Exceeding Expectations! (Guardians of the Galaxy Game Review)
Upon playing the newly released Guardians of the Galaxy game, I found myself surprised by its rich characters, complex design, and exciting pacing and gameplay. All of which are things that I feared would not have been implemented into the game based on its now infamous predecessor, Square Enix’s Marvel’s Avengers.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a science-fiction shooter and adventure game published by Square Enix and developed by Eidos Montreal. It is the latest game from Square Enix to feature characters and stories licensed from Marvel comics and may not be the last if this game is to become the success it deserves to be. I was pleasantly surprised by everything I encountered in the game, as I went in with minimal hopes. But GotG is a fantastic blend of big-budget action set pieces, exploding with adventure and both familiar and obscure Marvel iconography that is sure to thrill fans of the characters and director James Gunn’s theatrical vision of the team.
Square Enix’s Guardians is incredibly proficient at building its own unprecedented vision of the Marvel universe and the titular heroes that blends the style and rhythm of the MCU version with the depth of world building and colorful absurdity of the Guardians as seen in Marvel comics. Many characters important to the film version, such as Thanos, Nebula, Yondu, and The Ravagers are referenced throughout the story, but the game doesn’t rely on these more mainstream characters to tell its story. The game instead opts to build its narrative around uniquely strange and obscure Marvel villains and locations that have yet to make their filmic debut, giving the game a very original and fresh feel. This freshness is also reflected in Square’s take on the characters of Star-Lord, Drax, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot. The characters have new chemistry with each other that the game explores through its astonishing amount of fully voiced dialogue and banter between the team in gameplay. Every Guardian has something meaningful to add to any given situation and never hesitate to make themselves heard as the player digests hundreds of hours of missable conversations that rarely loop or repeat. The level of technical skill and writing ability to give these characters that much to say is nothing short of wildly impressive when compared to Square Enix’s previous Marvel Game, Avengers, where long stints of silent gameplay failed to build a connection to that super team as palpable as Guardians. The story is equal parts heartbreaking and hilarious as these eccentric characters face deadly threats with a confident smirk, but also confront trauma and loss together as a team.
In terms of gameplay, GotG is unique and exhilarating, as it puts the player in the shoes of Peter Quill, AKA the space adventurer Star-Lord. In battling various diverse alien foes, the player can use Star-Lord’s leadership status among the team to command them to do various spectacular special moves to clear the screen of normally difficult enemies. While coordinating the team as Star-Lord, I really felt like in a way I was controlling every member of the Guardians of the Galaxy simultaneously with him as my vessel. Star-Lord himself also has unique combat capabilities such as his elemental blasters that make for multiple fun ways to dispatch enemies. The gameplay elements of Quill’s blasters and leadership coalesce during the more quiet moments of traversal and puzzle solving, where the entire team’s unique skills are utilized for problem solving as a unit. These puzzle sections break up the action with much needed breathing room and quieter character interactions that both keep the player engaged and help them to feel a greater connection to the main characters than could be offered in a less interactive medium like film, comics, or television. In having the Guardians of the Galaxy help you overcome obstacles in gameplay, Star-Lord and by proxy, the player, build relationships to them that can be influenced with the ability to choose Peter Quill’s dialogue in various cutscenes. This interactive dialogue and team building in a sci-fi adventure setting unlocked a lot of nostalgic feelings from me for the “Mass Effect” trilogy from my childhood.
Summary Guardians of the Galaxy is a sharp, witty, and engaging adventure with a lot of spectacle and love for the source material, held together with an incredibly likeable and interesting main cast. It far surpassed my expectations and should not be overlooked due to any hard feelings felt towards Square Enix’s other recent projects. GotG stands head and shoulders above Avengers as a tightly focused linear experience that knows what it wants to do, and does it very well.