Remember that feeling you first got when you first watched the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s (MCU) Iron Man movie? What about Captain America? Thor? The first Avengers? Spider-Man? Infinity Wars? Endgame? Well, you probably do, and despite being a full decade and over, that same feeling of excitement, of anticipation, continues to persist as strongly as it did the day you felt it.
There is something magical about Marvel movies, and although not everything is a major hit, at the very least you know they’ll be a worthwhile piece of entertainment that’ll bring people together for one incredible experience.
Sadly, the same can’t be said about their impact on video games. Like the films, making a superhero game is no easy task, and the market is flooded with mediocre attempts throughout the history of gaming. Of course that’s not to say there haven’t been great Marvel games, because two of my all-time favorite games are Marvel titles produced by Insomniac Games (those being Spider-Man), but outside of that, if you take a good long look at everything before, and even after, you would understand what I mean by “mediocre.” At least in the scope of what the MCU has going for it, which Insomniac Games seems to slowly be building towards.
Which brings us to Square Enix and Eidos Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy. While many may feel burnt by Square Enix’s previous attempt to bring a group of iconic heroes together (Marvel’s Avengers,) rest assured, Eidos has given the care, the love, and the attention a Marvel game rightfully deserves. This is Guardians of the Galaxy at its finest, cementing Eidos Montreal right alongside Insomniac Games as a studio to be tasked with such a major endeavor.
Welcome to the Frickin’ Guardians of the Galaxy, Only He Didn’t Use Frickin’
Thanos is dead. We won. Well, Drax the Destroyer did, as in this universe Thanos never got the chance to collect all the Infinity Stones. No stones means no snap that wiped out half the universe. So, how did this come to be? Well, as we know, Thanos brutally murdered Drax’ wife and daughter in his lust to please Lady Death, or I guess preserve resources, whichever version of Thanos you want you go with.
Filled with immeasurable rage, Drax sets out on a path of vengeance, leaving destruction everywhere he goes. This eventually led him back to Thanos, and unlike in the MCU, Drax was able to get his revenge by killing the Mad Titan, though it did not bring him peace. After years of being imprisoned and punished for all the crimes he committed to get his revenge, Drax see’s himself joining a group of other troubled misfits to form the Guardians of the Galaxy in hopes of atoning for all his crimes.
Right from the start, Eidos Montreal makes it clear that this isn’t a game about rethreading the same stories presented in the MCU, as the film’s biggest villain is seemingly killed off-screen. Instead this is a story about five individuals, who despite all their differences, are all very similar to each other. They may not get along, heck, they may not like each other at times, but in the end, they’re family, just not the kind you expected.
Now, that’s not to say that the GotG game isn’t influenced by the MCU movies, because it is, and it shows heavily throughout the entire game. This band of misfits are a near carbon copy of their MCU counterparts, and that certainly isn’t a bad thing despite what some may say. Because truthfully, the Guardians of the Galaxy weren’t all that popular before their MCU reincarnation. So it does make sense that Eidos would want to give players characters that are at least relatable.
But even so, throughout my 16-hour campaign, I couldn’t help but fall in love with these versions of the Guardians, possibly even more than the film ones. I love them both, but the amount of depth that Eidos has gone out there way for each character is absolutely insane. Take Drax for example. In the movies we know him more as the comic relief. He’s the character who, without a question, fits the role of being the dumbest amongst the Guardians. We love him for that, and Dave Batista plays the role excellently. But in Eidos’ version he is much more than the awkwardly funny meathead.
Quill and Rocket will have their same on-screen disagreements, with Drax typically being a voice of reason. He brings more than just his muscles to a fight as he will often be the smartest member. That certainly is a much different character than the one we all know, but it works wonderfully well. And despite that, he still has those very questionable “Why is Gamora’ moments scattered here and there.
Basically he is the Drax we all love, but a more thought out version. That’s how I feel about every other member of the Guardians. Yes, they clearly rift from their MCU personas, but Eidos Montreal has done enough to make them different. Similar, but not the same.
It’s kind of like how Insomniac Games handled Spider-Man. We all know who he is and how he’s supposed to act, yet his version, despite all the similarities, is still very different from the movie and comic ones. They share the things you love about the character, with the studios own unique take on them. That’s exactly what Eidos Montreal has done with the Guardians. Given us characters we all love, but with enough of a twist that they feel like their own characters.
To be inspired by something is one thing, but to perfectly replicate it in a way that conveys the very same feelings you get from the “original.” That is no easy task, one that Eidos has masterfully mastered without feeling unnatural or forced.
And I love how Eidos spent so much time focusing on the team’s dynamic between one another, as we don’t even get to learn about the villain until almost half-way through. That’s how much character development is focused on, with every moment feeling well deserved.
