Guardians of the Galaxy became one of my favorite entries in the MCU with their theatrical debut back in 2014. It was just a fun time with an engaging style that incorporated down-on-their-luck heroes, an ‘80s soundtrack, and sci-fi roots.
It always felt the most interesting of the MCU movies at the time, so when Square Enix announced that they would be developing a Guardians of the Galaxy game with a narrative focus, I was pretty excited.
Would it be able to deliver on the connection that I felt I had with these characters? Would it make them feel like the Guardians that I had grown to love? And would it retain the happy-go-lucky feel that seems to drip from the James Gunn material I was familiar with? The answer to all of that is YES – but that doesn’t necessarily make it a home run.
A Fun but Drawn-Out Narrative
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely focused on its plot and characters above everything else. The game opens with Star-Lord in his mother’s basement before his life changed forever. He’s rocking out to one of his favorite tapes before his mother checks in on him.
The entire room is explorable so that you can get a sense of how young Star-Lord was as a teenager. It’s a fun sequence and one that kind of gives you the idea of where the meat of this game should have been focused because there are three distinct environments in Guardians of the Galaxy: The narrative locations, walking sections, and combat sections.
These simplified design choices begin to stick out in the later parts of the game but it was always enjoyable looking around Rocket’s bedroom, searching a ship’s hangar, or delving into the Nova Corps’ criminal database. The attention to detail can be staggering in these sections.
After the flashback ends, Star-Lord is back aboard the Milano getting ready for another mission that will hopefully bring in some credits for the crew. Get used to the Milano because you’ll be exploring its cramped halls often as the story progresses. Here you are able to talk to your crew, get to know them, and debrief from past missions.
That’s one thing I hadn’t realized early enough was how important communicating to the crew could be in future encounters. Rocket, Drax, Groot, and Gamora (as well as a few other characters) will remember conversations and actions that you take and can impact future situations.
Once, you take charge and navigate to the next mission, the story becomes just a series of unfortunate events until the end of the game. First, you’ll release a universe-destroying entity who kills your former lover before taking a child hostage and brainwashing the entire galaxy to bend to its whim while the next sees you trying to hunt down a giant cosmic dragon for a monster collector.
That seems straightforward but like many games, there are a lot of missions that are inserted for time and can feel like side missions when everything is said and done.
The game is about 16 chapters but I think it would have been better to only be 10 or 12. By the end of the game, I had had just about enough of the game but not necessarily because of the story that Square Enix created. But this is a game, and the gameplay should be the focus and the gameplay in Guardians could often feel a little stale.
The Guardians of the Galaxy is a lot of fun due to how the crew is always going to new and exciting locations. From snowy tundras to giant mushroom platforms with crashing lightning, there are some seriously memorable locations to visit.
Every new level felt like a little adventure as I got to experience these worlds; some of which I was familiar with from other media. It was so much fun gambling in Knowhere amid the hustle and bustle of the sketchy port or spending some downtime in Milano watching Rocket tinker with some gadgets.
It’s even better to go off the beaten path as it can often reward the player with a new costume for one of the main crew members or additional resources for unlocking new abilities.
However, these little branches off the beaten path are often just that: branches. In reality, these beautiful worlds are nothing more than long hallways with combat sections in between them. Sometimes this doesn’t feel as bad like in the levels that took place on ships but on the planet levels, these linear designs really stick out.
The only thing that makes this a little more tolerable is how the Guardians shake up their dialogue based on recent events and what the new level has to offer. You can hear Gamora expressing her frustration with Quill or Rocket trying his best to encourage everyone to support his plan rather than Groot’s so that his friend doesn’t have to be subjected to a cage.
The characters themselves help to boost the less than satisfactory aspects of the game. Wandering through one of the later levels listening to everyone gossip about Quill and another character helped to flesh out the environment more than it would have otherwise.
I almost wish that this game was more like Heavy Rain and less like an updated Marvel Ultimate Alliance because my least favorite thing was the combat.
Squad-Based Action Bit of a Mixed Bag
You just can’t have everything when it comes to AAA games nowadays. Considering graphics, story, and gameplay, a game usually only has two out of three. Guardians of the Galaxy’s main gameplay focus is the combat which feels oddly mashed into the other aspects of this game like some grotesque Frankenstein’s monster.
You only fully control Star-Lord and can order other members of the Guardians to support with different abilities during combat. For instance, Groot can hold people down with his vines while Gamora slices enemies up with her sword. Each Guardian has four special abilities that can be used (Star-Lord included) and these all range from crowd control to damage output.
This all sounds like it could be interesting but the game stops dishing out anything interesting to fight about three hours in. Enemies will become more powerful as the game scales but strategies never really change even when more powers unlock.
The exception to this is when Star-Lord’s guns power up and a new environmental ability can be used such as fire, ice, wind, or electricity. Each of these abilities can interact with enemies differently and can help to change the flow of a fight. They also allow the player to reach new areas in a level for collectibles.
These elements all seem like they might have the next evolution in the Marvel Ultimate Allegiance formula that was once so popular; however, it became incredibly tedious as the enemies were only slightly different variations of one another. Bosses could be fun but when every open area became the same combat schtick over and over again, I was counting down the chapters until the end.
I would have loved it if Guardians were shorter and just didn’t have combat or reduce its importance to the overall gameplay at the very least. Guardians of the Galaxy has a lot of fun elements but combat and the overly long story made it feel more bloated than it should have. 7/10
One thought on “Guardians of the Galaxy | Backlog Review”
This is one of those I’m keen to get to, because it looks like a self-contained narrative that I can have a blast with, without having to commit too much time to (even if you mention it might go a bit too long). I hope companies take lessons from the critical success of the game and how people responded to it not overdoing online functionality (cough Avengers cough).