Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy has all the making of a great super-hero movie. There is chemistry among its cast, an overarching story propels the action and the conflict throughout various chapters, and even the soundtrack gets you in the mood during some intense action sequences. The thing is – this isn’t a movie, but it sure as heck could be one.
- An impressive script augmented by talented acting;
- Deep and involved character development;
- A familiar licensed soundtrack that fits the mood.
- Combat is more of a hassle than a joy;
- Not knowing which decisions make a difference.
The difference here is that you won’t see the likes of Chris Pratt or Dave Bautista – and that’s okay. What you get is an original story and an unrecognizable, yet strong cast that give the most recent Marvel films a run for their money by bringing their own unique story to life. Its script is top-notch, but its one drawback is that this is a video game, and some of its game-y elements bring an otherwise stellar cinematic experience down.
Taking place twelve years after the Galactic War, the current universe seems at peace now that Thanos and the Chitauri threat are gone. Peter Quill and his crew, being the unpredictable lot that they are, somehow end up in the Quarantine Zone and get fined a hefty sum by the Nova Corps. Their pursuit to pay it off leads them to discover a threat that’s just waiting to destroy the entire galaxy.
Divided into chapters, the game progresses at a decent pace, allowing for plenty of character development and moments of action that are sprinkled throughout the 15+ hour experience. There is a lot of buildup to get to the main conflict in the story, and the early chapters serve to introduce you to each Guardian, their interactions and relationships. And believe us when we say there’s a lot of interaction going on.
With a solid script, robust soundtrack, and plethora of expertly delivered lines, it’s obvious a lot of care was put into making Guardians of the Galaxy feel like you were playing through an interactive movie. Its gameplay choices won’t win any awards, but the magic it makes with its witty lines and casual banter succeed in inviting you into its strange, goofy, and striking world.
In fact, during nearly every moment of gameplay you will hear some form of talking, whether it’s an argument, gentle jab at someone’s ego, or idle chit-chat to remove the awkward silence of exploration. It’s very organic and leads to many unique tidbits that go into the heart of what makes each Guardian so unique.
Drax, for example, with matter-of-fact, humorless responses to anything Quill sends his way adds such a subtle humor into everything he says that you’ll look forward to every word that comes out of his mouth, just because you grow to expect it to be good. Even the foul-mouthed Rocket has moments where you empathize with him, but then hate him a few minutes later only to love him again in the end because how he redeems himself throughout the story – it’s a really good character arch.
Each character delivers their lines with such finesse you could think all five Guardians recorded their lines together – because of just how well the conversations flow. You really hear the sharp sarcasm that comes out of Gamora’s mouth, for example, and you will distinguish the dozens of different ways Groot can say “I am Groot” before you start to think you actually understand what the character means. Even side characters and enemies are brought to life thanks to the cast’s impressive voice acting talents and their detailed facial expressions.
The same can be said about the game’s music – part licensed soundtrack and part original score. Notable 80s songs like Holding Out For A Hero and I’ll Tumble 4 Ya can be heard when you’re on your ship, but the game also effectively uses some of these songs at specific moments during cutscenes and battles to amplify the energy. Flying through a corridor full of debris aboard the Milano while hearing White Wedding Pt. 1 playing in the background makes the escape even more epic.
Decision making moments
The game follows a linear format that includes a mix of exploration, cutscenes, and battles throughout each chapter. A large chunk of your playthrough will consist primarily of walking through expansive environments to get to the goal. There are some light environmental puzzles that you need to solve every now and then, and while you only control Quill, you also need to call on your Guardian pals to help you get past them. Gamora can slash away blockades, Groot can create a bridge across small gaps, Drax can carry large objects to jump on, and Rocket can get into small spaces to hack devices. You will rarely get stumped, but these puzzles give you something to do besides just walk from point A to point B.
During these exploratory segments, you will sometimes need to make a choice on a topic that is being discussed, sometimes siding with a character, defending another, or choosing to break up a fight. These segments are benign, and your choices don’t impact much in terms of the story, but other segments have more weight to them and can totally change how a chapter plays out, when you enter a battle, or even how the ending shapes out.
Early in the game, for instance, gaining a character’s trust will score you her key card to her ship which allows you to bypass its doors when you revisit it at a later chapter. You also get a Telltale-like notification when your choice has an impact on someone or the situation, but you don’t know how that changes things later on unless you play the game over again and make a different choice. While this isn’t a decision-heavy game, having some say in certain areas does add a layer of depth and variety to the story, so being told which ones are the important ones would have been nice.
Combat stays pretty much the same throughout all 16 chapters and doesn’t really evolve from the start of the game. Once you enter into a fight, your blasters are your primary source of firepower, so you have to keep shooting enemies or dodging their attacks. These blasters overheat, however, hence you need to time your next shot correctly for them to recharge quickly or spend crucial seconds waiting for cooldown.
Eventually, you will also unlock some elemental shots that are useful in solving certain puzzles but are mainly used in battles against enemies with certain weaknesses. Again, the issue is that these overheat, so while battles will feel like all you are doing is shooting, you can’t simply just hold a button and expect to win because your attacks will suffer for it. You need to rely on your crew as well.
Just like you did when you had to solve some puzzles, you can also direct your pals to attack enemies with their unique abilities. Groot can bind enemies, Rocket’s explosives can cover a large area, Drax is able to stagger enemies with his punches, and Gamora can focus on a few enemies for some lethal damage. It’s a process that can easily be repeated for every battle – even against the cool-looking bosses – and because every Guardian attack has a cool-down as well, you will be basically alternating your attacks each time.
If you ever need extra help, which is rare unless you play the extra hard modes, you can also call your team together for a huddle to boost morale. During these moments, you need to pick the right pep talk and then watch as your pals get powered up while some 80s’ tunes play in the background. Huddles are great when you want to get a fight over with, but pep talks do begin to repeat over time.
All your efforts reward you with ability points that further unlock new attacks for you and your pals to use during fights. The problem is that most of these extra abilities can be unlocked before you even finish the game leaving you with some unused points. Additionally, you can unlock all the game’s perks early on, too, with the various collectible resources you find. These alter your stats and make combat more tolerable, but there are too few of them overall.
Zero to hero
It’s obvious Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t a difficult nor complicated game, and you will sometimes think it wants you to play it slowly so you can capture all the cinematic splendor – visual and auditory – it provides. Some dialogue that occurs among your crew, for example, can be easily skipped if you rush things. Combat, however, isn’t its forte and suffers from being repetitive at best.
Our reviews are featured on Metacritic.
With a solid script, robust soundtrack, and plethora of expertly delivered lines, it’s also obvious a lot of attention was put into making Guardians feel like you were playing through an interactive movie. Its gameplay choices won’t win any awards, but the magic it makes with its witty lines and casual banter succeed in inviting you into its strange, goofy, and striking world.
Giancarlo Saldana | Gamepressure.com