Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is as explosive as a game as it is a cinematic experience that delivers a true-to-the-comics experience in video game format. However, as a rather linear title, does it deliver, and if so, how well? Let’s get to talkin’.
+Stays true the comics and the tropes the series is known for
+Chemistry between characters is spot on through both gameplay mechanics and script
+While linear, there is a ton of exploration to be had
+All cosmetics, etc, are completely unlockable in-game
-The control scheme can be rather trying at times
It’s not often that I find myself staring at a game that I was playing in disbelief about the fact I’d finished it multiple times before I could collect my thoughts. That’s where I’m at with Guardians of the Galaxy. A part of me is lost, confused about how I fell into a title such as this one that uses the “found family” story element, trope if you will, to drive its narrative forward.
I mean, that’s not fully true, look at my review for Horizon Zero Dawn after this. The sentiment, however, remains true. I’m not normally a sucker for those kinds of stories, but here we are. The Guardians of the Galaxy is not an exemption of this approach. It’s a game that builds on that trope, using it to build its premise and to deliver one of the strongest titles from the Marvel library to date.
For Peter Quill, Gamora, Rocket, Groot, and Drax, this is their story, a story that builds upon their bonds as a team, as a family even, and sets them on the path that will ultimately put their ability to come together to the ultimate test. Oddly enough, it works and it works pretty damn well, to say the least.
Goodbye Avengers, hello Guardians of the Galaxy
Unlike its sister title, if you will call it that, Guardians of the Galaxy is an entirely different beast. It’s a single player title that solely focuses on the structure of playing as Peter Quill aka Star Lord, and building his reputation as the leader of the team. The connections you build quickly become apparent as Quill will have to settle disagreements between members of the team, but also, be rather quick to add to the conversation if and when it’s needed.
These decisions can influence the overall game, allowing Quill to dictate and influence the galaxy around him. This is where Eidos-Montréal’s approach to gameplay as well as storytelling quickly steps away from what Marvel’s Avengers went. This one is about building trust, unity, and binding ties that could influence the future of the Guardians of the Galaxy.
What unfolds is ultimately an astonishing story, one that takes the saying, “That a family, once found, is worth fighting for,” as a part of its overall narrative. That’s where our titular team comes into play. The story itself is strong, giving a lot of fans exactly what they’d hope for in an origin story of sorts.
The step up to what follows is rather quick. The team itself is dysfunctional at best. Drax doesn’t trust Gamora, Gamora has resentment for Drax not trusting her, Rocket believes the Milano is his, and he thinks he’s the leader of the team while Peter Quill tries to don the helmet as the titular leader of the team. What follows, well, is what you would hope would happen.
The team building moments for the Guardians of the Galaxy are some of the best, but at a cost to newcomers, which is a damned shame
As the game goes on, you’ll find that the Guardians of the Galaxy is a team, albeit not widely recognized by the galaxy around them, which creates for some hysterical, but facepalm worthy moments for our would-be-heroes. As they are a part of an already established world, there will be faces that draw comic book enthusiasts to the edge of their seats as familiar faces hit the screen (we’re going to walk carefully around spoilers here).
However, trying to walk around a well-established universe can be difficult. Due to how Eidos-Montréal approached the title, newcomers might be confused when meeting some of the faces of well-established groups such as Nova Force and Knowhere, just to name a few. Because of this, some newcomers may find themselves a bit confused as to who these well-established comic book characters actually are.
The interesting thing about this approach is how well it actually works at the end of the day. You’ll find that Peter Quill’s being an Earthling plays into the overarching story as well as those whom you will encounter through the games approximately 20 hour duration – that’s not including New Game Plus either. Luckily, if you stick around for a second serving, you’ll find that you can toy around with narrative choices you haven’t before, either digging under the skin of some of your foes or even changing allegiances you may have forged half way through the story.
That’s actually where things take a bit of a turn: The influence of Peter Quill’s humanity that some of the characters you will meet might actually need a small dose of humanity in order to bring the best of them out for others to see.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a bit of eye candy on PlayStation 5, but it comes at a cost, and hopefully it can be resolved in future updates
Now, since we’re trying to avoid spoilers, let’s move on away from what makes the game stand out from its predecessor Marvel titles. Unlike other games in the franchise, Guardians of the Galaxy is absolutely gorgeous on Quality graphical settings. The 4K resolutions at 30 FPS still stand out against its 1080p at 60 FPS. While stunning in the latter, the game is a real piece of eye candy for those wanting to stick to their guns that next-gen games should push the consoles to their limits.
In combat situations, which happen quite frequently for our beloved Guardians of the Galaxy, you’ll find that in Quality mode, the frame rate can go into the sub-30 range due to the demand on the hardware or poor optimization, whichever is actually the root cause of performance drops. While this is troublesome, I’m sure, to some, it’s not an end-all-be-all ordeal. Rather, it’s actually just a minor irritation that can be alleviated by adapting to the performance changes and option for the game’s Performance option for slightly lower resolutions but at smoother frame rates.
