Square Enix’s Guardians of the Galaxy no doubt has a lot it has to do to succeed, especially after Square’s abysmal handling of Marvel’s Avengers. The issues with Avengers could justifiably have some fans nervous about Guardians of the Galaxy. Although Guardians of the Galaxy is different in every way excluding the source material, the comparisons are no doubt inevitable. So, how well does it fare comparatively? Find out in my review of the Guardians of the Galaxy game!
Guardians of the Galaxy releases on October 26 for PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch consoles.
Superheros of Storytelling
As a single-player, story-driven game, Guardians of the Galaxy will live or die based on the story and characters in the game. I’m happy to say the former is true here. There are plenty of twists and turns in the story that I won’t spoil, so don’t expect any specifics here. Going in blind, like any Marvel movie, is a great way to experience Guardian’s of the Galaxy. I will say though, the story is surprisingly well-paced and fits the Marvel model well. It’s comedic, heart-wrenching and fun in all the right places, but the area where Guardians excels the most is in the characterization of our heroes. This is something that Avengers struggled with, so it’s great to see the u-turn the team has pulled. Guardians is a fresh take on the characters, giving a fresh look at the team that hasn’t been portrayed in the films. This was a well-chosen move by the team, as having them merely replicate the greatness of the films wouldn’t have done the team justice.
I’ll admit, I was a tad hesitant about the characters when going into the game. I really didn’t want the characters to feel like knock-offs like the Avengers did. Not only are the Guardians in the game excellent versions of their characters, but they are also among my favorite versions period. The characters in Guardians of the Galaxy can easily be compared with their MCU counterparts. One of the characters in the game, I won’t say who, is now my absolute favorite version of that character, and I love that character in the MCU. The characters make the game themselves and, when combined with a great story, make Guardians of the Galaxy feel like a longer Marvel film.
Where there’s a focus on the story though, you need gameplay to supplement it. Too many titles with great stories are let down by repetitive or boring gameplay, and Guardians thankfully does not suffer from that affliction. It seems odd to have a Guardians of the Galaxy game where you don’t get to play as the whole team. However, the combat system does an excellent job of making you feel as though you do. In the game, you control Star-Lord and fight using his jet boots and elemental guns. Though while controlling him, you have free reign to command your squad as you please. Each character has unique abilities that can be chained and linked together for devastating results. It’s a system seen rarely done in games, and even rarer done well. Despite that, controlling a character like Star-Lord and commanding the Guardians is an experience not replicated elsewhere. Rather than making them simple AI companions, they feel like an extension of the player, and thus are necessary for success.
A good example of the gameplay opportunities they provide is in Groot and Rocket. Groot’s first ability can capture groups of enemies and root them to the spot. Rocket’s first ability is essentially throwing a bunch of grenades. Properly timed, you can root a whole group of enemies in place with Groot and then have Rocket barrage them. All the while, firing at any stragglers with Star-Lord and sending in Drax and Gamora for close-up special kills. This is all in the space of a few seconds. The system takes a bit of getting used to but once you have it down, you’ll be throwing out orders and taking down waves of enemies without issue. Although my experience consisted of a single playthrough, replays on higher difficulties after completing a run are sure to be popular.
Aside from the combat, Guardians has a good mixture of exploring, platforming and puzzles to keep you entertained for the game’s length. With a lack of repetitive encounters, this is only strengthened. In short, it’s a rewarding game to play and lends itself well to multiple play-throughs on other difficulties.
Stellar Sound and Visuals
I played the Guardians of the Galaxy game on the Xbox Series S for this review, which means it wasn’t as visually pleasing as other platforms such as the Series X, PS5, or PC. Despite that, I’m shocked to think the game could look any more spectacular. The character designs are sharp and defined, and the lighting truly brings out the beauty of these worlds. Speaking of which, most impressive of all are the various worlds in the game. The design of the ships, planets, and monsters brought out everything possible for the universe of the Guardians. The style is impeccable. The environments, in particular, are so vibrant and detailed that they look like they could have been plucked out of a Guardians of the Galaxy film.
You can’t review anything related to the Guardians of the Galaxy (let alone the game) without discussing music. Fans were delighted to see that the game has a vast soundtrack of 80s music, all perfectly matching the Guardians aesthetic. I can gladly say it pays off well in the game. Star-Lord turning on a song after a motivational group huddle and fighting out the rest of an encounter with a classic tune expresses the atmosphere of Guardians of the Galaxy.
My only criticism is that the music wasn’t utilized often enough. I understand there must be a balance to prevent certain songs from becoming repetitive, but there were a handful of missed opportunities for epic moments set to great songs. For example, the huddles are where you pause the fight to motivate the team into winning. If you are successful, then Star-Lord will play a song and everyone will wipe the floor with your foes. The problem was that the fights always seemed to be over just a few seconds after the end of the huddle. If some of the music had been used earlier on the massive battles, it would’ve been much more utilized. With only a few seconds of bliss, you couldn’t help but be left unsatisfied.
Guardians of the Galaxy is everything that it needed to be, leaving my review of the game on a great note. It can’t be overstated how badly Avengers damaged the idea of any Square Enix Marvel games, so I’m hopeful this is a sign of things making a change for the better. Guardians is proof that amazing Marvel games don’t only have to be made by Insomniac. For anyone who enjoys dabbling in Marvel’s properties, Guardians of the Galaxy is an absolute must-buy.