Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy forge their own identity – and lose it in chaos
Looks like the odds are stacked against us: Rocket and Groot are crouched, wounded in a corner, while Gamora and Drax push back waves of armored cultists – some armed with electric mines. But while the Guardians of the Galaxy may be down, don’t quite count us just yet. It’s time to have a pep talk, get this crazy bunch of renegades together and fight. As their enigmatic leader Star-Lord (aka Peter Quill), this job is coming back to me, and I’m (mostly) happy to take it on.
I gather the Guardians in a Huddle, an ability that was unlocked during combat, and listen to their concerns about the current situation. “There are too many,” Rocket tells me, as others bicker with each other. Presented with two choices I reassure them that we have our backs to each other and they break the caucus satisfied. Great job, Quill.
Suddenly I hear the all-too-familiar sounds of an iconic guitar riff as Rainbow’s Since You Been Gone starts to explode – fortuitously, as I listened to the band on my way to play Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. That’s enough to give Quill and the Guardians a boost, lifting Groot and Rocket from their fallen states and giving me the energy I so badly need on a Thursday afternoon. As I detonate every enemy that crosses my path, or lay one of my comrades on top of them when I’m feeling a little lazy, I find myself chanting, “Since you left!” Destroy. “I’m crazy, I can’t take it!” Bench.
It’s a strange combination: 80s rock music combined with galactic creatures fighting on a spaceship overrun by cultists. And that’s what makes them the epitome of Guardians of the Galaxy.
A whole new galaxy
I’ll be honest, I haven’t been sold on the Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy game since its first trailers. Part of that skepticism was due to the fact that Square Enix had already burned me once with Marvel’s Avengers and, as a Marvel fan, I didn’t want to give hope again. It was also, perhaps, because – whether I like it or not – seeing another take on the Beloved Guardians, which differs from the MCU, is a somewhat difficult transition to make.
So I entered my hands-on session with the Guardians of the Galaxy with trepidation, hoping to be pleasantly surprised. And, to some extent, I was.
I jumped into the Guardians of the Galaxy about four hours later. The Guardians had just escaped the clutches of Lady Hellbender and were on their way to Nova Corps to pay a fine they owed – standard. But, before heading to Nova Corp, you have the opportunity to explore the Guardian’s spaceship, the Milano, and chat with your fellow Guardians, to learn more about their stories. It’s reminiscent of Mass Effect, but with a much smaller area to explore.
What may irritate some players is that Marvel’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy takes place in a universe of Eidos Montreal’s own creation, inspired by comics, movies and TV shows, rather than a universe specifically based on the existing Marvel canon. The game is set 12 years after a massive galactic war initiated by the Chitauri, a race of shapeshifting aliens, who rippled across the galaxy and had a lasting effect on each of our Guardians.
As Quill (the playable character in the game), you can explore each Guardian’s rooms, before picking up an artifact of their own and having a conversation with the Guardian related to the item about its meaning. It’s a nice way to incorporate this new lore of the universe, putting the comedy aside for a moment and allowing you to dig deeper into the characters – many of whom have pretty traumatic backstories – while also bringing in the Guardians more. “Humans”. However, he sometimes feels slightly stuck. I’m not sure why Rocket Racoon would keep the spine control device that tortured him in the open, or why Quill would keep his Chiaturi prisoner handcuffs on the bedside table. Either way, it helps to familiarize players with this new universe.
Each of the Guardians, too, is acting exactly as you expect. Drax is too literal, Rocket sarcastic but brilliant, Gamora doesn’t take bullshit, and Groot is… well… Groot? Quarrels between them often give rise to brilliant replies, some of which made me laugh out loud. Quill, meanwhile, is the arrogant but well-meaning leader of this colorful group, constantly presented with the choice of what to say who will be best for his team – with his decision ultimately resulting in a positive or negative reaction. It’s a chaotic house and Quill is the exhausted mother.
It is in his fight that Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy begins to falter. I fell into the game, as I said before, a few hours later after going through a separate tutorial. But, still, there is a parcel assimilating and implementing all of this (it doesn’t matter how much you remember) in battle throws is not easy.
Star-Lord’s primary weapon is his Element Pistol which, during our preview, only had an unlocked Freeze ability. Star-Lord can fire normally, but can also use the freezing element when needed (this is especially useful against enemies with shields). However, locking enemies (L2 on PS5) requires holding down the lock button, which can become a somewhat frustrating and tiring exercise for your finger when you also have to hold the fire button (R2 on PS5) – a test even for those who do not have dexterity problems. There is also no option to toggle the lock.
Guardian abilities also suffer from a similar issue. You can order a specific Guardian to perform an attack (or interact with something in the world) using L1 on PS5, then hold it down while you select the shape button representing the Guardian you are using. you want to choose. However, in the middle of the fight I found it left me a bit open to attack. I was trying to keep moving with the left analog stick, as I selected a Guardian with L1 and Triangle, for example, all at the same time – with the movement often inevitably falling by the wayside. If you then throw the aforementioned, mind-blowing Huddle, a bar that lets you quickly reload ammo if you hit it in time, combined Guardian attacks and the other combat elements I already forgot, and you’ve got too much cooks in the kitchen – and that doesn’t make the meal any more interesting.
Combat isn’t only unnecessarily complicated, but it can often be a bit boring, even with this bombardment of features. However, there is an option to create upgrades with Rocket on the workbench to further tailor your approach to your playstyle.
What was exciting was the Huddle feature. I eagerly awaited his arrival at every battle, wondering what licensed song from the 80s would make the soundtrack to my fight next. Are the new kids on the block difficult? To verify. Europe’s final countdown? To verify. This is the part that made the fight really interesting and seemed to be the one aspect of the fight that was unique to the Guardians of the Galaxy. I just wish there had been more moments like this – although maybe they wouldn’t have had the same effect if they had been under two cents.
Not quite convinced
I still don’t know what to do with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. I enjoyed my time with her and am intrigued by what Eidos Montreal has planned for its own unique narrative version of Galactic Renegades. But, other than a few occasional huddles, nothing about the gameplay really got me excited. While the choices are interesting, they don’t seem to affect how the game actually plays out.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy risk repeating Marvel’s Avengers mistakes if its campaign mode and story isn’t well paced and intriguing – and from what I’ve played, I couldn’t tell you if that. is the case. But he also risks making some of his own mistakes. Marvel’s Avengers at least had some tight, enjoyable character fights that made you feel like you truly were one of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes – something the Guardians of the Galaxy seem to miss.
I was only able to play Guardians of the Galaxy for an hour and a half and my previous apprehension about its release has not completely subsided. Marvel’s upcoming release features some brilliant ideas that seem like they should have been at the center of the game, but one key area is missing: combat.
Hopefully Eidos Montreal has created a universe that will fill that void or we will see a tightening of the fights ahead of release on October 26, 2021. At the very least, I can’t wait to hear what classic Quill’s Walkman anthem will roll out next.