I’m sorry for the title, but it really is F-asterisk–ampersand–percent sign-in’ awesome.
I’m going to be honest, when I saw the news that Marvel gave the okay for a Guardians of the Galaxy game after the debacle that was Marvel’s Avengers, I was a little worried. Stack that on top of the fact that it was coming from Square Enix, you know Marvel’s Avengers game, and how it looked similar to said debacle when gameplay dropped, I gave up hope for this game. That being said, I knew I was going get over my judgement to try out the game, but I did have a few questions that I would need answers for leading up to the fated encounter.
Could this game completely shatter the dark web created by (Spider-Man pun) Marvel’s Avengers? Could Eidos-Montréal, the creators of the critically acclaimed Deus Ex: Human Revolution, infuse what they mastered during their time working on that series as far as story, world building, and clever gameplay into the feisty Guardians of the Galaxy? Could they match what James Gunn has managed to do with the two movies he’s created? Could they really pull this off?
Fast forward through many video reviews, a Black Friday sale, and one completed play through and it’s safe to say, this game defied all of my expectations. It has taken all of the questions I had above, stepped on them and makes the sting of the Avengers game hurt even more because it’s not even a fraction of what this title is (or feel good because games as a service suck). The work Eidos-Montréal put into making this game left me thinking I experienced a new Guardians of the Galaxy movie and left me craving more.
This is Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, this is how Eidos-Montréal won me over, this is a damn good single player game, and this is my most surprising game of the year.
For a heads up, I played on the PS5 version with the “Performance Mode” for higher frame rate. They patched in ray tracing, and I’m sure it runs good, but a few “better visuals” versus a smoother frame rate isn’t a big deal.
The Guardians travel through many space from planet to planet, and they all look so damn good. I think the lazy way they could’ve gone with planet design is make everything look the same but with different colors. They did the opposite of that, and every locale you visit feels like a whole new world. I thought the first planet was my favorite, but there are some later planets and locations that are incredibly designed and full of color. I know that’s a weird point to make, but in an industry when things are half assed, you get used to preparing for disappointment so you don’t get disappointed (Spider-Man reference wink wink).
I think what caught me most by surprise in this category is the character design. After taking the time to beat this game, I almost forgot what their big screen counter parts looked like. That being said they do look pretty dang close to their cinema versions, and I liked that. Rocket Raccoon looks damn near real, Groot looks like a tree (just kidding he looks like the Groot from the movies) and Drax the Destroyer looks exactly the same minus a little difference in the color scheme. It’s amazing how well designed these characters are from their facial features to their outfits. I think the only “radical” change is Peter Quill but his model looks closer to the comic version of him, while Gamora looks pretty close to her movie counterpart.
The game is gorgeous and probably one of the best looking games of 2021. It also helps it runs really damn well. I don’t think I had a single problem with the game dropping frames, texture load ins or anything crazy. My hats off to the art team; they did a mind-blowing job.
Gameplay is where the game kind of lags for me.
You take control of Star-Lord himself, Peter Quill, and that’s the only character you can control which is kind of a let down. As you travel through space and do hood rat stuff with the Gardeners of the Galaxy (small joke), you will fight bad guys, space critters, and you will fight a lot of them.
The combat does start off cool to be fair. It’s almost like an RTS (real time strategy) lite. As Star-Lord you can punch, dodge, shoot his Elemental Guns (spoiler) and use a few abilities to stand your ground. The other Guardians will auto fight enemies, but they have special abilities you can press to perform specialized attacks.
Task Gamora to slice down a group of enemies with her blade or tell Groot to use his vines to trap a group of enemies so that Rocket can throw a cluster grenade. The enemies start off simple but will eventually evolve to have stamina bars or shields that can only be broken by Quill’s guns. There are cool combos you can experiment with, slow mo finishers, and even an OP mode called “Team Huddle” where all the ability timers are turned off that allows for absurd ability spam and great licensed music.
I think the knock here towards combat is that it’s cool at first, but towards the middle/end of the game it gets repetitive. You enter an area, enemies show up and rinse repeat. I found it fun, but like I said it gets repetitive. Also something I noticed is that you’ll encounter enemies that require certain Elemental abilities that you don’t access to until later on in the story. Without that ability unlocked, it makes a fight last forever.
