Guardians of the Galaxy Review – A rock galactic opera

Our feelings were mixed when it was revealed that Square was working on a new Guardians game back at E3. We did not know exactly what to expect. This could either end up being a masterpiece like Insomniac’s Spider-Man or it could follow in the footsteps of Marvel’s Avengers. Surprisingly enough, Eidos Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy does not fit into either of these two patterns. The Guardians are some of the most difficult characters to depict in media other than comics. MCU might have spoiled us in terms of what to expect from our favorite superheroes on the big screen, but I assure you that the tough love affair between the five lovable misfits fighting to keep the galaxy in check is very difficult to get right. However, I can safely say that Eidos Montreal did a great job here.

TL;DR – 8/10

You’ll love it ifNot for you if
– You’re an avid MCU enjoyer– You really like exploring
– You want to save the galaxy– You’re looking for some gratifying pew-pew
– Cinematic games are your thing– Can’t stand bugs and visual glitches
– You enjoy linear experiences

This review is based on my personal experience with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy on the PlayStation 5. Your experience may vary depending on the platform you are playing on. You can get the game here.

Visuals

The visuals are very important in a superhero game. The devs have to create a world which, while not necessarily realistic, must at least seem plausible, so that the player can form a connection with the story . The best example is, of course, Insomniac’s Spider-Man. Now, Guardians of the Galaxy takes place in space almost entirely, so how exactly can that come across as plausible? Well, the madlads at Eidos Montreal have actually done it, in the most unorthodox way.

Guardians of the Galaxy screenshot

Feels like the MCU, or even better

The characters in this game look *chef’s kiss*. The character models are astonishing. Animations, in particular, are what make the characters look like real beings. The game contains many close-up shots of the characters during the dialogues. Facial expressions manage to fully communicate the full emotional spectrum of what is being said. Peter Quill can’t wipe that signature smirk from his face when making puns, Rocket is always ready to lash out at everyone and Drax rocks that iconic blank expression.

We are used to superheroes in video games usually having flat expressions. Even Insomniac’s Miles Morales hardly passed the vibe check. In Guardians of the Galaxy there was no disconnect between dialogues and expression. Only a few bugs.

  • Rocket close-up
  • Drax close-up
  • Peter Quill close-up
  • Mantis and Gamora

Obviously, you’re not going to get Chris Pratt as Star-Lord. Eidos Montreal has created its own version of the Gardeners of the Galaxy. And honestly, they are much better than their movie counterparts. Peter Quill, in particular, now looks much more like an adult who can’t accept he’s no longer a teenager. The new looks come bundled with brand new outfits, some inspired by pivotal moments in comics or the MCU, and some created exclusively for the game.

Guardians on tour

This game is a visual feast. It makes my eyes happy. The characters are vital, but the locations where their adventures take place are equally as important. In Guardians of the Galaxy, you can’t afford to stop and stare. The story moves fast and the transitions from one world to the next feel just as rapid. No planet looks like another, they all have that unique flair, that special something that imprints them in your memory.

Guardians of the Galaxy usually deal with relatively light topics (at least that’s what you’re supposed to think), and this is masterfully reflected in the worlds they visit. Vividly colored, exotic fields, neon lights in dark alleys, Milano’s safety, outer space’s solitude. The variety is great, but you rarely have the time to get used to the aesthetics of a planet before the story moves on. All the worlds are expertly designed, but the fast pace doesn’t let you take in the sights. As a result, the locations sometimes feel shallow especially when you find out how little room for exploration there is here.

  • Sights of Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Minor spoiler
  • The Quill estate

The short stay in each world made Eidos focus on variety instead of the depth and complexity of each location. However, there is room for interaction with what you see. There are collectibles scattered around the worlds, and our protagonists always have something witty to say about their surroundings. There’s not much variety in said collectibles, but there is a certain cohesion in the spoils you take home that I really appreciated.

Plot

The story is probably the biggest ace up Guardians of the Galaxy’s sleeve. It is by no means what you expect to get when booting up the game. Where you start is nowhere close to where you finish, even though everything is set up from the very beginning. Just like the films, the game tells a deeper story than it lets on. The light-hearted character of the visual presentation, the vivid soundtrack but most importantly, the constant banter between the characters don’t prepare you in the slightest for the emotional roller coaster you’ve signed up for by pressing “New Game”.