What If…Marvel Made Mass Effect
You’re probably going to see this comparison made in a lot of other reviews, and the fanbase in general, but what Eidos has essentially done here is given us a Marvel game set in the Mass Effect universe. To clarify, you don’t have the full freedom of being able to decide who lives and who dies, or have some massive paradigm shifts like in BioWare’s franchise. No, this is about the extensive world building that is found in those games, and how lush the amount of lore there is. Mass Effect offers a universe that is filled to the brim with life from its variety of species, cultures, religions, and plenty of other things. It’s the whole kitchen sink — the stuff that truly makes it more than just a video game.
That’s how I feel about the universe presented in the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Right from the very start, you’ll be thrown into a massive quarantine zone sanctioned off by the Nova Corps. The backstory of it is that, the Guardians, after saving the galaxy countless times, are still struggling to make ends meet, as business isn’t as booming as they’d hoped for. So the answer? Do something highly illegal like breaking into a secured quarantine zone that was sealed off after the Galactic War in order to find and capture a monster to sell to the monster queen. What could possibly go wrong?
This starting area sets a good tone for the overall game, as it’s gleaming with all kinds of life, with characters providing narration of the events that had previously unfolded. It’s a beautiful location for the introduction, one you can’t help but get lost in. The same could be said about every location, as soon after you’ll find yourself exploring an outpost of the Nova Corps. and the home of the Collector, Nowhere, amongst other locations that you’ll be learning the first time about.
However, it’s the diverse inhabitants of these locations that truly makes them special. Sure, you’ll be fighting most of them, but there is a sense of ever flowing life throughout this explorable galaxy. Take Nowhere, a trader’s home for essentially the sleaziest kind of people. It’s a place you go to where you rip off people — that is if you don’t get ripped off yourself. You can visit a sleazy bar that Rocket has a liking for, the Collector’s Emporium to see his collections of items, and do a number of side activities scattered around.
Whatever it is, you’ll be sure to meet all kinds of different aliens that all seem to offer some kind of knowledge of the world you’re playing in. That all adds up, and once you learn enough you begin to see that there is a much bigger picture here at play. Think of them as B-stories that you can experience during the main one, although these are the kind of stories that typically come back later on.
Now interesting enough, Guardians of the Galaxy will put players in many situations where they’ll need to make a choice. I will say to temper expectations here, as having completed the title three times, I can say they don’t have a major influence on the ending. However, they do present you with uniquely different situations. Take the monster queen, Lady Hellbender. When the Guardians must present her with a different monster, they decide they can offer her either Groot or Rocket. I won’t spoil any options, but you are going to want to replay this section eventually as either choice, while leading to the same outcome, are vastly different from one another.
Moments like these are sprinkled throughout the entire campaign, giving you a bit of an illusion of freedom, but it’s a welcine one as it encourages some form of replayability.
What I loved, and this goes back to the Mass Effect comparison, is how these choices eventually come together for the plot. Kind of think about all the subplot stories told in Infinity War, and how everything came together so perfectly for one massive story. Everything you do is called back to eventually. Some are obvious, while others are so tiny that you can’t help but smile by the fact that it’s being brought up again after ten hours.
Kick Names, Take Ass
When Guardians of the Galaxy was first announced, I had my worries. This was mostly due to Square Enix’s previous published Marvel game, Marvel’s Avengers. Sure, it was developed by a completely different studio, but generally speaking, publishers tend to stick with some sort of consistency in their titles. Between Guardians and Avengers, they both focused on telling a story about a group of heroes banding together to fend off against some cosmic world-ending threat.
That’s where the similarities end, however, as while Avengers focused on an always online game as a service (GaaS) experience, Guardians was all about being a single-player game focused on telling a story. This resulted in the gameplay feeling more personal, less repetitive, and most importantly, polished and fun.
While Guardians of the Galaxy is possibly the most linear third-person action adventure game that I have played recently, there is just so much to love about how the gameplay is delivered and handled.
First, let’s talk about the linearity of it all. Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t some massive open world game that offers free exploration. Nope, expect to see a lot of straight paths, tight corridors, and in general, small areas that offer little to no freedom. I’m not one to have complaints about that, nor do I here because some of my favorite games are extremely linear. Take the Uncharted series. Up until the last two, these titles have been insanely linear, yet they’re acclaimed as some of the best titles around.
Why? Well, it’s how brilliantly those games use their small spaces to push gameplay. Guardians feels structured similarly in that it’s linearity is a strong strength to not only help push the narrative, but to craft incredibly fun set pieces. It’s very cinematic in the way that Uncharted is, with massive set pieces happening throughout the entire campaign. You may like that, or not, but I loved it.
