The Guardians of the Galaxy. They’re an extraordinary group of supposed heroes who often step across the line and do things that border on being questionable. Having started out life in comic books, before becoming household names as part of the MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe), it’s now time for Star-Lord and the gang to cement their legacy in the gaming world with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.
While this isn’t their first rodeo – see Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series – it’s most definitely their biggest adventure yet. Are Square Enix onto a winning combination with Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket and Groot in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, or is this one crazy mission that’s just too much to handle?
Well, in short, it’s flarkin’ great! For the most part, at least.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an action-packed adventure centred on the titular team, and Star-Lord in particular. The main story begins with the Guardians travelling into the Quarantine Zone in order to procure a rare beast to sell to Lady Hellbender, hoping to rake in some Units. When the plan gets completely derailed though, they decide to cook up a new scheme that will surely irritate the formidable Lady Hellbender. Little do they know that their meddling in the war-torn Quarantine Zone has set off a chain of events that could spell disaster for everyone in the galaxy.
Firstly, the narrative is very well done and cleverly paced so there’s enough time to get your head around everything that’s going on before something else happens; it’s all very natural from the get-go as well, with the Guardians constantly conversing about the situation, discussing their plans and squabbling as to whether they’ll work, or not. It also features a host of other familiar characters alongside those lesser known, creating a nice mixture and a couple of nice surprises. Should you not be well-versed in the lore, there’s depth within if you look hard enough; for example, a raft of collectibles will aid in providing back-stories.
What really stands out is the voice acting, with the main cast doing a terrific job at conveying those infamous personalities and recreating the camaraderie. Even more than that though, there’s plenty of range to ensure the saddest and toughest moments draw out your feelings, while there’s sheer jubilation to be felt in triumph. Jon McLaren (Star-Lord) and Alex Weiner (Rocket) absolutely nail the dynamic between the two characters, with their rocky relationship being a real highlight throughout.
You’ll almost instantly feel integrated into the whole setup too, especially when the dialogue choices come into play and you’re having to make the tough calls. As the leader, Star-Lord, the burden falls upon you to ensure the team is unified – although you’ll quickly settle for them ‘not trying to kill each other’. These decisions may come across as unimportant, but it’s quite interesting to find out some have real consequences which can be of great help or cause hindrance later in the game.
The choices are just merely one of many aspects of the gameplay, with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy cramming quite a lot into the experience. Focusing on the non-combat side and Star-Lord’s visor plays an important role in making progression. Whether you’re wandering around Knowhere or getting lost within a Nova Corps station, once activated it’ll present you with items of interest and point you in the right direction more often than not.
Furthermore, the visor becomes useful during a selection of environmental puzzles by highlighting interactive spots. These include the likes of Pipemania style activities and opportunities to rope in your teammates to manoeuvre heavy objects (Drax) or carve new pathways using a sword (Gamora). Sometimes you encounter chase type sequences, a bit of light platforming, and the odd quick time event. Don’t worry if you fail or fall to your death, as the checkpoints are fairly generous, and should you find the QTEs a struggle, then the accessibility options may come to your rescue – there are a ton of ways to make life easier.
Having a decent amount of variety during the exploration sections helps to fill the gaps between one place and another; if it was all action all the time it would be a touch too much.
When the Guardians do come under threat, it’s pure carnage and quite overwhelming initially. That’s because realisation sets in as you only ever take control of Star-Lord, who wields a pair of blasters against enemies that soak up a lot of damage. Sure, he can move around pretty swiftly thanks to jet boosted boots, but you’re not going to be saving anyone alone.
The idea is to blast and melee the enemies in tandem with instructing the rest of the gang to perform special moves. Each character, including Star-Lord, has four different abilities to unlock and some of the potential combinations are awesome. These moves have a cooldown, so you have to be smart and really utilise their skills to maximise the damage dealt. Groot can bind groups, then you could have Rocket chuck a grenade into the mix, or initiate Drax to charge through them all. Alternatively, calling over Gamora to dash over and slash a few is another great choice. It doesn’t always go smoothly however, and sometimes you need a group huddle to turn the tide of a battle.
Through killing enemies, a Huddle meter will increase and once full, you can trigger a timeout of sorts where you must pick the correct dialogue to give the entire team a damage boost and a cooldown reset. Say the wrong thing and only Star-Lord benefits from it. Nevertheless, a track from the soundtrack starts playing and there’s nothing better than shooting the heck out of a Nova Corps Centurion while singing along to Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go – unless you get Rick-rolled by the Huddle, which is arguably the pinnacle of gaming.
Now, factor in Star-Lord’s perks to increase his efficiency in battle, the QTE finishing manoeuvres, and the elemental shots you can fire off, and you’ve got more than enough attacking options to keep gameplay fresh. The Ice, Electric, Wind and Plasma blasts can be extremely useful against certain types of enemies. The electricity is excellent for staggering multiple foes at once and the wind element actually brings those far away right into the thick of it.
The enemy variety seems decent too, with creatures such as the Jackogel cubes and the menacing Slakebeasts posing different threats to the robotic Inquisitors and members of the Nova Corps. They’re small fry compared to the powerful bosses you’ll face, which can be much larger than the Guardians. It takes patience and strategy to overcome the likes of the humongous Dweller-in-Darkness as you decimate its tentacles meticulously and mop up the distracting minions it spawns. I don’t wish to spoil any more, but there are a handful of interesting and excellently chosen bosses to tackle.
But wait, there’s more. There are times in which you’ll get in the cockpit of the Milano in order to steer it to safety and shoot at folks trying to apprehend you. It’s a nice change from the hand-to-hand combat, even if as an isolated feature it’s nothing overly special in truth. There’s also the option to occasionally chill out on the Milano ship itself, listen to tunes and have a chat with your crew if you so wish. And those tunes play an important role in injecting joy into the adventure.
You can sense great effort has gone into putting the soundtrack together and it’s full of classics from yesteryear. There are some smashing tracks by Blondie, Pat Benatar, Europe, Kiss, Hot Chocolate, and many more. Most impressively though, is the inclusion of basically a full album of songs belonging to a band named Star-Lord who have been created specifically for this game. They’re genuinely great songs too and I have little doubt they will infiltrate your Spotify playlist.
At this point you’re wondering whether this is a Game of the Year contender and, I hate to break it to you, but sadly not. The sad thing is, bugs have reared their darn heads far too often to just be ignored. Sure, the random stuttering of character models, a few wobbly floors and the occasionally out of sync voiceovers – and missing completely a couple of times – is palatable. There are a handful of other niggly problems, but you can overlook those. What’s wholly unacceptable is having to replay entire battles because the game doesn’t recognise you’ve slain the last enemy, or when Star-Lord’s blasters just stop working when you need them in order to advance. The save system is quite unreliable too, especially if you’re trying to manually save progress mid-chapter and expect it to put you exactly where you saved from.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy could’ve easily ended up being a lacklustre attempt at recreating what makes this group of oddballs so endearing to the Marvel community, but that’s not the case. The acting is top drawer, with a script in place that can make you laugh one minute and bring a tear to your eye the next. Each gameplay feature in its own right comes together to form an experience that has almost everything you could ask for and will keep you hooked in. And then you’ve got the intriguing locations to explore as well as the fantastic soundtrack of licensed tracks to accompany the adventure.
If only the bloody bugs didn’t cast a large shadow over it all, then Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy could’ve been a real surprise contender as the best game of the year. Still, it’s great fun to lead this bunch of rejects and you should seriously consider having a go at saving the galaxy.
Save the world in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy right now on the Xbox Store