Square-Enix’s subsidiary Eidos Montreal has tackled another sector of the Marvel universe in their adaptation of the Guardians of the Galaxy. When the first trailers dropped, it seemed like they took the original film franchise that started in 2014 and added a new rock-focused paint job. There was some skepticism with the focus on Star-Lord being the only playable character, Yet, as more trailers were released it offered a glimpse into what may be a fun new interpretation of these beloved characters and may offer one of gaming’s most unique world designs. Does it live up to its expectations or falter under the weight of expectation?
The story starts simply with our group of Guardians trying to nab a decent bounty and make a quick buck. Yet, they end up getting caught for their infiltrating an unrestricted area and have to pay off a fine for the Nova Corps. As you can guess, it’s never that simple and things start to unravel from thereon. There’s a curious plot point that stands out as it humanizes the struggle Quill goes through in the story, as well as adds a layer to make it a surprisingly personal story as events unfold. This core narrative is one of the most exciting aspects of the game, as you follow these characters from one planet to another as everything just seems to unravel. We get a chance to explore a very different kind of Marvel galaxy with some familiar characters.
We have to keep in mind, Guardians of the Galaxy is an intellectual property that was completely unknown to non-comic readers until James Gunn redefined our understanding of them. Nowadays, they are a household name and you can see that some elements are inescapable when adapting these characters. Peter Quill and Drax share a lot of traits with their cinematic counterparts, especially the former with his love for music. Yet, they took an interesting angle by sticking to the 80s-inspired music but giving him a stronger rock-centric interest. That especially comes to the forefront with the fictional band Star-Lord, which is the new origin of his code name.
Drax is a good example of how they took the base personality of these characters from the films but added additional layers. He still takes things quite literally but is given a much more grounded personality this time around. He gets some of the most emotional scenes in the game, as we explore his relationship with his wife and daughter, or rather how he handles the tragedy. Every member of this group connects the overarching challenges to their core worries. Rocket has a fear that is rooted in his origin while Gamora has some baggage we slowly learn about throughout the story. Personally, though, Rocket is a standout character, who purposefully rubs you the wrong way before slowly we get to know the character better and why he behaves the way he does.
Of course, a game is more than just its core narrative. As the trailers promised, you only control Star-ord directly but can command your team throughout the battle scenarios. Every member is specialized in something and you’ll need to make use of each member to survive most encounters. That doesn’t mean Star-Lord is weak, as he uses his Elemental Guns that include different abilities. You’ll unlock most of them throughout the game, which is activated through a specific moment in Peter’s journey. At times, it does become a lot to keep an eye on and memorize throughout a fight. I’ve more than often accidentally activated the Huddle mechanic due to how easy it is to activate.
Speaking of, every game has some kind of special move that gives you bonuses or ways to take down enemies more efficiently. In Guardians of the Galaxy, it is called a huddle, where you call in your teammates, analyze their current mood and pick a fitting answer to motivate them. If you fail to do so, only Star-Lord will get a bonus. It’s an interesting idea that fits into the “leader” role of the character, but it’s kind of a pacing breaker. Everyone huddles up, they talk quite a bit, you choose an answer that you have to listen to the audio cue before you enter battle again. While an interesting idea, it’s also not satisfying outside of maybe getting back some special abilities and stat boosts. Also, I once got stuck in it and they just kept staring into my soul without a button prompt which was a fun experience.
I’ve experienced quite a few bugs while playing on the PlayStation 5. Some in-game models would pop out and into existence. Enemies would get stuck in place, or textures would take some time before they popped in. I even had the game suddenly crash on me in the middle of a fight, but it was only once in my entire playthrough. They’re far from a dealbreaker but were a bit noticeable. I also have to point out that there’s a great mechanic where you collect items and your crewmates share stories with you. For some reason, Drax was following me around and when I started a conversation with Gamora, he was stuck between us. It might be one of the funniest bugs I ever had, especially cause Drax not caring about personal space is in character for him.
Still, even with these bugs, they don’t take away from the beauty of this game. The environments and creature designs might be some of the best I’ve seen in a game. Instead of grounding the concepts, they went with the wildest, Lovecraftian-inspired designs you could imagine. Each planet has a very distinct visual style, such as one covered in ice with fire raining from the sky. Even Nova Corps. ships have elements that make them visually stand out in contrast to the diverse flora and fauna you meet in your adventure.
Overall, Guardians of the Galaxy surprised me in many ways. The story is exciting and has that feeling of adventure you expect from this kind of game. Some emotional moments anchor these characters in interesting ways that make them stand out from their cinematic counterparts. Add in a dash of visual creativity and fun combat, you have a recipe that lends itself to a brand new franchise. Here’s hoping we get to explore more aspects of space in future entries. Just like the incredible music selection and fictional Star-Lord band, the game just rocks even with its faults.