Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy has been fighting an uphill battle where public perception is concerned since the day it was revealed. Labeled by many as generic-looking and underwhelming, and bearing the burden of releasing under the shadow of Crystal Dynamics’ disappointing Avengers game last year, Guardians has been met with healthy skepticism constantly in the lead-up to its launch. As a single player story-driven action-adventure title though, it is singularly focused on a cohesive vision, and though none of what it does is particularly special or spectacular, the sum of the parts here is a solid, enjoyable game that nails the source material’s vibe almost perfectly.
Just as Insomniac’s love for the source material was abundantly clear in Marvel’s Spider-Man and Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales, Eidos Montreal’s love for Guardians of the Galaxy is abundantly clear in this game as well. From the portrayal of the characters and their relationships to the character-driven nature of the story, from the endearing and generally amusing writing to even the excellent soundtrack brimming with classic ’80s rock songs, this game has a perfect understanding of what the Guardians of the Galaxy property is all about.
Rather than telling an origin story, in Eidos Montreal’s adaptation, the titular Guardians have been operating together as an officially registered group for some time now, and when one of their missions ends not only with them in urgent need of making a large amount of money, but also inadvertently awakening some dark and mysterious forces, they get pulled into a fight against a galactic-level threat. Faced with overwhelming odds, the Guardians of the Galaxy are forced to come together and live up to their name.
"Though none of what it does is particularly special or spectacular, the sum of the parts here is a solid, enjoyable game that nails the source material’s vibe almost perfectly."
True to the source material though, what really works in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy’s story is not the actual narrative that unfolds, but the characters that populate the story. The story, of course, is quite high-stakes, especially as it ramps up towards its conclusion, but at the end of the day, the dynamic between the five central characters is at the heart of the whole experience here, and bleeds into everything from narrative to combat. Getting that dynamic right and convincingly selling players on the relationships between these characters was crucial for this game, and it succeeds resoundingly on this front.
Star-Lord, Drax, Gamora, Groot, and Rocket are all instantly endearing. Comparisons with the MCU versions of these characters will be inevitable, of course, but even on its own merits, the game establishes these characters, their pasts, and their relationships with each other perfectly. Each of the characters has an interesting history of their own that defines their personalities and informs their motivations in interesting ways, and solid acting performances consistently help bring them to life. It also helps that the Guardians have already been together for a while in Eidos Montreal’s universe, and major large-scale events – such as a galaxy-spanning war – are already years in the past, so coming into the story with fresh eyes and learning more about these events and what impact they had on the characters that you meet pulls you into the world that much more.
Humour is, of course, an important part of Guardians of the Galaxy, and the game mostly hits the right notes here. There are a few bits and jokes that maybe fall a little flat, and sometimes the characters can be a little too chatty, which makes some of their quips come across as unnecessary, but by and large, it’s always fun to watch these characters interact, whether that’s in casual conversations where they joke around and get into silly arguments or more significant story beats, where their personalities can clash in genuinely fascinating ways.
"The dynamic between the five central characters is at the heart of the whole experience here, and bleeds into everything from narrative to combat. Getting that dynamic right and convincingly selling players on the relationships between these characters was crucial for this game, and it succeeds resoundingly on this front."
Something else that has an important role to play in the story here is player choice. Though not exactly a game with full-blown choice and consequence mechanics where every decision you make will have a multitude of rippling effects, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy does ask players to make dialogue choices every now and then, and they do end up having an impact on the story. It’s not something that you’ll be doing constantly, and the decisions you make tend to be very small-scale, but they work out rather well. Not only does the game present these situations and the choices you’re faced with (no matter how bizarre) in unique ways, they also often have interesting ripple effects that can and sometimes do come back to change the some details in noticeable – if not huge – ways. A lot of these dialogue choices are also focused on how Star-Lord’s personal relationships with characters develop, and how much his decisions end up affecting whether or not they want to put their faith in him as their leader, and given the personal and character-driven nature of the story, that serves as another very intriguing layer in the larger narrative.
