Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Review
From the moment the Guardians of the Galaxy are introduced as a space-faring team that will do anything for a quick buck, it’s abundantly clear how much of a dysfunctional mess they are. Gamora and Rocket are at each other’s throats. Drax and Star-Lord don’t see eye to eye. And no one is paying attention to Groot. For the next 15-plus hours of gameplay, I listened to these misfits bicker, hurl insults, and chatter nonstop – much to my enjoyment.
When I say “nonstop,” I mean they never stop talking. A second rarely goes by without the Guardians sharing their thoughts. I’m not exaggerating this frequency. Any moments of quiet made me question if the game was not working properly. The amount of dialogue that Eidos-Montreal crafted is off the charts, and most of it is nicely penned, offering the witty humor, heartfelt intimacy, and sheer chaos you’d expect from the Guardians.
Drax’s inability to comprehend common colloquialisms and phrases brings big laughs and is just as good as James Gunn’s take on the character in the Guardians’ movies. I’ve never said this in a review before, but the dialogue is the best part of the game. Eidos-Montreal knocked it out of the park. The rest of the game delivers plenty of fun but with varying levels of quality and polish – the latter subtly hurting critical areas of the experience.
It took me a few hours to warm up to both Star-Lord and the combat system. Peter Quill is a bit grating from the outset but comes around when the team dynamic begins to gel, and the story softens from its overall bombastic tone to allow him to show his emotional side. I ended up adoring him over time, especially when he’s talking to himself.
His story is well written, and Eidos-Montreal did an excellent job injecting his leadership qualities into the action and decision-making. Players are in total control of Star-Lord and will determine the road your team takes. These choices aren’t on the same seismic scale as a Mass Effect game and don’t change the story much, but do offer fun alternate sequences and even more dialogue.
I can’t speak to all of the outcomes that stem from these choices, but the dozen-plus I experienced in a second playthrough were just as good and flowed as naturally as those in my first run through the game. While it was to fun to take in the different humor or unique gameplay sequences I missed before, they weren’t enough for me to want to keep going to see how the second journey would be different. Again, things aren't changing much.
This is a game where the narrative consumes just as much time as gameplay. Given how enjoyable the story is, I didn’t have a problem sitting back and watching for a big chunk of my time, especially when I had control over the most significant decisions. The allure of discovery anchors the story and touches each Guardian in ways that flesh them out thoroughly. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but the Guardians are chasing something evil that they unleash. That hook remains strong through most of the experience, moving at a nice clip and striking a delicate balance between serious and outright absurd.
Eidos-Montreal fully embraces “science-fiction” themes in the worlds, characters, and that evil entity of note. The worlds steal the eye with their wildly colored and oddly designed vistas. The characters are just as weird (sometimes for comedic sake), and that evil beast moves in the most peculiar and astonishing ways.
Each world pushes the Guardians to lean into their unique abilities to navigate treacherous terrain. The paths forward are always linear and filled with platforming sequences and combat arenas, much like the Uncharted games. While the player only controls Star-Lord – a decision that works well for all gameplay aspects – each Guardian can be summoned with a button press to perform a specific task. These brief inputs work well, and Eidos-Montreal even warps the character to the desired location to make sure you are moving forward at a solid pace. You can summon Drax to knock over a pillar or Gamora to leap up onto a wall to give you a boost up to a platform. All the Guardians’ moves are used for environmental puzzle solving, which starts fun but loses its luster through repeated solutions.
The Guardians also play massive roles in combat and are as powerful as you would hope. Groot can upend enemies with a swarm of roots, Rocket blasts foes with a silly number of guns, and Drax and Gamora use blades to slice and dice. For Star-Lord, however, this is not a game I’d bill as a power fantasy. His blasters are weak, and he must work hard to drop even the lowliest of foes. All the Guardians need to be used in strategic ways to find success. Star-Lord can dash around quickly and tick away at the enemy’s health, but his most significant contribution is as a play-maker. When he wants to call upon a Guardian, time slows, and he can tell them to perform a desired ability. It’s not a power fantasy, but a teamwork fantasy that ends up being immensely satisfying when everything is clicking as it should.
At its peak, combat is handled admirably through the controls, allowing the player to whip across the arena, quickly highlight targets, and just as swiftly tell each Guardian what to do. Given how many characters are onscreen at any given time, the fray looks chaotic, but there’s a violent beauty to it, and you oversee all of it, barking out commands to rain death in various ways. The Guardians can also chain together most moves to truly show the team's power. By the end of the game, the battles are wildly entertaining and deliver a good challenge. Oddly, the game’s most powerful ability is a pep talk by Star-Lord, which always carries a little humor, but pauses combat for far too long and ends up being quite annoying.
Now the bad news: The opening hours of combat are a rough and uneventful ride. Before legitimate threats come out of the woodwork, the Guardians take on gelatinous cubes and spheres, conflicts that are as dull as they sound. With a good majority of abilities locked away for over half of the game, the true potential of the Guardians is kept at bay for far too long, and the experience suffers. This game is at its best when it’s over the top, and it eventually gets there, but not quickly enough. The training wheels are on for half of the game. A lack of polish across the entire experience also hurts. Some animations are a bit jumpy, specific gameplay mechanics like sliding don’t offer much precision, and combat’s framerate can be rough at times.
Another misfire is controlling the Milano in space-combat sequences. It’s cool in concept, but awkward controls and lack of a threat make these moments little more than a visual showcase. The game’s other distractions fare much better. Tracking down different suits for each Guardian is a nice reward, and some collectibles that appear on the Milano open new conversations and backstory.
As a fan of the Guardians’ comic books and movies, I thoroughly enjoyed Eidos-Montreal’s unique take on this supergroup. The nonstop character banter and nicely designed choices make this a journey worth taking, even if the gameplay takes a little too long to highlight the team’s true potential.