The entire gang together

Gardeners of the Galaxy

Our story begins shortly after the Galactic War. Our heroes are not the most popular out there and are looking for ways to gain some credibility as galactic protectors. And some money. So they head to the Quarantine Zone (man, this pandemic has no end to it) in order to catch one of monsters that have been deemed as galactic threats so they can sell it to Lady Hellbender, a space mobster whose reputation precedes itself.

Lady Hellbender

Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but nothing goes according to plan. Our heroes suddenly end up getting arrested by the Nova Corps, the space cops, who caught them illegally entering the Quarantine Zone, and they fine them quite heavily for it. Thus, they are forced to put their life on the line in order to pay the fine. On their quest to secure the necessary funds, they stumble upon an enemy much bigger than they had anticipated and have to seek the aid of both old and new allies. Among them; a four-legged Soviet astronaut, a collective intelligence supercomputer, and a blue space-llama.

Talking to the Worldmind

Team-spirit is of the essence

Transferring characters from paper to the big screen is a difficult task, even more so doing that for our living room consoles. The characters in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy are exemplary. They are multidimensional, they have desires and feelings and get hurt more often than you would expect, they crack jokes that are not always tasteful and they seek each other’s validation. They find it difficult to get along and constantly fight, but never do so with ill intent. Their personal desires often get in the way of their collective action. This game tells a story about a group of misfits that just happened to stick together, and if that’s not the essence of the Guardians of the Galaxy, then I don’t know what is.

Guardians of the Galaxy with Cosmo

The chemistry between them is a sight to behold. As any group of friends would, they make fun of each other and you can also take part in that as well, choosing Peter’s reactions. Depending on what you say, your friends may remember it in the future and influence some of their choices. While Peter is the only playable character, he is far from being a blank slate. You can choose his reactions in certain situations, but nothing feels out-of-character for him. At the same time, the game’s comedic value is not something to be snubbed off. Random puns and the constant banter never get old. When combined with the detailed expressions of Rocket and Drax, they are definitely one of the highlights here.

Wait, how did we even get here?

If you’re like me, you had no idea who the Guardians of the Galaxy were before the MCU came along. Therefore, your perception of these characters is based solely on Marvel’s cinematic content. As we said before, however, the versions of the heroes don’t fully match with their cinematic counterparts. Worry not however, Eidos has taken care to build more than adequately the background of the protagonists.

  • Peter and the gang
  • Menacing
  • Guardians of the Galaxy against Dweller-in-Darkness
  • Peter Quill held at gun-point

Peter Quill is the one who benefits most from flashbacks. We learn some important details about his childhood as well as how he became a Star-Lord. The other crew members may not have the same treatment, but we learn vital information about them through dialogues or the general context.

In short, you can enter the game blindly and until the end have a good idea of what each hero stands for. It may sound elementary, but these basic things are what most storytellers overlook.

Gameplay

Gameplay can be very hit or miss in my experience. Combat does not have that oomph that makes it memorable, exploration is limited and puzzles are easy. However, Eidos Montreal tries so many things during the game that it would be unfair not to appreciate it. There is a great variety in the sections of the game, fortunately, so you never get bored.

Choices

I can’t ignore the fact that gameplay acts as just a vehicle for the plot. All gameplay sections are built around the story told here. Is that a bad thing? Not at all. Filler content is kept to a minimum. There is nothing excessive about Guardians of the Galaxy. We’re so used to encountering the opposite problem: the plot is built around gameplay sections, so that all the gameplay features can stick together. This leads to filler content. None of that here.

Get a load of this

Guardians of the Galaxy is, for the most part, a third-person shooter. We play as Star-Lord after all, and we dual-wield his signature dual pistols. The basic mechanics are perfect, but I always felt like something was missing. Your arsenal consists only of Quill’s handguns, but during the course of the story, they acquire elemental powers, which add a new dimension to each battle. There are combos that you can perform in coordination with the rest of the crew, while as their leader you can direct their movements by giving them instructions on how to use their skills.

Ready for battle

Guardians of the Galaxy is a team game, and it makes sure you don’t forget that. After each battle, instead of investing your XP in the character you’re playing us, you share it with the entire crew. Each character has their own unique abilities and brings different things to the table. This builds on the individuality within the team, which seems to be the overarching concept.

To my utmost disappointment, the battles soon turn into fireworks. There are times when it is difficult to discern what exactly is going on. Target lock doesn’t always work and when it does, it rarely locks on the right target. Dodging is completely hit or miss, to the point that sometimes it just refuses to respond, and you die needlessly.