Even in less-intense moments, it’s hard not to appreciate that the game itself is absolutely gorgeous in either setting. Unlike Marvel’s Avengers, this one goes for the cinematic appeal, building up a massive world that’s alive, filled with alien creatures and beautifully designed alien worlds that seem like something out of a child’s imagination.
Each world is uniquely designed and offers a unique experience for both narrative and combat purposes
The more intriguing part is the fact these worlds don’t all come with the same exact enemies. Some are distinctly designed for the very world the Guardian’s happen to be visiting at that very moment. Some being plant-like while others killer gelatin blobs that would rather suffocate or impale the team at any given chance. They even incentivize overcoming their lethal forces through the use of strategic gameplay elements such as combining the abilities of each Guardian themselves.
Groot, for example, is a tank with the ability to control the eb and flow of combat through tangling enemies, knocking them in the air, or simply rooting them in place. Gamora is an excellent assassin, taking out single targets, stacking up damage against large groups, and or simply making an enemy look like they’re just having an overall horrible day.
On the other hand, Drax is a bruiser, doing what he does best by disrupting enemy forces with massive blows, a devastating rush attack, and his ability to stun enemies as he needs to when he isn’t single-targeting an enemy with a massive blow. Rocket, however, is a different beast altogether. He’s very traditional in his use of his gadgets, trading physical prowess for his technological prowess.
Rocket uses grenades to his advantage which allow him to draw enemies in close, one to dismantle enemies that are standing too close to one another or pulling out some of his more powerful abilities for later in the game. On the other hand, Peter Quill is different, using his ability to command his team around while taking advantage of his range and movement capabilities to call out tactical commands on the fly.
However, Peter Quill also has some abilities of his own such as his ability to hover and move around quickly while shooting enemies down, unload all the energy of his rifle or simply overcharge it when he can in order to stun a foe. Just remember, you can combine the abilities to unleash devastating blows against enemy forces in order to end each encounter just as equally as fast as the last.
Just don’t forget to use the “Huddle Up” ability. We won’t ruin this thing for you, but it does have its own purpose and comes off as an extremely useful ability to use when the Huddle Up bar is filled during some of the harder encounters in the game.
Combat controls is actually where Guardians of the Galaxy struggles a bit
Now, there is an issue we have to talk about: Controls in combat. While in combat, controls seem like they’d be easy to use, which to many, is the case, however, not everyone. As a level of accessibility, some of the controls can be hard to master such as charging up Peter Quill’s Charge Up attack which allows him to overcharge his pistol and unleash one single devastating shot.
This can be rather hard due to how the PlayStation 5’s DualSense controller and its adaptive triggers actually work. You’ll find that timing it can be rather difficult, making trigger pulls a bit harder to squeeze off in order to get the timing just right. There’s even the matter of when his pistols are overheated, making it even more difficult to time your “reload” shot harder to pull off.
However, that’s not the only issue. Commands can be a tad bit more difficult to master due to how many buttons that there are to pull off in any one given combat scenario. For some, like myself, these were easy to master, but to others who aren’t used to these kinds of games? There’s a lot going on and it’s a common complaint I’ve heard from a couple of pals as well as our very own David Murphy.
This is because, while tutorials are in place, the menus do tend to get bigger. Each Guardian has four abilities, once you count in their “ultimate” ability that is unlocked through proceeding through the game. There’s also Peter Quill’s abilities that are tied into L3, which can also be accessed by pushing L1 and then L3 in order to choose what one you want or simply pushing in L3.
There’s even the accidental activation of the team “Huddle Up” by accidentally pushing R1 and L1 at the exact same time. While nothing major, it is easy to use when you don’t need it the most, which is a tad bit annoying as there are other ways to actually activate the ability itself.
The Conclusion – Too soon to say goodbye
When it comes to video games staying true to their source material, there’s very few of them on the market, which puts Guardians of the Galaxy in a league of its own. It’s a game that focuses on its narrative, level designs, and its character development in order to fully bring it alive. It’s a rather linear experience that somehow does it right, harkening back to the days of titles such as Mass Effect 2 and Dead Space in order to deliver a solid single player story.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Platforms: PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch
Version(s) Reviewed: PlayStation 5
Publisher: Square Enix
Release Date: Available Now
While the game does stumble a bit, it’s a perfect example of why teams such as Eidos-Montréal are some of the best at what they do. Once the credits roll, you’ll find that Guardians of the Galaxy will leave you craving more, which honestly, should come as no surprise due to how well rounded the overall experience actually is. It’s just a shame that we may have to wait for quite a while before getting another title.
Our review is based upon a retail version of the game that we purchased for this review. For information about our ethics policy please click here.
About the Writer(s):
Dustin is our native video game reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the borders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook today.