Despite some bugs and missed opportunities, the new Guardians of the Galaxy game proves not every game needs to have an open-world and multiple playable characters in order to be fun and feel grand.
I’m going to be honest here. When I heard Square Enix subsidiary Eidos-Montreal was making a Marvel game, especially a Guardians of the Galaxy game, I wasn’t very interested. Seeing what Crystal Dynamics did with the Avengers, I figured all of Square Enix’s developers would steer clear of Marvel properties for the foreseeable future. I’m a huge Marvel fan though, and as skeptical as I can be about a certain product, I can’t help myself but be even slightly interested in anything Marvel-related, whether it be movies, TV shows, or games. I always try to give something a chance as well before forming an opinion, and I believe it’s the only way to do things in this medium. Because of this, I’m glad I took a chance with Guardians of the Galaxy, since I love it. It isn’t perfect by any means, and I wish the developer took chances with certain gameplay elements since it would’ve worked, I feel. But, there’s a certain charm about this band of misfits, similar to all the recent stories told about the team the last few years, that captures you from the very beginning and ultimately makes you stay with it till the very end. Oh, and the soundtrack is fantastic, so I guess that helps.
Guardians of the Galaxy is, essentially, an original and new story with ideas that have already been explored. Peter Quill’s, aka Star-Lord, mother, Meredith Quill, is killed when he’s abducted by an alien species. The game jumps into the future and several years later, you see Peter with the rest of the team (Gamora, Rocket, Drax, and Groot). The game takes place years after a gigantic war in the galaxy, which affected it massively, and now everyone who’s still around is trying to pick up the pieces and figure out what to do next. Of course, the team is always looking to take advantage of whatever they can, and after making a bet that goes wrong while trying to scam a wealthy collector, this results in a series of events that puts the universe at risk if they don’t stop the threat.
As mentioned earlier, Crystal Dynamics Avengers game is highly disappointing. I tried so hard at the beginning to get engaged with the story it was trying to tell, but it never hooked me. I thought the same would happen with Guardians of the Galaxy, but I was wrong. From the very beginning, you’re introduced to a young Peter and his mother and it feels right at home. Then, once it jumps into the present and you’re with the familiar squad, the portrayals of each character all seem incredibly genuine and although you feel you’ve seen it before, the voice actors really bring something new to these characters and making it feel like a fresh experience.
Initially, Star-Lord’s voice (Jon McLaren) was pretty annoying to me. I guess I’ve been so used to seeing Chris Pratt as the character and once you enjoy a certain performance so much, it’s hard to give that up and welcome someone new to it. However, you begin to see his story unfold and as careless and sarcastic as Peter can be, you begin to root for him. Deep down, we all know the leader qualities he possesses, and the game does a phenomenal job putting it on display. Drax (Jason Cavalier) is another favorite of mine. He’s heavily modeled after Dave Bautista’s version, still being oblivious to most things around him and taking every little thing literal. Gamora (Kimberly-Sue Murray) is as fierce as ever and usually doesn’t have time for games, but she throws in her shots at everyone else from time to time. Rocket (Alex Weiner) is always being sarcastic and using foul language, but in the game’s terms, of course. Then again, that’s what we’ve come to expect from him, even though, deep down, he has a good heart. Lastly, there’s Groot (Robert Montcalm), who is as Groot as ever. Together, they form a team you’ll grow a deep connection with as you progress throughout the game, similar to how you were able to establish the same emotional attachment with them while watching the movie. At the same time, you see how they grow closer and closer together as well, regardless of the problems they encounter.
Seeing the team bicker back and forth, but also always be loyal to each other at the end of the day is the aspect I enjoyed the most about the game. The character development is pretty fantastic between the team and there are so many little moments you can experience between that makes you appreciate everything that transpires in the game even more. Most of the time, everything seems to be chaotic, but the small, intimate moments you’ll find yourself in are just as great. The rest of the characters you’ll meet are pretty cool, such as Lady Hellbender, Ko-Rel, Nikki, and so on. I won’t go into further detail about everything because of spoilers, but Ko-Rel and Nikki play a huge role in what happens in the game.
I wish the gameplay had a similar dynamic, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I actually found how it plays to be mostly entertaining. However, there are quite a few missed opportunities in this game. For example, you can only play as Star-Lord, which is a bit frustrating since it’s about the team. I mean, I get he’s the leader and the main character, but I would’ve loved to have the option to play as everyone else. I compare this game heavily to Final Fantasy VII Remake since they’re both incredibly similar. The way you move throughout the world, the combat, the perspective, and so on. Cloud Strife is obviously the main character, but you’re able to play as the other members of the party, such as Tifa, Barrett, and Aerith. In combat, you can switch back and forth between each of them since they all have something different to offer in battles. Technically, you can still use some of the other Guardians, but not the way I was hoping for. You can command them to perform special attacks and they’re pretty competent AI’s when they’re simply fighting solo, but that’s it. When it comes to actually controlling the character, it’s just Star-Lord, where in FFVII Remake, you can not only command, but control them. If there is a sequel, I surely hope the developers strongly consider making everyone else playable. Even co-op would be a blast.
As for how the game is played, it’s mostly enjoyable. It starts off a bit lackluster, but as you progress, you’ll begin to unlock new skills and abilities to use, which makes fending off huge hordes of enemies much easier to handle, as well as the big boss fights. I really enjoyed the boss design in this game and it’s a breath of fresh air whenever they do arrive since some of the minor enemies get a bit redundant over time. It is a challenge, as mentioned, fighting multiple enemies all at once, though. Some of the glitches and bugs took away from the overall experience. I became increasingly frustrated with how many times the game crashed. I’m hoping subsequent patches fix it up a bit. It can also be a driver issue, so if you encounter this problem, make sure your drivers are up to date.
That being said, the graphics and how it runs is pretty smooth for the most part. The scenery is visually stunning and the combat looks phenomenal when you’re in action. Another feature is unlocking all the costumes. Most are hidden in various parts of the game, so it’s all about finding out where they’re located.
The world/universe you play in leaves you wanting more. With a universe as big as Marvel can be, I would hope some of these Marvel games would take full advantage of it and try to give players some freedom to explore its potential vastness. Instead, this game opts for a much more linear approach. Thankfully, it still works out pretty well. It’s another example of a game that doesn’t need to have open world elements in order to be great. But, I can’t say I wasn’t thinking about it in some areas of the game. Regardless, the linear elements still work to its benefit. The story feels tighter and you don’t have to worry about wandering off and getting lost doing other things. This game lets you solely focus on the task at hand and with so many games with open world elements already out there, it’s a nice change of pace playing something a bit more laid back like Guardians.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t take full advantage of its potential in terms of gameplay and exploration. However, the story is emotionally engaging and compelling, and the characters are full of heart, wit, and humor. The more you play it, the better it gets in almost every aspect and I hope it gets a deserved sequel.