Where gameplay is concerned, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy makes some interesting decisions, one of which – the fact that you only play as Star-Lord – has been met with some skepticism, but that, too, works out rather well for the game. The you only ever directly control Star-Lord, in combat, you can also command each of the Guardians. Each of them have their strengths and specialties – Rocket is an explosives expert, Drax is a damage-dealing tank – and as you play through the game, you can also unlock more abilities for each of them.
The Guardians fight alongside you by themselves, but calling on them to use one of their abilities is a crucial part of the combat. Each Guardian can use one ability before needing to cool down, but using different abilities in combination with each other forms the backbone of all fights. Of course, Star-Lord himself can use his jet-boots to dash and hover and use his elemental guns to shoot at enemies, while later on you also get access to special elemental attacks.
"I was never not having fun on at least a fundamental level in Guardians’ combat, and though the game was very rarely truly challenging, it was at least always on a level that demanded engagement."
It’s a compact collection of systems, and it works well as a whole. The combat in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is very rarely truly challenging, which means things tend to get a little too simplistic at times- personally, I feel shorter ability cooldowns and a larger selection of abilities for each character would have made combat more dynamic. Even so, I was never not having fun on at least a fundamental level in Guardians’ combat, and though the game was very rarely truly challenging, it was at least always on a level that demanded engagement.
Outside of combat, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is something of a rarity in today’s day and age. Owing to its laser-sharp focus on telling a compact character-driven story, the game is a blessedly focused and linear experience. Following a chapter-based structure, Guardians guides you from one story beat to the next, each one taking you to a new environment that you progress through in a linear fashion. There is some light exploring involved, with small branching paths or secrets leading to rewards such as skins, components for crafting upgrades, special items that unlock unique conversations with the Guardians, and more.
None of it is too expansive, but there’s just enough here to make what little room for exploration there is in the game as enjoyable as it can be. Meanwhile, your crew’s abilities also come into play to solve some basic puzzles. The solutions to these are never too complicated, but the game contextualizes them in an interesting way, like having to ask Gamora to cut through a thick wall of bramble, or ask Groot to make a bridge across a gap, or ask Rocket to squeeze through a small gap to open up a locked door. Sometimes the answers aren’t instantly visible either, which is where Star-Lord’s ability to scan environments and objects comes in handy. Like exploration, puzzles aren’t too complex, but they do a good job of breaking up the action and keeping things from getting too monotonous.
"Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy doesn’t do anything particularly new, nor does it do anything amazingly well- it just delivers a really well done, straightforward, linear narrative-driven action-adventure game."
One area where Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy does run into some issues is the technical side of things. For the most part, it looks and runs great, but I did run into some issues in my time with the game. Some issues were rather innocuous, broken audio during specific lines of dialogue or characters speaking over each other, while there are also a few awkward animations here and there during some conversations. That said, I also did run into a few progress-blocking bugs, and though restarting from checkpoints generally fixed those issues (and it does help that checkpoints are handed out pretty generously), all of these little niggles do come together to make the experience feel a little unpolished.
These bugs aside, however, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a fine game that, while not reaching the heights of excellence that this property has in other media, nor other sister Marvel IPs have as games, manages to deliver a consistently entertaining and engaging adventure nonetheless. It doesn’t do anything particularly new, nor does it do anything amazingly well- it just delivers a really well done, straightforward, linear narrative-driven action-adventure game. At a time when everything tacks on RPG mechanics and moves towards the open world formula, sometimes just being a simple linear action-adventure game that lives up to the spirit of the source material is more than enough.
This game was reviewed on the PlayStation 5.
Solid story; The characters and their relationships are excellently built and developed; Nails the Guardians of the Galaxy vibe; Enjoyable combat; Light exploration and simple puzzles do a good job of breaking up the action; Great soundtrack.
Combat can be a bit too simplistic at times; Several technical issues.