Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy looked poised to follow in the footsteps of the disappointing Marvel’s Avengers, offering a shallow reimagining of beloved superheroes and a lackluster combat experience. Fortunately, it does more than enough to escape the same fate.
A large part of that is down to the writing, which perfectly encapsulates the personalities (and constant bickering) of the Guardians while organically fleshing out their backstories as well as the universe developer Eidos Montreal has created. What results is a wonderfully chaotic story with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments but also plenty of heart: one second you’ll be laughing and the next you’ll find a tug on the ol’ heartstrings. The balance is well done, though at times the ‘we’re all in this together’ spiel gets a bit old.
The writing is let down by a story that overstays its welcome somewhat and has poor pacing. It takes a while to get into the crux of the story and, once you do, it feels like it’s drawn out, taking away from the impact. The environments also lack any real depth, with each alien planet differing in terrain but ultimately offering the same gameplay experience with a new skin. Combat, too, is basic but convoluted, with a bombardment of mechanics that often go unused, can be hard to remember and ultimately don’t change the landscape all that much.
These shortcomings are saved by the characters and writing, but do put a dampener on an experience that could have been truly great.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy price and release date
- What is it? An action-adventure game based on Guardians of the Galaxy
- Release date? October 26, 2021
- What can I play it on? PS4, PC, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PS5, Xbox Series X|S and GeForce Now
- Price? Standard edition is £59.99 / $59.99 / AU$114.95
A whole new galaxy to explore
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy sees you playing solely as Peter Quill (aka Starlord), the leader of the ragtag group of misfits known as the Guardians of the Galaxy, who roam the universe in search of missions to build upon their street cred and – most importantly – their pile of credits.
Eidos Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy story isn’t an origin story, instead taking place when the team is fully formed and has seemingly been together for some time. The story begins with the Guardians on a mission to find a monster that they can take to the notorious Monster Queen Lady Hellbender, in an effort to get a bunch of credits but, in true Guardians form, it all goes a bit wrong, leading to a domino effect of mishaps that will see them traveling throughout the galaxy to put things right – a mission that puts their friendship and teamwork to the test.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is set within a universe of Eidos Montreal’s own creation, inspired by the comics, movies and TV shows, rather than one specifically based on existing Marvel canon. The game is set 12 years after a massive galactic war initiated by the Chitauri, a race of shape-shifting aliens, which sent ripples through the galaxy and had a lasting effect on our Guardians.
Eido’s Guardians universe seems to be an amalgamation of various pieces of Marvel canon, including familiar locations, characters and stories, combined with the developer’s own influences. What results is a fresh take on characters we already know, enticing the player to want to find out more about the Guardians’ lives in this particular universe. And there’s plenty of opportunities to do that. Between Guardian items you pick up on your travels and conversations with your teammates, a picture slowly begins to build of what Eidos Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy is. It’s a gradual trickle of information that never feels forced, and most of the time prying further into the world is entirely optional.
But this developer influence doesn’t take away from the key pillars of the Guardians themselves. Each of the Guardians acts exactly as you would hope. Drax is too literal, Rocket sarcastic but brilliant, Gamora takes no crap and Groot is… well… Groot? Quill, meanwhile, is the cocky but well-intentioned leader of this colorful bunch, constantly presented with the choice of what to say that will be best for his team – with his decision ultimately resulting in a positive or negative reaction. It’s a chaotic house and Quill is the exhausted mother.
While there are many choices to make throughout the game, the decisions don’t seem to hold much weight. Most seem to boil down to whether or not your path forward is more difficult or not, whether you’ll encounter more enemies as a result of a bad choice or less as a result of a good choice. While this is good for the poor decision-makers like us, as the galaxy won’t blow up because you said the wrong thing, it does lessen the gravity of these decisions and makes them – at times – feel a bit pointless, especially when the only outcome is a snarky remark from a fellow Guardian.
Zeroes to heroes
The foundation of Eidos Montreal’s spin on Guardians of the Galaxy is the witty and heartfelt writing. It’s quite the feat considering just how much dialogue there is in the game, with the Guardians constantly bickering at each other alongside the key story cutscenes. The bickering itself is where some of the best lines come from and many (particularly from Drax) had me laughing out loud.
The writing embraces the tongue-in-cheek nature of the Guardians, with plenty of dad-jokes, puns and one-liners to be found – particularly at moments when you would expect a stone-faced response from the likes of Captain America. But Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t solely about jokes, the story has a depth that is tackled well too – shelving the one-liners for more sentimental moments that can sometimes take you by surprise. It’s a testament to the story and writing that we started the game with a dislike of the cocky space adventurers and found ourselves feeling like part of the team at the end.
