Revealed during E3 2021 a few months ago, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (GOTG) is the second Marvel game from Square Enix following last year’s Avengers. While the Avengers game was developed by Crystal Dynamics and is a live service title, GOTG is made by Eidos Montreal, and is a true single player experience, with no multiplayer mode to speak of. This is important to note given that reviews of Avengers praised the single player experience but were not as enthusiastic with the multiplayer and live service features.
Technically, this is not the first Guardians game (there was a GOTG game by Telltale a few years ago), though this is the first true blockbuster GOTG title, so it’s a game that a lot of Marvel fans are excited for. After all, the Guardians of the Galaxy are now some of the most popular Marvel heroes, thanks in large part to the MCU. In fact, based on the gameplay showcases and trailers, the Guardians in this game look almost like remixed versions of their MCU counterparts. And while they do look a lot like the MCU Guardians, Eidos Montreal promises that this game offers “a fresh take on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.”
After playing through the game in full, I can say that while this game is far from perfect, it does offer a fresh take and enjoyable experience.
How Exactly Does It Play?
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy features a mix of third person action gameplay, some traversal, and an addition of Telltale Games-style choices. One thing to note about this game is that you can only play as Star-Lord, though you can command the rest of the Guardians during traversal and combat.
To give you a better idea of how the game plays, here’s what you can expect during each level. The game is divided into chapters, and all chapters are set in one level. In each level, you need to traverse through a mostly linear map, solving some traversal puzzles. To get through these, you’ll need to command the other Guardians to help you out. For instance, you sometimes need to ask Drax to break open a wall or ask Groot to make a bridge. While having these puzzles make traversal a bit more involved, they don’t pose much of a challenge, especially as Star-Lord is equipped with a visor that gives players a “detective mode.” This makes the puzzle-solving incredibly easy.
After progressing through the level, you’ll find yourself in pre-determined combat scenarios. In combat, you can fire at enemies using Star-Lords blasters, hit them up close with melee attacks, use various skills, or fire at them with elemental attacks which can freeze or shock foes. Don’t mistake this game for a cover-based third-person shooter though as instead of taking cover, you need to keep moving to avoid enemy fire using your jet boosters. The combat in GOTG is actually comparable to Returnal in how it flows as you need to keep moving all the time while firing at enemies, not to mention that GOTG also has an active reload mechanic. The difference of course is GOTG has a lock on feature and gives you the ability to command allies; plus, GOTG is much easier.
Only being able to play as Star-Lord might be disappointing to some, though you do get to command the other four Guardians while in combat. By pressing L1, you get a menu that slows time and lets you select abilities that your teammates can use (think of it like Mass Effect). Each Guardians also has a specialty; take Groot for instance with his crowd control abilities or Gamora with her powerful single target skills. You can also chain these abilities together for maximum effect. For example, if there’s a mini boss that you need to stagger first before you can damage it, you can command Drax to stagger that enemy then follow it up with a powerful slash from Gamora. Another is that you can command Groot to keep enemies in place with his roots so that Rocket can blast them with his grenades. You’ll need to keep doing these types of combos to succeed, especially as you’ll often find yourself facing off against a wide variety of enemies.
When you’re not commanding the other Guardians, they will still fight off enemies on their own. But make sure to keep tabs on them as they can go down after taking too much damage. If one of them goes down, you can heal them, but that can leave you vulnerable. What you can also do is get into a Huddle if you’ve filled your Huddle meter. What this does is Star-Lord gathers the Guardians to give them a nice pep talk. By selecting the right dialogue option, you can buff the whole team up, though if you fail, you won’t get a buff, but downed Guardians will still get revived. Remembering to Huddle at key points is important, especially when you’re up against large groups of enemies or one of the game’s several big boss fights.
As you play through the game, you can collect components which you can ask Rocket to craft into perks. These perks include a health increase, a shorter gun cooldown, and more. Aside from these perks, you also get experience and skill points as you progress, and these points are used to unlock new abilities for both Star-Lord and the rest of the Guardians.
Personally, I didn’t mind having only Star-Lord to control as the game’s combat system was still quite fun. Blasting enemies while commanding the rest of the Guardians can be quite hectic, but it’s satisfying when you pull off those big combos. Though I would say that combat is far from perfect, and that’s in large part because of how it feels to play.
