Blending everything you’d expect and want from a Guardians adventure into an impeccable game that is pure joy from start to finish, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy from Square Enix proves to be something special. The game throws its players right into an amazingly immersive world, filled with easter eggs, tonnes of Marvel characters, great combat, humour and music.
Although I don’t really want to get too far into the story, because anyone who is interested in this game should really experience it for themselves. What I will say, other than “it’s amazing”, is that it feels like a full, episodic, comic book arc. Each chapter adds up to the overall story with lots of fun twists and character development along the way.
But it’s more than that. Each segment, whether that’s infiltrating the forbidden quarantine zone, or trying to con a monster collector, all with the expected Guardians style and mishaps, feel like smaller almost stand-alone Guardians antics in their own right.
And perhaps most impressively those smaller episodes add up to a touching, and heartfelt story about the Guardians as a whole. The game takes its time to really take a look at what it means to be family for the team, both as a whole and for the Guardians of the Galaxy on an individual level.
Speaking (or typing) of the Guardians on an individual level, the cast of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy does an amazing job at feeling familiar enough for fans of the comics and the movies, but they also bring something new and fresh to hopefully make a bunch of new fans as well.
Thanks to a very cinematic approach to the game’s storytelling, and almost constant interaction between the team, the voice actors manage to bring some real emotion and pathos to the roles and make them unique. This is all the more impressive when you consider how iconic of an interpretation the movies are, and how much they redefined how audiences think of the Guardians.
Plus one of Rocket’s lines is “Groot says all the cucumbers he’s ever met were terrified on the inside”, and that’s just one of the many amazing lines of dialogue in the game. So I’d argue that alone is worth the price of admission.
The gameplay of Guardians is absolutely perfect. The movement of Peter, his shooting, and his various combat abilities play extremely well. They are simple and kinetic enough to get you going with all kinds of moves, dodges and attacks extremely quickly, but also deep enough that the extra powers and abilities you get along the way really add to the experience.
Peter’s moves also perfectly incorporate manoeuvring the other Guardians and their powers, which, as a system, I think does an incredible job of never feeling too complex or overwhelming – despite managing four other team members and your own combat simultaneously.
And even though the combat is fast and frantic, and almost feels like an arcade game at times, it has enough depth, story content, team management, enemy types, and extra mechanics like the team huddles to make each fight feel fresh and unique.
On top of the combat, the game is filled with plenty of clever puzzles and player decisions.
The puzzles mean Peter has to work out which team members to use where, and if the best way forward is Drax punching a hole in a wall, Gamora using her acrobatics or cutting something, Groot being Groot, or Rocket hacking something or sneaking into a small racoon sized gap.
The puzzles and resulting conversations really add to the family dynamic and help the game feel like it’s about all of the Guardians. It takes the whole team to get anywhere, and the game doesn’t let you forget that.
The player decisions range from smaller conversations that have no real consequence to much bigger moments that affect things later in the game. And although this kind of system is incorporated into plenty of games nowadays, the seamlessness and way it fits into Guardians (and how everything kind of goes wrong no matter what), works remarkably well.
Some of the smaller details, that add to the immersion and world-building of Square Enix’s Guardians game are things like always having to close the fridge, how Peter looks at whoever is talking while they are talking, that the team roams around the ship at their own will and can talk to each other, and the lack of any real silence in the game.
No matter if it’s on the Milano with the crew, or out on a mission there is almost no silence from the team. They’re constantly talking, scheming and bickering with each other. The conversations involve just enough input from Peter Quill (the player) to help add to the experience but also have enough on their own to make it feel like the world is living around the player.
On top of that, the game is full of universe building easter eggs, from a vintage Chewbacca toy to Tron posters (lots of Disney owned content), brief character cameos from the likes of Darkhawk and Throg, important Marvel objects like Hofund, the sword of Heimdall, and plenty of outfits for the Guardians that are inspired from the comics, and a perfect realisation of the costumes from the 2014 movie.
This leads into talking about the MCU iteration of the Guardians, and its influence here.
And in short, there is no doubt that the Guardians game takes a heavy influence from the MCU. Everything from characterisations and voices to the style, and of course the heavy inclusion of music. This is brilliantly incorporated into the game and its story, in a way that I’d argue is almost as good as what the 2014 movie did with the idea.
But, not wanting to take too much away from the game – I also think part of the similarity to the movies just comes from bringing the Guardians into a cinematic space. Because there is no denying that the game is extremely cinematic. And It’s unfair to say that the game didn’t bring with it plenty of comic book influence, and original elements as well.
Ultimately though, the game comes down to the core of what brings the Guardians together; family.
Nearly all of the main cast, good and bad guys included, have lost their family in some way and are motivated by that loss and who it’s turned them into. Through that, the Guardians are able to better understand themselves, and really come together as a family.
All in all, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an amazing deep dive into the Marvel Universe, coming off the back of other great recent Marvel superhero games like Marvel’s Spider-Man from Insomniac, it’s easy to think that it doesn’t get better than that. But Square Enix has done it.
They created a totally different but equally perfect Marvel game here. And perhaps most importantly managed to do something with Guardians that they didn’t with their recent Avengers game.
They made an amazingly immersive world, that looks and plays perfectly, but most importantly it tells a great story and really (really) feels like the Guardians.
Hopefully, Guardians of the Galaxy is just the start of a series from Square Enix filled with plenty more like it, because after two playthroughs in under a week, I’m kind of already upset I don’t have more…