Title: Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy
Release Date: October 26, 2021
Reviewed On: PS5
Publisher: Square Enix
Let’s be honest; I doubt many of us were expecting much from Eidos-Montréal’s Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Considering the undeniable fumble that was Marvel’s Avengers, hopes for this release were quite meager even if its approach was different. With that being said, I began this game with tempered expectations, thinking I would experience a mediocre, forgettable action-romp. Oh, how wrong I was.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy begins with the leader of the titular group of heroes, Peter Quill who goes by his self-imposed alias, Star-Lord, experiencing a dream of his childhood. It’s his birthday, and his mom has arrived to wake him to celebrate. So naturally, this aids in grounding Peter in ways aside from simply being human. His affinity with the licensed music tracks further enhances this for player relation.
During this opening, players can roam around the entirety of the house, listening to Peter’s quips regarding his mom, his home life, and other notable factors. Suddenly though, he’s awoken on the Milano, the spacecraft he and his crew utilize.
Rather than being an origin story for how the crew formed, this narrative highlights the Guardians as being somewhat experienced while still shouldering doses of conflict with one another. I’ll avoid speaking of the story at length because there are many events, and spoiling any of them would drastically lessen the experience. Still, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the narrative. At its core, it works to highlight character emotions and relationships well while still being easily digestible.
I couldn’t stop smiling for many of these events because the enthusiasm sold by the voice cast was infectious. Of course, there are many quips and jests that those familiar with the films should anticipate. In addition, during gameplay sequences, the characters converse with one another often. It never came close to bothering me, though, because not only was the dialogue itself fitting for the cast, but it aided in building a continual and consistent picture of everyone’s relationships.
This game is not connected to the MCU films, and while my only prior familiarity with the cast was from that media, I never felt lost. Comic readers will understand the references, but it could be enjoyable for all levels of fans. Aside from the main story, players can view bonding episodes between Peter and select crew members depending on whether certain collectibles were gathered.
These sequences are engaging as they aided in divulging the cast’s backstory in natural, cohesive ways. I don’t have any strong negatives with the story or the cast other than I wish that a few characters received more screen time and that the conclusion felt somewhat rushed.
Gameplay-wise, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a typical action-adventure. Players can only control Peter Quill, and yes, the prospect of playing as Gamora, Drax, and the other Guardians is enticing. Still, I’m glad that focus was spent on this singular gameplay experience to make it as qualitative as possible.
I’d much rather have effort poured into one character than have an array of choosable ones who feel overtly simplistic or hollow. For example, Star Lord’s primary method of combat is shooting enemies with his guns, which gain elemental upgrades as the story progresses. Additionally, these upgrades fundamentally add to the combat loop, with elemental wind shots drawing distant enemies closer and elemental ice shots disrupting particular shields.
Even with the one character campaign, the other party members can use skills at command, so their presence isn’t just mindless assistance. Each Guardian provides their own benefits, too, with Rocket and Groot being excellent remedies for support and Gamora and Drax providing unique skills that can either destroy single enemies or massively damage a group.
Speaking of skills, ability points are earned during battle, and though there are only minimal skills to obtain, the sense of progress achieved is addicting. Plus, a mechanic called Huddling can occur where Peter calls the group together to talk strategy. This provides an unexpected brief minigame where the team remarks on the fight’s progress and how they’re currently feeling. Key phrases appear behind them, and choosing the response that appropriately responds to their doubts amplifies the entire party’s combative prowess.
Upgrade materials can also be found in areas, with them usually being hidden. They can be used with Rocket and location-specific workbenches to give Peter new skills that alter the gameplay loop. Still, the abundance of upgrade materials minimizes the challenge since I had more than I needed when I was around 80% through the game making it unnecessary to really explore late-game stages.
Levels are linear with each area containing sidepaths leading to juicy rewards such as outfits for the playable cast. The other Guardians have field skills that open up paths, but these are obvious most of the time with only a few creative side paths encountered. I would have liked these brief optional ventures to be expanded upon, but it works fine. The art style is gorgeous, and alongside simple, lite puzzles, each part of the game feels distinct and memorable.
The difficulty is a robust subject matter in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy because there are a slew of customization options. So, while players can choose default versions of Easy, Normal, and Hard, it is also possible to forgo those labels and create a custom experience based on altering sliders and values to one’s content. This certainly makes the game more accessible and is worth applauding. Though, it is worth noting that I played through the game on its default version of Hard ( We Don’t Got This!) and found it unchallenging. A few mob battles got me here and there, particularly near the finale, but if you are moderately skilled at action games, chances are you won’t be satisfied with the challenge unless you fine-tune those sliders.
Thankfully, the mobs and boss battles are designed well, with identifiable telegraphs to watch out for and react to. Some enemy encounters can feel too cinematic as these event fights take control away from the player often. Unfortunately, one element of combat I found underwhelming was Star Lord’s melee swings.
Guns are the preferred conduit for battle, but players can also do a few close-up punches and kicks to take down foes. Sadly, attacking this way feels sluggish and never worthwhile. It’s certainly a supportive action at best, but it’s slow which encourages you to utilize the firearms.
Performance Mode is terrifically optimized on PlayStation 5, and aside from a few hiccups in particularly dense maps and occasional visual glitches, nothing ruined the beautiful worlds depicted here.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a damn great, roughly 30-hour experience that anyone can enjoy regardless of their history with any content from Marvel’s extensive catalog. While combat can be effortless, it’s rarely dull with clear effort poured into every imaginable corner. Character scenes are full of fun moments of dialogue but still manage to feature some emotional story beats enhanced by the cast. Looking past my critiques, I had a joyous time with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and I hope it gets the praise it deserves.
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