of a group of mismatched individuals at each other’s throats to a family feel organic and deserved. Watching Drax go from continuous insults at Gamora to a first complement to respect is just one of the games many story and character highlights. Even Rocket, who is usually quite insufferable, gets his time to shine while Groot is, well, ever-lovable Groot.
Throughout the game, you’ll be able to choose some dialogue options that can alter the flow of moments in missions. The first noticeable moment you come across will be whether or not to choose to sell Groot or Rocket to Lady Hellbender and one moment later in the campaign determined whether or not I would have to engage in a large fight right away or attempt a more stealthy approach. While the game only has one ending, it’s worth replaying just to hear the different dialogue options or to see how the levels can be affected by your choices. That is, assuming you can remember every choice you made.
Despite the universe-spanning threat the Guardians stumble into, at its core, the story is a very personal one about growth and acceptance and comes together wonderfully throughout. For those wary that the game is more MCU focused, worry not. The MCU is used as inspiration, but the comics are where most of the meat is drawn from. There are more than enough easter eggs to keep the fans happy and speculating where the franchise will go if a sequel is greenlit.
Of course, you do need more than just a story to make an action game. And Guardians plays incredibly well, if somewhat simplistically. The game is a third-person shooter in which the only shoes you wear are Star-Lords. The rest of the team members will follow you around the levels but each acts on their own during combat. Star-Lords dual elemental blasters are your main weapons, with each element unlocking over the course of the campaign from freeze shots to plasma blasts. You also have a melee attack for simplistic combos, finishers for when you’ve staggered an enemy enough and a dash/dodge button. Your crew have four ability attacks each which you can call on during combat. Three of the abilities – Star-Lord also has four – are unlocked by earning XP in combat to earn ability points, with each characters final ultimate ability unlocked through the campaign.
If you find yourself in trouble, there’s the Hail Mary of the Huddle, which groups everyone around you to listen to their complaints about the way the battle is going. You’ll get to choose a piece of dialogue to inspire your comrades which buffs them for the rest of the battle. Anyone knocked out also gets revived with full health immediately. There’s also the perk that when you do this, the rest of the fight takes place with a random piece of the games licensed soundtrack of the ’80s and ‘90’s tunes spurring you on.
The complexity comes in the form of how many enemies you’re dealing with at any given time along with some strategy in using your teammates and your abilities in concert. Some enemies have elemental shields that you need to take down with the correct element before you can wail on them. The Guardians abilities all work well together with most of them designed to deal with large groups. For instance, you could wrap up enemies with Groot’s vines to stop them, then deal group damage with Rockets grenades before throwing Drax and Gamora in to mop up the remains. Beyond some enemies needing to be staggered before you can do damage to them or multiple health bars for the bigger threats and bosses, combat really isn’t that deep. It’s all very arcadey and works well. If there’s any real issue with it, is that sometimes there’s far too much going on-screen and you can accidentally rattle off a command at the wrong enemy during all the confusion and explosions.
Level design is simplistic as well. The game is, ultimately, an arena corridor game. You’ll spend a lot of time walking down corridors, with some very light side paths to find resources, before fighting enemies in a large room and repeat. Yet Eidos manage to keep you entertained regardless of how much you realise that each area, regardless of twists and turns, is really just a corridor. All that dialogue and story goes a long way to keeping you from actually thinking about it.
Visually Guardians of The Galaxy is absolutely gorgeous. The character models, the attention to detail and the environment design – especially the environment design – are excellent. Running on the Dawn Engine, which powered Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Guardians is a truly gorgeous, multi-coloured visual comic book experience. Environments are well designed and imaginative and the use of colour throughout the game makes this an absolute stunner. It doesn’t hurt either that the game runs incredibly well on the PS4. PS5 owners can look forward to Quality and Performance modes with Quality running at a cinematic looking 30fps while Performance mode favours 60fps gameplay. Regardless of which machine you play on, the game is a visual tour de force.
As polished as Guardians is, there are still some bugs swimming through intergalactic space. The most noticeable issue I found on PS4 had to do with audio stutter during some combat sequences. As well there were moments where button prompts wouldn’t disappear from the screen and interfered with me making a dialogue choice. A checkpoint reload sorted that out though.
So does Guardians of The Galaxy stand up? The answer is yes, it really does. If you were wary after Marvel’s Avengers, you can certainly put those concerns to rest. With wonderful voice acting, fantastic writing, fun gameplay and gorgeous visuals, Marvel’s Guardians of The Galaxy is easily one of this year’s best surprises that I wholeheartedly want more of.
Choose your preferred version here – https://guardiansofthegalaxy.square-enix-games.com/en-gb/
This version was reviewed on PlayStation
Marvels Guardians of The Galaxy is available on Xbox, PlayStation, PC and Switch
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