For the second time in less than a decade, I have sat idly by while a new entry to the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise was creeping ever closer. Perhaps it worked in my favour that I didn’t hype myself up for the movie or the game, because the results were utterly mind-blowing both times. Thanks to the work by Eidos-Montréal and their publisher Square Enix, we may just have the surprise blockbuster of 2021. Step into the jet boots of Peter Quill, the galaxy’s most prolific adventure-for-hire, his words not mine, or as he is more commonly known, Star-Lord.
Broken up over chapters, Guardians of the Galaxy will quite literally take you on an adventure across the galaxy. Set 12 years after the galactic war waged from the monstrous Chitauri, you will already be established as a team and will be filled in on past adventures through general storytelling, set pieces, and character interactions. Each location is jaw-dropping, to say the least, with a pulsating pinkish hue as the dynamic theme throughout the game.
I felt an endorphin rush even perusing the menu. Broken ship graveyards and bustling flora paths guide you through the linear missions and make every location feel larger than life. The Milano serves as your base of operations and it is a literal mess inside, which actually sold the environmental storytelling over the standard clean-cut and shiny interiors of most games set in space.
As the name would suggest, there is more than just the cocky and somehow capable Star-Lord that makes up the Guardians. In this action-adventure game, you are accompanied by four of the most unlikely of allies. Groot is the last known Flora Colossus, he is a menacing-looking tree beast but as gentle as they come. Groot has banded together with the genetically engineered Rocket, a creature who is definitely not a raccoon.
Again his words, not mine. A perfect pair with Groot’s limited vocabulary and height advantage being offset by Rocket’s colourfully foul mouth and short stature create the yin and yang of the group. Gamora, on the other hand, is the cool, calm, and collected Zen-Whoberian who can hang with the best of them when it comes to combat, and her sword is equally as sharp as her tongue. Last but not least is the living tank of a Katathian named Drax the Destroyer. His no-nonsense approach means he rarely misses the target but frequently misses the sarcasm.
Team composition is the foundation of this game and managing their egos is equally as important as managing their many combat abilities. There was a definitive decision made to make Star-Lord the lead of this game and through an easily accessible ability wheel, you can dictate when and how your allies fight. Each member has been fitted with skills to match their personality and can play off one another like a well-oiled machine. Groot being the gentle giant is the designated support type who can heal or entangle groups of enemies. Once entangled, you can set Drax to pummel the larger enemies until they are stunned, unleash a devastating strike from Gamora, and then mop up the stragglers with an explosive device from Rocket.
It is a fluid and easily accessible addition to your own set of skills that gives you all the benefits of a diverse team while focusing on the bigger picture. Your jet boots with quick maneuverability options let you circle the battlefield and light up the enemies with your twin blasters. It was genuinely a breath of fresh air not having to tackle the world by myself, and even better, be rewarded handsomely the better the team synergy. There was an Awesome meter, for lack of a better term, that would build up during each fight that you cash in for experience points that can be directly invested back into the team for more unique abilities.
It was the subtle things that make combat so much fun. Having Star-Lord shooting over his shoulder as I ran away from the hordes, and Rocket scampering around the edges of the map to gain a tactical advantage for his shots made it feel believable. Holding the left trigger kept me locked on to enemies and let me dodge, duck, dip, dive, and dodge all I wanted, and the camera would never fail to keep track of my target. There are even environmental objects that you can command each member to interact with to tip the momentum back in your favour.
The final addition that blew me away was the team huddle, if your allies get overwhelmed and either collapse or are on the brink of defeat, you can call a team huddle that sets up a cut scene and gives you two options to deliver distinct motivational speeches. Choose wrong and only you will get a damage buff but choose right, and your whole team will be reinvigorated and charged with a newfound surge of energy. Either way, it’s a win as it will revive your whole team anyway and it starts one of the iconic 80’s music hits to get you pumped! The music was actually a huge part of the identity of this game. It’s like the iconic list of songs was made to get you hyped for battle.
As for the adventure side of the game, you will carry over the same feeling of group management with interactive banter that can help shape your overall experience. You will frequently be torn between two party members bickering with each other and have to pick sides. They pop up quickly and often, but only offer two choices so it keeps the conversations rolling and story pace flourished under these conditions. These same choices can affect how you tackle any given mission, but don’t worry as it all leads to the same goal.
Being an original story made just for this game, there was the initial teething of new voice actors and character behaviours. In my opinion, it leaned more towards the recent live-action movie personas. Through finding collectables that unlock more intimate moments of dialogue between the characters, I had fully adjusted to this band of characters very early on. It gave me that feeling of a family on a cross country tour, and they are at each other’s throats but would stick their neck out for one another all the same. With standout voice acting from the entire cast, the writing brought to life the laugh-out-loud jibs and jabs and hit me like a ton of bricks during some of the more emotional moments.
This whole experience was jam-packed from top to bottom and I haven’t even mentioned the huge campaign moments that had me clicking and pointing at the TV like that Leonardo Dicaprio meme. This is the game I was expecting from “Marvel’s The Avengers” and has exceeded all expectations. With no prior knowledge needed, this is a must-experience game for people of all walks of life, and if you will excuse me, I need to go back and listen to this masterpiece of a soundtrack on loop.
- Fast, smooth and engaging combat system
- Excellent writing and story
- The 80’s music playlist blends seamlessly with gameplay
- Stunning art direction
- Left me wanting more
- Some encounters repeat enemy types
- Some frame rate drops in the larger set pieces