Star-Lord the explorer

The games linear nature means that you’ll be on the rails for most of your experience. In recent years, linear experiences have been snubbed off. Personally, I am a firm supporter that a good linear experience is far superior to a mediocre sandbox adventure. Guardians of the Galaxy is a great example of this, even though it sacrifices some things to achieve it. Sadly, exploration is one of them.

The Dweller-in-Darkness fight

Every planet you visit is beautiful, but what you can do in terms of gameplay is a bit disappointing. You can find collectibles and collect resources off the floor. And… that’s about it. There are no side missions, although perhaps that’s for the better as the game looks more focused, with no distractions. The most frustrating thing is that you find outfits for your characters in random chests in not-so-well hidden paths. And don’t get me started on the lack of a sprint button.

  • Starship gameplay screenshot
  • Combat screenshot
  • Guide-your-llama gameplay screenshot

It is noteworthy that this particular game finally gives an explanation for the detective mode/eagle vision/witcher senses/callitwhatyouwill that every game nowadays seems to have. Yes, Star-Lord’s visor allows him to see things not discernible to the naked eye. That’s what it does, unlike every other game that just uses it as a hand-holding mechanic. Thanks for coming to my TEDtalk.

The night is young and full of terrors

Under the hood, the game is not in the best condition. When everything works as intended, the result is more than impressive. But more often than not, something goes haywire. Lighting and texture pop-ins (or pop-offs sometimes) are something you’ll have to get used to in this game. Sometimes the button prompts don’t appear in vital gameplay scenes (in fact, that’s how I discovered a secret ending). The game starts in Performance mode by default, and that’s probably intended. While Quality mode is usually my choice for most cinematic games, Guardians of the Galaxy has a hard time keeping a steady 30fps, and Performance seems like the way to go.

Choices

I also encountered two game-breaking bugs that bugged out my objectives and I had to load a previous save. We expect that all these issues are fixed in upcoming patches.

Audio

Sound is a make-or-break part for any respectable game. And the audio on display here is impressive, most of the time.

Drax's deductive ability

Pure ’80s rock soundtrack

Guardians of the Galaxy just wouldn’t be the same without the great soundtrack it has. The music played in Star-Lord’s Walkman consists of iconic rock hits from the ’80s and the vibes are incredible. From David Bowie and Wham! to Motley Crue and Iron Maiden, it’s exactly what you need when emptying mags on aliens. The soundtrack is available in the Milano’s lounge, and you can mess with the playlist all you want. If you want to listen to it outside of the game, the devs have compiled it into a Spotify playlist.

The Galaxy's Greatest Rick-Roll

Undoubtedly, the best feature is the “Huddle Up” that you can execute during a battle. Once your momentum bar is full, you call for a time-out and raise the morale of your team. As you return to battle, a random hype song will start playing in the background. The rest of the OST moves at a slower pace, so as not to overshadow the licensed tracks.

More than fitting voice acting

The voice cast, as is usually the case in blockbuster titles like this one, does a great job. The amount of lines they had to record is greater than most linear games, as Guardians of the Galaxy can be considered lengthy by AAA standards. And yet, you will rarely see a dialogue line repeated. The production value is very high and this is where it’s most apparent.

Cosmo is the best character

Dialogues are extremely well written, and that helps tremendously. Honestly, the screenwriters exceeded all my expectations. Humor is always apt if we consider the personalities we are dealing with, and I caught myself laughing several times with the constant banter between our heroes.

  • Team Green
  • Skype call from Milano's cockpit
  • Set ablaze
  • Rocket explaining his plan

Verdict

I booted up Guardians of the Galaxy having very low expectations and… it was nothing like I expected. In what is definitely one of the most enjoyable surprises of 2021, Eidos’ Guardians deserve a place on the superhero game podium, in between Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Rocksteady’s Arkham Asylum. The plot is full of surprises, a real emotional rollercoaster and through it, you get to know the heroes as they are depicted in the pages of comic books.

Visually, the game is definitely impressive, at least when everything works properly. The soundtrack is one of the most fun ones we’ve come across lately. The gameplay has some flaws, but there is a lot of variety and it usually takes the backseat.

Close-up of the squad

To all the Marvel Geeks out there: Guardians of the Galaxy is a must-play, without a shadow of a doubt. Eidos Montreal did a great job and did not repeat the mistakes made on Marvel’s Avengers. It’s a linear experience, which feels more like going through the pages of a comic book than watching a long movie. There is genuine humor here, the game is overflowing with authenticity, it creates its own story, without interfering with the source material. It sure gave me some pleasant evenings in front of my screen and it will definitely do the same for you.

We would like to thank CDMedia for providing the review copy we used.