Outside of the combat, Eidos-Montréal did a lot of cool things to avoid any linear gameplay loops. I don’t want to give away too much, but a couple of my highlights include the first Chapter where you compete against Rocket to kill more alien hive things, Chapter 9 has a really fun experience where you’re on a monitor signing up for something (no spoilers) and the other Guardians are trying to “help” and Chapter 10 has a fun one with a space llama. It’s really cool what they did to make this feel different than what could’ve been a very dry experience.
Before you keep reading, I might be spoiling key story moments. Reader beware.
I tried looking it up, but I believe this story takes place when the Guardians have been working together for awhile, but are still working on the team part of their relationship. This isn’t an origin story, and I think it’s better off that. Not every title has to be an origin story, and avoiding an origin story gives the writers more time to focus on the lore that makes the characters who they are. You do get plenty of backstory, but it’s spread out over the course of the game through intimate moments.
Since the narrative focuses on the earlier period of the team’s inception (again I believe, but I’m pretty sure it’s in this time period), it manifests itself in the team’s conversations. Drax does not trust Gamora as she’s the daughter of Thanos, the Mad Titan who killed Drax’s family, and Rocket likes Peter enough to work with him but questions a lot of his choices. It’s an interesting dynamic that gets remedied over the course of your time with the game.
You play a part in this team building exercise in what completely caught me off guard: dialogue options. Whether it’s in real time or in a cutscene, you are faced with dialogue choices that create lasting impacts with your teammates and with the people you encounter. Gamora and Rocket start talking, it progresses into an argument then a dialogue comes up for you to pick a side in the argument or stay quiet creating a sense of Peter being the leader (or not leader). That’s just a basic scenario, but the dialogue options progress in scope as the game progresses. A choice I entrusted Gamora with in the early stages of the game made one of the final bosses way easier for me. Telling Rocket to hide our illegal weapons tech helped improve the ship in a later space battle. While it may be a small gameplay mechanic, that shit is really cool to see in a game that isn’t the same genre as The Witcher or Fallout. I don’t know how far your choices can alter the core experience, but it’s definitely something I’m going to look into.
The overall story I think is really well done. I’m going to be honest and say that I didn’t know much about the Guardians of the Galaxy outside of what I learned from the movies they’re in. I left this game with so much more knowledge about them I felt like I watched a documentary. Couple this with the amazing performances from the voice actors, and I felt so immersed, so involved in the story, that it felt real. The voice actors replicated James Gunn’s cast on a level I’ve never seen before in a game, but they did just enough to make these versions feel unique. Drax’s voice actor, Jason Cavalier, has to be the star of the show because holy shit he is a 1 to 1 replica of Dave Bautista’s Drax. Just check out this blooper reel from the team and tell me I’m wrong.
One thing that I had the hardest time trying to separate was the comparison between this game and the movies. I find it funny that most comics start off being adapted to the video game format then eventually spawn a movie that tends to suck. We have never seen, unless I’m incorrect, a comic become a movie then turn into a video game.
Possibly incorrect theory aside, this game borrows so much from the movies, and does it so well, by the game’s end I felt like the game crafted it’s own unique identity in the Guardians of the Galaxy universe while being so heavily influenced from the movies. James Gunn is going to have his work cut out for him if he wants to surpass the level of quality Eidos-Montréal managed to put together (just kidding).
Honestly, I tried my best to describe this game without saying “it’s good”. Having won “Best Narrative of the Year” at The Game Awards and receiving such high praise across gaming sites, Eidos-Montréal clearly did something right.
Just to recap, the story is phenomenal. The combat is fun, but it does get repetitive. If there is a sequel, which I don’t know why they wouldn’t do one, I have the highest confidence in the team to diversify and expand upon it. The game is absolutely gorgeous, and the team who worked on this needs to work on every game ever made.
I think that’s the post guys. If you haven’t played this yet, I highly advise you do. Heck I don’t even advise it just go do it. That’s an order soldier.
I’m going to post a few more screenshots for ya’ll to check out below, otherwise thank you reading, and I hope to see ya for next week’s final post of the year!