Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy surprised the hell out of me. I expect standard, blockbuster action-RPG rate painted with an 80s nostalgic sheen that never makes an emotion more meaningful than “cool, they have the rights to Blondie!” And while the developers at Eidos Montreal really got the rights to Blondie and an impressive host of other 80s main characters, I was shocked to discover a game that had so much heart and emotional depth that I caught it a few times, a Respect to whisper. “damn” on screen. While the fight may be a bit of a slog, every Guardian and almost every non-Guardian is so well written and voiced, you don’t mind talking it out to get to the juicy character development bits.
Guardians of the Galaxy has absolutely nothing to do with the Marvel Cinematic Universe and hardly kisses comic continuity, although some of the characters’ backstory introduced in the movies still apply. Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, is still a man who was plundered by the Earth in the 80s to live a new life in space before cleaning up his act. Gamora is the face-transformed daughter of Thanos. Drax is a widow warrior from the planet Katath who is unable to understand sarcasm. Rocket is a space experiment wrong or right depending on the perspective, and Groot is still the three-syllabic tree creature that only Rocket understands.
We begin with the Guardians 12 years after the end of an intergalactic war that saw Thanos defeated in the ruthless Chitauri Empire. You play as Peter Quill, pilot of the spaceship Milano and leader of the newly discovered Guardians of the Galaxy – a mercenary group that literally does everything for money. Peter’s friends and colleagues are prickly, selfish people who still get to know each other, and it’s your job to keep them in line as best you can as you make your way through the ruins and then the Galaxy saves.
The characters in this game are amazing, and I love everyone, even the ones I did not really care about in the movies. To avoid offending the actors, all the characters look like Wal-Mart brand versions of their film counterparts. It was tuned in at first, but I preferred the awesome Valley Guardian look-alikes. Drax the Destroyer never moved my needle, if you know what I mean. Dave Bautista is a good guy, but I was just not attracted to his Drax. And even though Game-Drax has the same incredibly dry personality and (mostly) the same look as Movie-Drax, it’s a tenderness for him that we just did not see in the movies. His extreme aggression and violence are just a smokescreen that hides a man who is still quietly mourning the murder of his wife and child by Thanos.
Early in the game, you often have to defend Gamora (the murderous daughter of his family) against him, he corrects when he calls her “assassins” instead of her name. At the end of the game, when all the Guardians have broken off their hardest, prickly pieces, Drax starts calling Gamora by name all by himself, and he says one of the sweetest lines I’ve ever heard in a video game – says , that when they die in their search, he will ask his God if there is room for his friends in his heaven. Of course, I immediately fell in love. It also does not hurt that Drax is a physically competent himbo who always moves or chucks heavy objects while he is without a shirt. Let’s just say that Drax could destroy me at any moment.
Rocket Raccoon was another surprise for me. Early in the game, you have the ability to throw Rocket like a football over a chasm so he can hack a panel that creates a bridge that the party can use to get to. Rocket, of course, objects for this treatment. If you choose the throwing option (as I did), Rocket is angry – not because of the bodily harm, but because you violated his autonomy. Rocket Raccoon is a Looney Toon; he is a foul-mouthed raccoon that makes things explode. Ha, ha, very funny. It’s easy to dismiss him as a joke – that’s exactly how he’s treated in the film – and it would have been very easy, even expected, to stick the game further in this characterization without examining how Rocket feels about it. Even though he has the appearance of a small, dirt-eating forest creature, Game Rocket refuses people to treat him as less than human. The moment is a really good example of the game’s choice / consequence system, because when you throw it, Rocket does not let you forget it, and he makes you look like a piece of shit, which, when you throw it, is a bit.
The choice in this game is really well made. The game treats your decisions with enough weight to make them feel important, while also throwing cool changes in choice presentation. Like most games with a choice of mechanics, options are presented as a dialog box on a timer. The game stops, and you have so many seconds to make your choice before the action resumes with a little “character will remember” box ala the telltale games of yesteryear. Later in the game, in the middle of the fight, Gamora says that she is pursuing the escaped evil. In this situation, there was no stop and no dialog box; therefore, I did not know that at that time a choice was being made. The battle arena has been set up so that you can follow Gamora, or you can continue the fight with Rocket, Groot and Drax. I want to pull my friend back, I chased after her. The platform on which I was running exploded, plunged me into what would have been a case leading up to my death, but Gamora ran in to rescue me, refusing to pursue her. Then a box appeared, “Gamora is angry. You did not let her drive away the evil.” I was amazed, unaware that I had made a decision there, impressed with the way Eidos Montreal changed when the election was presented, changing it from the expected text you choose as to turn off a list and something what you do to your character.
The characters are alive and well Wärter, and it makes them the biggest appeal of the game. They respond to what you do and the voters you do. Gamora has often yelled at me and she does not trust to go the bad guy alone, and if you wander to discover a hidden nook or cranny in search of one of the game’s many collectibles, they will call you out, chiding you to waste time.
Fighting is the least enjoyable part of the game, but it’s not too big of a deal-breaker. As Peter, you are equipped with pistols that fire elemental bullets, and you can also command your Guardians by performing one of three standard skills or a special super movement. Once you have mastered the staggering system, elemental properties, and issue commands, the fight becomes a red experience to gain for the most part rather than enjoy. There is just enough variety and enemy weaknesses, environmental risks, and skills that successfully put together combos is not terribly repetitive, but the fight is just not where this game shines. Enemies are not difficult, they are time-consuming, and when the game chains battle headings back and forth that are filled with the largest, beefiest monster types, there will be a slog. There is a particularly memorable sequence at the end, which was an endless corridor of battle arenas with no platform sections interspersed to break the action. It was the most boring part of the game.
I do not like the controls either. It was too easy to get my wire cut off, a huddel triggered when I thought rocket would immediately throw a grenade. Huddles are an ultimate skill that either buffs you or all of your party, depending on the dialogue choice you make. They started out as a sweet little treat but soon became very old. In a game that is extremely good at how the characters react to events in their context, huddles are a strange aberration. The Guardian’s comments are never appropriate for battle, and if you trigger one during a boss fight, they do not even mention who you are fighting. Huddles are also an unexpected source of jokes. In addition to providing a buff and a cure for party members, a Huddel also plays a song from the aforementioned 80s hit list quite randomly. I do not know about you, but when I think of an 80s, heartfelt, pick-me-up song, I do not think of “Bad Reputation”; I think of “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.” The game is over … dacks. Throughout my playthrough, I’ve never heard of Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For A Hero” after a huddle, even though that song was played during all of the game’s promotional videos. I held a hero, and no one came.
How many, I have you Guardians of the Galaxy Film duology more than I thought. It’s the same for the Marvel Guardians of the Galaxy. It would have been easy to stretch the skin of a typical superhero movie plot over the bones of a standard action game and call it a day – pretty much like most of Marvel’s Avengers. May Wiechter nevertheless to be a lifeless, fleshy Hulk, instead of being a living, breathing creature with a heart beating all over the screen and bleeding.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is now available on PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, and PC.