After stumbling out the gate with last year’s Avengers, Square Enix has managed to steady the ship with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. For the story alone, the game is well-worth playing, but it’s the abundance of lore, well-written dialogue and gorgeous locales that elevate it as one of the best Marvel games to date.
- Best story of any Marvel game
- Excellent dialogue captures the essence of the characters
- Wonderfully detailed planets to explore
- Glitches make the game feel rough around the edges
- Combat is a bit too chaotic at times
- UKRRP: £59.99
- Single-player adventureMarvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a single-player outing, so a good alternative to Marvel’s Avengers if you prefer to play alone
- PlatformsAvailable on PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X, Xbox One, PC and Switch
- Release dateMarvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy will be available to buy on 26 October 2021
Everyone’s favourite bunch of space-bound misfits finally get the video game treatment they deserve in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy which, I can assure you, is marked improvement over 2020’s Avengers in almost every way.
Despite the monumental success that the Marvel brand has had in the world of cinema and TV, it has rarely seen that success replicated in video game format. The 2000s were awash with sub-bar movie tie-in games, and after a long period of hibernation, Square Enix finally announced the game that we’d all been waiting for in Marvel’s Avengers. As we know now however, the game failed to live up to its hype after being bogged down by bugs, repetitive gameplay and a design that favoured the ‘live-action service’ model where long-term profit is king.
It is precisely because of Avengers’ failure that when a video game adaptation of Guardians of the Galaxy was announced, the industry (myself included) responded with a healthy dose of scepticism. Having now finished the game over a 14-hour playthrough, I am very pleased to report that Square Enix and developer Eidos Montreal have done right by the Guardians, here’s why.
- One of the best Marvel stories yet
- Dialogue options create unique story paths
- Dialogue itself is entertaining and well-written
Unlike Avengers, which had a blend of single-player and multiplayer modes, Guardians of the Galaxy is an offline experience only – and it’s all the better for it. By forgoing the need for a multiplayer component, Eidos Montreal has managed to focus more of its time on developing an endearing story that you simply won’t want to put down.
When the game begins, our titular group is still in its relative infancy. Having started out as a trio consisting of Star-Lord (Peter Quill), Rocket and Groot, the gang has recently allowed two new recruits to join their forces, Drax the Destroyer and Gamora (frequently referred to as the Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy).
In the game’s earlier chapters, the Guardians are a frayed bunch at best – largely sticking around because they have nowhere else to go, but when they’re lumped with a trespassing fine from the Nova Corps (the space police to you and me), it isn’t long before the Guardians stumble across a sinister power that could completely decimate the galaxy as they know it.
I won’t spoil exactly where the narrative leads, as I do believe that Guardians of the Galaxy has the best story of any Marvel game to date, but there’s a good chance that your playthrough might differ to how mine turned out. Much like the Telltale games of old, there’s a great deal of choice and player agency weaved into the narrative, with some of the decisions you make having the ability of opening up (or even withholding) certain story beats. I won’t say who it was, but the game’s credits informed me that I’d failed to cross paths with a certain character based on how I chose to play.
Don’t expect anything quite as detailed as something Quantic Dream might put out, but I will say that there’s more than enough branching paths here to warrant at least a second playthrough of Guardians of the Galaxy, not the least because you might want to go back and discover hidden items.
Right from the get-go, you’re encouraged to explore off the beaten path in Guardians of the Galaxy, because in doing so you’ll find character logs to fill in backstory, new outfits to mix up the team’s wardrobe and my personal favourite, artefacts that open up new conversations with the other characters when kicking back on the Milano (the group’s hub, home and spaceship).
These conversations allowed for a level of world-building that felt so much more engaging than the typical video game trope of finding notes scattered throughout the world. There was one conversation with Rocket in particular that delved into his backstory and in doing so, not only explained so much of his current persona but also felt like a much-needed moment of bonding between him and Star-Lord.
While Avengers had you constantly changing between different characters, Eidos Montreal made the decision to have the player move solely in the footsteps of Peter Quill. While fans of the other Guardians might be disappointed initially, let me assure you that their presence is still felt just as equally throughout the game.
Just like their MCU counterparts, these Guardians are constantly riffing with each other, commenting on the world around them and detailing past exploits. There’s rarely a moment of silence in this game but it only helps to make you feel like you’re part of a living, breathing team that is getting to know one another on the job. By the end of the game, you’ll feel as if you know them just as a well as you know Peter Quill.
It isn’t just the Guardians themselves that are given time to shine either, as the game features a whole host of secondary characters pulled from the comics. Faces like Cosmo the Space Dog and Mantis are given such distinct personalities that I found myself hanging on their every word, and just happy to have them hanging out with the Guardians.
- A blend of shooter and real-time strategy mechanics
- You direct the other Guardians during combat
- Can be a bit chaotic at times
While I could easily go on about how much I adore the game’s characters and storyline, no title can get by on narrative alone and lucky for Guardians of the Galaxy, Eidos Montreal has managed to make the gameplay almost as enjoyable as the cutscenes. I say almost because, at times, the game’s combat is a little too chaotic and lacking the finesse found in the game’s other components, but there’s still plenty to enjoy.
Guardians’ combat takes the form of an over-the-shoulder brawler with shooter and real-time strategy mechanics thrown in. When enemies are up close, Star-Lord can beat them back with a couple of punches and kicks or dodge out of the way and pick them off from afar. From a distance, Star-Lord can rely on his trusty blasters to take the enemy down, with a timed reload mechanic (similar to Gears of War) that allows the player to bounce back quickly with some rapid fire shots.