And unlike Avengers, there is only one playable character, that being Star Lord. Drax, Gamora, Groot, and Rocket are all AI controlled, with special attacks available at command. I was worried this would eventually lead to some repetitiveness, but it actually didn’t. The whole idea of GotG is bringing together a group of unlikely heroes and making them work. That’s the gameplay in a nutshell. It works, and in the most spectacularly fun way imaginable.
Flying around as Star Lord, and seeing all the other Guardians working their magic was all so satisfying. With their abilities you are able to combo attacks with one another for some amazing synergy. Take one of Groot’s abilities where he traps enemies in an entanglement of roots. If Rocket is available, you can use him to follow up with a set of cluster bombs that’ll do massive damage. It’s very satisfying landing these attacks on enemies, and even more chaining them properly.
With Star Lord being the son of a cosmic being and all, it’s not all strictly about shooting someone in the face. Well, that’s a lie, it is, but his guns do get some cool elemental powers as you progress in the campaign. Those are ice, fire, wind, and electricity. Certain enemies will be weaker to one element over the other, offering a bit of a strategic value, especially in the big chaotic fights that have an overwhelming numbers of enemies.
That’s not the only purpose that those elemental powers serve, as you’ll also use them to solve some not-so-difficult puzzles scattered during missions. There are lots of diversity in the gameplay, and by the time I had reached the end, I was still being surprised by some of the new gameplay stuff introduced.
And then finally there’s the music. It wouldn’t be a Guardians of the Galaxy game if it didn’t have kickass music to accompany during the campaign and gameplay. Lots of classic headbanging heavy rock fills the playlist of Star Lord’s Walkman, but in what is possibly one of the coolest, most creative ways to use it is during the actual combat.
While fighting, players will notice a meter known as the huddle meter charging up. Once this is filled, you’ll be able to call all the Guardians up for a huddle. Yup, right in the middle of a jampackrf fight, everything will pause as the team will rally up in hopes of getting an additional motivational boost.
It’s funny, and if you pull it off successfully, everyone will have a massive buff, as well as lower cooldowns on abilities. Plus, the music from Peter’s Walkman is cranked all the way up so that everyone can hear it. Yeah, it’s silly, but the kind of silliness that would only work in a Guardians of the Galaxy game.
Not All Hits
If I have any complaints it’s two things: How there’s little to no tease for a sequel, and how the New Game+ mode is handled. Obviously the former isn’t much of an issue, but I really do hope this gets a sequel. At the very least, I am happy that what is delivered is a complete and total package. It’s developed in such a way that it’s clear that Eidos poured everything they had, with the intentions of there not being a sequel. More games should be like that, tell the story you want to be able to tell, and I’m glad Guardians is just that. I should be left with wanting more, even if I’m unsure what that “more” will be.
The second issue, and this is my biggest disappointment, is the fact that the New Game Plus mode does absolutely nothing. Upon finishing the game you’ll notice a New Game+ option right in the main menu. Selecting this will overwrite your current save, but that’s literally all it does. No pop-up as to what gets transferred, and with me clearing the game three times now, I can tell you nothing does get transferred.
All those cool costumes you earned during the first playthrough? Well you’ll need to find them all again, as well as earn all the upgrades and perks. I’m not sure what the point of new game plus is, unless of course I was experiencing a bug, but I did ask another reviewer and they noticed the same issue.
That can, and hopefully will be patched post=launch as it doesn’t offer much of an incentive to replay the game if it means starting from square one.
I AM GROOT
After playing Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy I am convinced that Eidos Montreal and Marvel IPs go hand-in-hand like peanut butter and jelly. It’s the perfect combination of sweet and salty, wrapped in one incredible package.
The expectations that I had for this game were unsurprisingly low, and in fact, I had zero interest in even playing it. That would have been a major mistake on my part, and if you are someone who is jaded by the release of Marvel’s Avengers, rest assured Guardians of the Galaxy is everything you could want out of a Marvel Game. It’s fun, entertaining, and quite possibly one of the best games this year. I’ll say it, it might just be my personal Game of the Year.
- A fantastic story, One that would fit perfectly in the Marvel cinematic universe despite being separate.
- The universe has the kind of lower building you would expect from a Marvel property. Deep and captivating.
- Gameplay surprisingly fun with AI companions that aren’t completely useless.
- Variation in both environments and enemies.
- The soundtrack is hand-picked for perfection.
- New game plus is pretty useless, or possibly broken.
- Some graphical bugs, mostly around particles in the environments such as fire and water
Guardians of the Galaxy review code was provided by the publisher. Game tested on PS5. You can read SP1st and MP1st’s review and scoring policy right here.