When Marvel’s Avenges launched, the main criticism is the concept of the “game in progress” style. Instead of buying a complete game at launch, gamers were treated to more of a title that would slowly develop over time. Add in a ton of microtransactions and a short single-player campaign that left a lot of players feeling slighted against Square Enix. When Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy got announced during this year’s E3, the reception was lukewarm. It felt like the collective opinion was this would be just another game, nothing special at all. Maybe having such low expectations is the key to happiness, as Guardians of the Galaxy is a far better game than what we expected.
Story: Peter Quill and the Guardians
The story centers around the Guardians still trying to establish a name for themselves. Peter Quill leads the team as they try to get a lot of credits and the target off their back. There’s a ton of fun sequences and quips from everyone that’s sure to get a laugh. Yet, the most surprising aspect of the plot is the exploration of grief. They may be joking around a lot, but Guardians are broken people that are bonded by their tragic pasts. We get scenes showing this, and it just tugs at your heartstrings with seeing their sad backstory. The main villain makes them confront their history, which adds so much depth to their characters.
One of the initial aspects that people were sour about was the big focus on Star-Lord. The opportunity to play as all the Guardians is squashed as you can only play as Peter Quill. Credit towards the developers who made a character that not many people would enjoy into a fantastic leading. He’s someone who’s cocky and boasting, but it doesn’t go over the line where you start disliking him. It does feel like you’re playing Peter as the leader instead of playing as the whole team.
The character depth and reveal from the other members are through Quill’s eyes. Through his conversations, we get to understand the team’s indivisible backstory and who they were before meeting up. Since the gameplay is designed for you to only play as Star-Lord, this character structure works within the frame. And for what it’s worth, the Guardians are a ton of fun. Everything from when they get along to the nonstop bickering, the squad shines bright. Fans of the MCU interpretations will get that familiar feel while playing the game, but the characterization makes it feel like it’s not a carbon copy.
Gameplay: Tactical Action
You take control of Star-Lord through a third-person perspective as you solve puzzles and blast away enemies. I love how much usage the game gets out of Star-Lord’s visor. It’s not featured as prominent in the movies because that would mean hiding Chris Pratt’s face. His visor acts as a detective vision mode that spots out key pieces that you can interact with. It’s a bit annoying how scanning objects with your mask can get finicky. But once you’re done scanning, and it’s interactive, Peter can command his teammates to help him out.
This translates to combat as it becomes a lot more tactical. The player still takes control of Peter as he uses his guns and fists to take on enemies, but he gets to show his leader chops. You give orders to the Guardians as they unleash special attacks. Groot focuses on crowd control, Rocket handles the explosives, Drax heavily staggers enemies, and Gamora deals a lot of slashing damage. There’s not much variety to the combat as it can get stale after a couple of chapters. Once you get used to the strategy of it all, there’s not a lot of variety to it. Even with additional skills that you can purchase, you just go through the emotions in battle.
Graphics & Sound: Glam Rock Fun
Since the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie, a kicking soundtrack has been a big component of the IP’s identity. Square Enix decided that this game also needed a lot of music to enchant the experience. They stray away from the classic rock songs from the 70s’ and instead went with the majority of 80s’ synth-pop songs as the base. There’s no story reason why they’re in the game besides Peter having an infinity for his Earth life. You occasionally hear the music during battle, but it doesn’t last for a long time. At most, you’ll get under a minute, and it stops as soon as you win.
What’s most surprising is the fantastic job that composer Richard Jacques does with this score. It embraces the space epic and delivers an incredible adrenaline rush. He also nails the emotional aspect that compliments the scenes dealing with grief. Another impressive thing that the developers have done is the creation of the Star-Lord Band. They’re a fictional band within the game that Peter is a big fan of and takes a lot of inspiration from. It’s not just one song, but an entire album of original songs on display. The Star-Lord Band is a genuinely great group that has shades of Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, and other bands of that style. Kudos to Steve Szczepkowski for making an in-game masterpiece.
The music matches the style that the epic rock album covers used to have. Huge landscapes with giant Celestial heads in the background that’ll make you marvel. Combine with the color palette of stark neon colors including vibrant gold and purple beautifully fill the screen. It’s a shame that we can’t really explore these lands because the designers did such a great job. Another admirable job that Square Enix did is the facial animations because they’re so detailed. The subtlety of the faces when they twitch with discomfort or annoyance is really well done.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was reviewed on PS5.