Dodging in combat works in a similar fashion to Avengers, and aside from a few quick-time events that pop-up during hand-to-hand combat, there really isn’t any form of counter attack system to mirror the Batman Arkham games. Of course, controlling Star-Lord is just one part of the combat however, as you also have to keep an eye on what your teammates are doing.
If left to their own devices, the remaining Guardians will simply attack enemies at their own pace, but as their leader, you have the ability to direct their attention to specific combatants by picking from a handful of special moves. At any time, these commands can be used to get yourself out of a pinch but as the game progresses, it becomes clear that there is a level of strategy in how you call on your teammates and the best combinations to use for taking control of the battlefield.
For instance, Groot can trap several enemies at once with restrictive vines, leaving them perfectly placed to be on the receiving end of one of Rocket’s grenades. Discovering new combos as more special moves open up is part of what kept Guardians’ combat feeling fun, right up until the end. In fact, the gameplay feels intrinsically linked with the progression of the story as you’ll notice the Guardians fighting better as a team as time goes on. In the game’s final act, Star-Lord was able to execute some fantastic melee combos with whichever teammate was nearest, showing just how far they’d come in being able to trust one another.
In the moments when the battle gets a little too hot however, the player can call a huddle, wherein the Guardians surround Star-Lord and let him know how they’re feeling about their current situation. It’s up to the player to listen closely to what they’re saying and respond with an appropriate speech accordingly. If you pick the right response, then the whole team gets a buff (botched speeches will only buff Star-Lord) and an 80’s hit will be randomly selected from Star-Lord’s cassette player to kick things up a notch.
For the most part, these songs really added to the atmosphere of the battle – the opening lyrics of Twisted Sister’s We’re Not Going to Take It providing ample headbanging material as an example. In some instances however, the selected song felt completely out of place and in one climatic battle I was left bobbing my head to Bobby McFerrin’s Don’t Worry Be Happy. A great song in its own right, but hardly the soundtrack for a heated battle.
There’s also a few sections of the game that have you flying around in the Milano spaceship. Being able to count these moments on one hand, the Milano segments don’t overtake the typical gameplay cycle but they do offer a bit of differentiation and they’re fun enough while they last.
While the combat on the whole is enjoyable, I don’t believe it ever reaches the finesse of any of the Batman Arkham games, or even Marvel’s Spider-Man, and some may argue that it’s probably just a tad too easy – a playthrough on the ‘normal’ difficulty only resulted in two deaths. I also would’ve liked to see different types of weaponry in Star-Lord’s arsenal.
As the game goes on, you do gain access to various elemental blasters, but they don’t necessarily change how you play, whereas a shotgun-style blaster for instance would’ve really helped in some of the game’s tighter corridor fights.
Graphics and performance
- The game’s artistic style is stunning
- Characters are afforded tremendous detail
- Visual glitches hold the game back
As you can probably tell from the screenshots – Guardians of the Galaxy is a beautiful game. From the character designs to the colourful planets visited throughout the story, it’s clear that the title has been a labour of love for the developers.
On several occasions, I found myself stopping to admire the stunning vistas that some of the galaxy’s planets had to offer. Even the grungy planet of Knowhere is filled with eye-catching neon lights and a whole host of market stalls to explore. There isn’t a dull moment where your eyes aren’t treated to an absolute visual feast.
Playing the game on PS5, I was also impressed by how detailed the character designs were. Peter Quill and Gamora in particular react with such realism that it becomes all too easy to just sit back in awe of it all. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for the entirety of the game’s design.
Even with early access to the game’s Day 1 patch, Guardians of the Galaxy is rough around the edges. Some textures pop in and out as they please, characters occasionally get stuck on a bit of scenery and in a few rare instances, lip syncing didn’t quite match up with the dialogue.
To the game’s credit, I never saw any framerate dips during my playthrough and none of these technical issues were enough to impede my enjoyment of the game, but the brilliance of the story feels at odds with the glitches, and there’s a chance that I might’ve rated Guardians of the Galaxy higher if it had had a bit more time in the oven.
Should you buy it?
If you love GOTG: Marvel’s rag-tag band of misfits finally has the video game adaptation they deserve here, making it a must-play for any fan of the characters.
Single-player games aren’t your thing: GOTG is single-player only, so if you prefer the thrill of playing with friends online then you might want to look elsewhere.
After stumbling out the gate with last year’s Marvel’s Avengers, Square Enix has managed to steady the ship with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. For the story alone, the game is well-worth playing, but it’s the abundance of lore, well-written dialogue and gorgeous locales that elevate it as one of the best Marvel games to date.
If the game’s combat bore a tad more finesse, and if some of the glitches had been ironed out before launch then Guardians would be more in line with the quality we’ve seen from Marvel’s Spider-Man, but the game has shown that Square Enix can make the most of the license when steered in the right direction. I’m now very excited to see what the company can do next.
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How we test
We play every game we review through to the end, outside of certain exceptions where getting 100% completion, like Skyrim, is close to impossible to do. When we don’t fully finish a game before reviewing it we will always alert the reader.
Played through the entirety of the single-player campaign
Reviewed on PS5
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No, the game is single-player only
The player is only given direct control over Star-Lord
Yes, the game is available in cloud form