Groot on 10
The “Square Enix Licensed Marvel” business has not started so well. Marvel’s Avengers was sort of way too broad when it came to its monetization and live service strategy – and it skimped on content. It wasn’t a great game. But with guardians of the galaxy taking the exact opposite approach, it shows that we still have hope to straighten out this Milano. With room for improvement along the way.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (PC, PS4, PS5 [reviewed], Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X / S)
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: October 26, 2021
MSRP: $ 59.99
I won’t lie: I was extremely skeptical about by marvel guardians of the galaxy enter. I have experience with characters from the source material and the MCU; and I feel like there was a lot of room to work with both mediums to make this cast a bit more punchy than, say, a few Stoics Avengers staples. Obtaining similarities is a delicate matter, and although the right Avengers the game had a lot more issues with the off-brand feel, the Guardians the game allows most of the cast’s personality to shine and dives into both wells. It’s clear that this is a character-driven game and the Eidos-Montreal team had an easier time juggling five lead actors and a full version at launch, compared to a team. gigantic and an imminent live service DLC.
We see Peter before he was Star-Lord and spend time with him when the lasers aren’t flying. With intermittent flashbacks dealing with his former life on Earth, there are downtime to connect without having to dial everything until 11. We hear stories about Drax and Gamora from what are essentially their past lives. We see how Rocket cares for Groot all the time, whether it’s cheerful ribs or extreme anger when the latter is put in danger.
I had some difficulty acclimating to the performances, despite all these efforts. Star-Lord and Rocket are… okay? They can be cantankerous when they need to (and play each other more than any other duo). Writing is sometimes on their side to showcase their personal ups and downs. Groot, in the same way, is a little hard to screw up: you have kind eyes, powerful stature, and booming voice, and you’re good to go.
On the other side of the spectrum, I really enjoyed this characterization of Gamora and I disagreed with Drax. Drax is incredibly difficult to translate from the MCU because his comedic counterpart is so different, and there are bits of both of the two incorporated here, which leads to times when you’re supposed to laugh, but don’t.
Gamora has a little more to work on, and has plenty of fun moments that allow her to spread her wings beyond her portrayal in the MCU (including even her looser characterization in more recent films). It’s a believable badass, but there are layers, including a few little moments that I won’t spoil. These kinds of qualities are where the Guardians game banks a lot of his goodwill. You know how much of a joke is Dragon age and Mass Effect, two of the closest analogues? It’s the same here – minus the fully open world, like Guardians is linear and based on chapters. Most of the time, you are with the five members: yourself as the Star-Lord included. He’s the one person you have full control over, which helps give the game a more streamlined feel.
The other big part of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is the mechanism of “choice” which hovers over the micro and macro elements of the narrative. So… like a lot of games before it, it falls completely flat most of the time. There are “X will remember” moments that ultimately don’t really matter, and a few forks in the road that always lead to the same path at the end. The vast majority of the choices I made didn’t require me to replay immediately to see how different things could have turned out.
There are also QTEs and walk and talk sections during linear paths, which leads to more jokes. Explores her a little more personality for Guardians‘environments.
While walking around and without pulling or breaking stuff, you’ll solve very light puzzles, sometimes having party members move on to semi-obvious pieces. Rocket has to go through vents and tinker with circuit boards, Drax moves giant rocks or platforms, Gamora can jump really high, that sort of thing. Like many pieces of guardians of the galaxy, it’s cute, and sometimes by heart.
There isn’t much going on in the hours, and while there has been an opportunity to do some really cool things like introduce breakouts or more interesting puzzles, it’s very one-sided in practice. Still, it’s easier to take this simplistic approach when there are so many accessibility options and toggles, even for in-depth control and combat nuances. A “time to last recording” notification directly on each pause screen is also very useful when you need to take a break.
Combat, which again involves you directly controlling Star-Lord and issuing orders in the form of triggered abilities for everyone, takes the same approach. It’s all about aiming and shooting, occasionally dodging, and triggering team abilities when they’re on cooldown. The literal elemental weaknesses of Star-Lord’s main elemental pistol add more tactical options over time, in addition to some cool team combos that you can use later. Think Ultimate Alliance the character models break into each other.
All in all, you can cast Groot and Rocket to handle crowd control, and Drax and Gamora (with Groot and Rocket to boot) to slam single targets and stick to that tactic throughout the game. Or, in As with most bosses, you can just spam everything during cooldown when they’re vulnerable: albeit with a very impressive layout on a larger scale, with MMO-like combat tactics to consider.
Every once in a while you can trigger a big super called a ‘caucus’, where you can listen to what your team is saying on screen (‘we’re isolated’, ‘they think we’re a joke’) and respond to it. same way with one of the two options. If you yell things like ‘we have to fight as a team’ or ‘so are you kidding them’ respectively, you get a great boost. Again, very cute, but familiar, especially after doing it 10 times.
I can’t say it enough: the theme carries this game. There are a lot of non-MCU surprises – in fact, the game is mostly about non-MCU characters – and also a few moments of suspense, which are usually resolved very quickly. If a chapter got boring from the same walking and talking, same puzzles, and crowds of garbage, usually some kind of immediate story twist will come out of the woods and ask you to invest yourself again.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy ribs by a bit on the personality, and that will definitely make it split. By playing it myself, I was constantly torn. When it kicks in and it fires at full blast, it’s fun. But it’s also extremely linear (in a negative sense in some aspects of the game) and many of the choices it offers are superficial at best. Treat it like an arcade weekend and you’ll be fine – bonus points if you already adore these adorable little bandits.
[This review is based on a retail build of the game provided by the publisher.]