Review – Guardians of the Galaxy
Guardians of the Galaxy is the definition of “Underdog”. As a group, as an IP, as a movie, and now as a game; there is an undeniable underdog tone firmly set. The cast of characters shouldn’t work, the comic IP has always been C-tier, and the movies were a complete reimagining. At no point has Guardians of the Galaxy been the answer to, “So, what next?” They have always been the B-side on the Marvel Universe soundtrack, but this is exactly where they are at their best, and this is exactly where this game is best.
Square Enix’s Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t specifically sit in the same universe as the MCU events, but it does help to have seen them as this isn’t the team’s origin story either. The characters and the team are already established in this galaxy, with little enough history to provide the clash in team dynamics but allow for the growth in chemistry. Like the Avengers game, it assumes you are simply familiar enough with the MCU versions but after that, this is their team and their story. This is their Gardeners of the Galaxy (you will get it once you play it).
Guardians of the Galaxy does have the team dynamic through-out, but this is 100% a solo campaign. You take the reins of Star-Lord, “leader” of your rag tag group of misfits. What Square manages to do so well is making the adventure feel like it always revolves around the group. Combat, dialog, collectible items; everything incorporates the group’s members that much more. You are playing Star-Lord’s part in the story, but you can feel that each member of the team is playing his own part too.
Team chemistry plays a big part in Guardians of the Galaxy. Or, at least, it feels like it does. How you respond in conversation may or may not open up a path that might have been unavailable before. Specific characters might remember how you treated them or a situation and add a slight wrinkle to how events play out. Certain collectible items open up conversations, allowing for individual dialogs to happen, allowing more background information to flesh out the team. I found myself way more interested in these than finding “random artifact #53”.
Combat feels familiar but fresh; L2 aims, R2 fires, Square for melee, Cross to jump, Circle to dodge or slide, etc. All the usual actions for the usual buttons, b then it gets a little trickier. By using the D-Pad to select, and R1 to use, you can use special elemental weapon abilities with your pistols. You can freeze, electrocute and pull your enemies to you, changing it up on the fly as needed for certain enemies. Then, just to make the action that much more, you can give your team commands mid combat. Have Rocket throw in some grenades, or have Groot use roots to bound enemies. Even the scenery plays a part as certain parts can be activated by certain members. Have Gamora slice a crate down on top of a group of enemies or have Drax pick up a large object to hurl it at them.
For those few moments all that can feel overwhelming, you can then rally the troops. If you are simply getting your butt kicked in, you can Press L1 and R1 to rally the troops together. Listening to key words spoken by your team, you choose a speech to rally them back into the fight. If you succeed, then you buff your entire team, and have the game play a random song from its soundtrack (more on that later). If you fail, then you only buff yourself. But either way, you heal and revive all downed members.
While we are still on the topic of combat, now might be a good time to explain the leveling elements in the game. Completing combat sessions rewards you with XP points, depending on how well you did it. XP allows you to level up, which you can use those points to give you and your team more combat moves. Each has three levels that you can pay to unlock and a fourth mega ability that you can unlock through choices made in-game. The fact that I spent three paragraphs discussing a simple combat encounter should tell you just how crazy it can get. But Square does an excellent job make it all very intuitive, and an even better job making solo combat feel like you are part of a team.
Walking through the world, you will find parts that you can use to increase your own gear. I wouldn’t nearly call this an RPG element, just a very lazy and distant cousin to it. There are only two parts you can find and you can use that to buff your shield, attacks, drops, etc. You also have the ability to scan objects which, through-out the entirety of the game, I saw a not-zero reason for doing. There are a handful of times that you need to scan to solve puzzles, but every other time it was just so you didn’t miss items and collectibles. Walking around in some Arkham-like Batman vision that detracted from the game way more than it added to it. This was the single most wasted element in the game and kept pulling me away from everything else that is great about it.
But getting back to great, the sound quality was damn near perfect. Every single voice actor, I appreciated more than the MCU counterparts. And how this game made me a fan of both Drax and Mantis, I have no idea. They are two of my favorite characters in this game. The developers completely nailed them. The way the characters bounce off each other in both the campaign and even during combat is fantastic.
Furthermore, as a child of the 80’s, the soundtrack is just absolutely insane. The game even gave me control of the playlist, letting me and choose the songs. The ambient noise didn’t stand out to me, no birds cawing in the background, no waterfalls gently crashing over the hills, and I don’t care. I could listen to everything from Motley Crue to New Kids on the Block, and everyone else in between. Not to mention the fact the developers went out of their way to create a fictional band within the game, and deliver an entire album worth of exclusive (and good) music.
Visually, Guardians of the Galaxy is just as impressive. It is a showcase for action titles, that is, until it isn’t. I would love to give the visuals a 10; they deserve a 10, but I can’t. There is a constant shimmer in most scenes and more than a couple of them have frame issues. Guardians is constantly reminding me that it looks close to great. And it is such a shame because removing those things, it really is great. The character-models, the sets, the planets, everything is gorgeous, until it isn’t.
Just like the Marvel Cinematic Universe iteration of the franchise, no one expected anything from this game, from this group of miscast nobodies. This isn’t the Avengers, they aren’t perfect, but that is kinda their thing. All this time, I wanted more Guardians of the Galaxy in me. Who would have thought? Sometimes, I guess it is the B-Sides that make or break an album.
Beautiful character-models and visuals that are marred way too often with shimmering and some frame issues, even on cut scenes.
Other than the overuse of Star-Lord’s visor and scanning, classic action/adventure gameplay fun with the occasional glitch tossed in.
Voiceover work and soundtrack was all I needed to not care about anything else. Both breathe fantastic life into the world.
Not perfect, and not meant to be perfect, so perfectly unperfect! I wanted more GotG in me. Who would have thought?
Final Verdict: 9.5
Guardians of the Galaxy is available now on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S/X, PC and Switch (cloud version).
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of Guardians of the Galaxy was provided by the publisher.