Controlling Star-Lord just doesn’t feel that smooth. While I wouldn’t call his movement janky, it did feel a bit too floaty or imprecise for my liking. This might just be personal preference, but I often wanted the game to feel more responsive while I was playing. It didn’t ruin the experience mind you, it just meant that the combat didn’t flow as nicely as I would’ve liked. Plus, there were certain levels where the combat encounters overstayed their welcome. It felt that some of these fights were added just to pad the gameplay hours.
Outside of combat and level traversal, GOTG has dialogue options where your choice influences the events of the game. While it’s not as extensive as something like Detroit: Become Human in that you can get an entirely different ending depending on your choices, these choices do affect some combat encounters and story beats. Personally, I though this Telltale Games-style dialogue mechanic is a nice addition, and it did help in keeping me engaged with the game’s story.
A Story Carried by Great Characters
Guardians of the Galaxy is a game where the story is the centerpiece, and in this regard, the game delivers for the most part, even if there are some missteps. Without getting into spoilers, GOTG has engaging and interesting story beats, complete with a strong central theme. The problem for me is how the story flows.
When you just think about the story, it makes sense, and it’s quite satisfying as well. Though when you actually experience it while playing, it often feels like the various story points don’t connect with each other naturally. Sometimes, there were reveals that felt to me like they came out of nowhere. Mind you, I didn’t spot any plot holes or something that took me out of it; it’s just that there could be some slight improvements made so that the story feels more cohesive. Without spoiling details, the game has a galaxy-wide threat, but when I played through it, the villain didn’t seem all that menacing, nor did the stakes feel that high.
Another thing to note is that while the game has an original story, it’ll be more satisfying if you have some familiarity with the cosmic side of the Marvel universe; or at the very least you’ve seen the MCU’s Guardians of the Galaxy movies. While you can understand the story with no knowledge of the Guardians, some plot points may seem to come out of nowhere if you do so. On the flip side, I can imagine big Marvel fans will enjoy this game given the numerous nods to the comics.
Another thing I had issue with is the ending. The events in the ending are fine, though it felt like the game just ends abruptly. GOTG could’ve had a slightly longer ending so that the events and the character arcs are wrapped up in a more satisfying manner.
I may be a bit harsh when it comes to the flaws in the story, but what I can wholeheartedly praise is how the characters were handled. Sure, the story may not flow as well as I would’ve liked, but I still enjoyed my time with the game thanks to the funny and loveable cast of characters. While the Guardians in this game follow the template of the MCU, they still feel fresh and are just as funny; I couldn’t count the times that I laughed out loud during their in-mission banter. The dynamic between the Guardians is something that the team over at Eidos Montreal nailed completely.
Outside the core Guardians team, the supporting characters are also an entertaining bunch. The characters, their interactions, and their personal arcs are truly the highlight of this game. Because of this, I recommend that you don’t rush through the game. Make sure that you take in the scenery or hang out inside your ship from time to time as you’ll be rewarded with (often funny) character interactions.
When I first saw the GOTG reveal at E3, I was underwhelmed by the graphics based on the livestream. Now that I finished the game, it seems that the showcase suffered from bad compression as GOTG looks incredible!
I played the game on a PS5, and while I wouldn’t exactly call it a next-gen game, it almost looks like one at some points. The quality of the textures, the gorgeous art style, and the overall level of detail makes the game a satisfying experience visually.
As for performance, the game ran smoothly on the PS5, and I didn’t run into any issues like crashes. While I did encounter some bugs, they were few and far between, and some of them were even addressed by the developers and should be fixed either in the day one patch or in future updates.
Final Verdict – 7.5/10
I have to admit, I didn’t have high expectations coming in to Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, especially as last year’s Avengers didn’t exactly reach the highs of other Marvel games such as Insomniac’s Spider-Man. Though when I got to play GOTG, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy my time with it.
There are some issues with the game for sure, like how its combat could’ve been improved a bit, and its story does need a bit of tweaking personally. But when I was playing it, I was able to look past these flaws thanks in large part to the game’s loveable cast, as well as its impressive visuals.
If you’re a more casual Marvel fan, there’s fun to be had in this game. But if you’re highly into the cosmic side of the Marvel comics, Guardians of the Galaxy is a blast.
This game was reviewed using a PS5 code provided by the publisher.