But it did take a while to get to that point, and Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy certainly falters when it comes to its pacing. The game consists of 16 chapters which last about an hour each- and that’s far too long. The initial pacing is quite slow until you get to the crux, then it feels like there are a few chapters that are needlessly drawn out, before landing on a solid ending. It’s frustrating because making those middling chapters shorter could have really kept the momentum up, instead, I found my attention drifting – bored by the meandering. It’s understandable that Eidos Montreal wanted to pack plenty in for the $60 price of Guardians of the Galaxy, but a slightly shorter story would have been punchier, especially if more room had been made for exploration.
That lack of exploration, and Guardians of the Galaxy’s rigid linearity, is frustrating also. Though, I’m not sure if I would want to further explore the worlds within the game, not as they are. While each environment is suitably vivid and alien, especially in Quality Mode that we were playing on, they lack depth. Each planet pretty much felt like the last, with different terrain. That’s possible because the gameplay within the levels was essentially the same: solve some puzzles as a team, ask Drax to lift something, ask Gamora to slice something, jump platforms and squeeze through crevices. It gets repetitive very fast, even though some puzzles are almost mini-game-like – but these are few and far between.
You can occasionally wander off the beaten path to collect resources, but you can’t wander far and the confines of the game keep pushing you forwards. On occasion, this is frustrating when there’s only one way forward and the game isn’t giving you any hints about how to do it – or the hints are extremely vague.
Turn the radio up
Where Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy falters most is in its combat. Considering the combat is so basic, there is a lot to take in and implementing it all (never mind remembering it) in the throws of battle isn’t easy.
Star-Lord’s primary weapon is his element gun which allows him to both shoot normally and to use a variety of element shots that you unlock throughout the game (which come in handy for puzzles). However, locking onto enemies (L2 on PS5) requires holding down the lock-on button, which can become a somewhat frustrating and tiring exercise for your finger when you’re also having to hold on to the shooting button (R2 on PS5) – a test even for those without dexterity issues. There’s no option to toggle lock either.
Guardian abilities, too, suffer from a similar issue. You can command a specific Guardian to perform an attack (or interact with something in the world) using L1 on PS5 and then holding it in while you select the shape-button representing the Guardian you wish to pick. However, in the midst of combat, we found this left us open for attack quite a bit. I was trying to keep moving with the left analog stick, while I was selecting a Guardian with L1 and Triangle, for example, all at the same time – with movement often inevitably falling to the wayside. If you then throw in quick reload, stunning, combined Guardian attacks and the other combat elements that I have already forgotten, and you’ve got too many cooks in the kitchen – and it doesn’t make the meal more interesting.
Combat isn’t only needlessly convoluted, but it can often be a bit boring and repetitive – even with this bombardment of features. However, there is an option to create upgrades with Rocket at the workbench to cater your approach more to your playstyle alongside (limited) abilities that you can unlock for the Guardians.
What did feel exciting was the Huddle feature, which sees Quill gathering the Guardians around for a pep talk that can result in a buff for the whole team – if it goes right. As soon as the huddle breaks, a licensed ‘80s classic begins to blare, pumping up Quill and the team for some ass-kicking. We anxiously anticipated its arrival each battle, wondering which licensed ‘80s song would soundtrack my fight next. New Kids on the Block’s Hangin’ Tough? Check. Europe’s The Final Countdown? Check. It’s the part that made the combat feel exhilarating and made us feel powerful. Unfortunately, it also felt like the only aspect of the combat that was unique to Guardians of the Galaxy. I just wish there had been more moments like that – though perhaps they wouldn’t have had the same effect if they were two-a-penny.
It’s worth noting that you can (and should) adjust the advanced audio settings for the game to reflect the sound device you’re using. Unfortunately, this isn’t automatic and it took us a while to work out why the music was sounding so muffled, but you can customize this for surround sound devices and 3D audio. While Guardians doesn’t support PS5 3D audio, it does have limited haptic feedback (you can occasionally feel rumbles) with publisher Square Enix telling TechRadar that a day one patch will add further PS5 effect throughout the game, though at the time of writing these effects haven’t been shared. In addition, a Ray-Tracing mode for PS5 and Xbox Series X will be implemented post-launch.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a blast, delivering a heartfelt and witty story that will have you wanting to sign up for your own galactic adventure. But while its story packs a punch, it is let down by poor pacing in parts, boring combat and repetitive environments, which detracts from its impact – though it does stick the landing.
Despite these issues, Guardians is a breath of fresh air compared to more serious superhero games and is perfect for those who want an adrenaline-fuelled adventure with plenty of heart – and have a weak spot for the ‘80s.