The concept and thematics around the brilliance of introducing the Guardians of the Galaxy in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) to the primary general audience were interesting, to say the least, back in 2014. Still, it was clear that fictional icons can be personified to showcase human emotions and are relatable.
Now with a game finally being released, a question of caution could be felt around the project from the fans. Are the Guardians of the Galaxy ready to headline their own game compared to A-list characters such as Batman and Spider-Man? The answer may surprise you, which is a certified yes. It’s clear that Marvel has a blueprint on showcasing human stories entailing tragedy, betrayal, loss, and grief through the lens of gaming, and they never feel stale or forced.
After witnessing the credits roll on the “Guardians of the Galaxy” game from studio Eidos-Montréal seven years later. I have concluded that the line between reality and fiction is officially being crossed. Ok, let me explain. I walked into this journey wholly blind and didn’t watch any trailers or look at gameplay. I remember seeing the mixed criticism after Guardians debuted at E3 this past June, which made me torn about this title.
I was nervous on almost every level because Marvel Games is still evolving and growing. The community has seen the brilliance and emotional attachment of Spider-Man from Insomniac. Both Spidey and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes yielded vastly different receptions, but both were enjoyable, in my opinion.
Guardians, though, is a blast to play and a love letter to almost every corner of gaming. The best way to describe this experience is it follows suit in the Netflix narrative serialization of past titles while reminding the player your choices will have impacts in both a negative and positive sense. However, the story is presented to the player always in flux. To note, the characters will evolve through the justification of each path that grows because of your actions. Which simply means your experience won’t be the same as mine.
I noticed the story came across as a tale of forgoing grief from moments of tragedy. I want to add that as an avid gamer. I saw the gameplay took inspiration from titles such as Final Fantasy XV because you can instruct your teammates to enact various special moves. Still, each character is quite vocal, and it brings a sense of cinematic flair to each encounter or boss fight.
For example, Drax comes off as being blood-thirsty and cracking quips left and right, or Rocket giving you support from using this various walking armory while riffing on your costumes, choices present from before, or just overall attitude. Groot was useful for breaking up enemies and clearing the environment, and the deadliest woman in the galaxy Gamora, is suited for a more melee-based assault.
As Star-Lord, you can use various elemental shots ranging from Fire, Ice, Gravity, and Lightning. However, that’s only the tip of the iceberg with this battle system because each character has a skill tree with various moves and actions. At the heat of the battle, you can notice the colorful momentum bars that range from “Uncanny,” “Amazing,” and “Marvelous,” akin to “Devil May Cry,” utilizing terms such as “Dull,” “Atomic,” all the way to “Smokin.”
I mentioned “Last Of Us” and Uncharted because of the exploration elements present throughout this experience. Still, one thing to notice is how the non-playable characters (NPC) will question your ulterior motives and begin to ridicule you, which unfold into comical hints of exposition when you go costume hunting or searching for easter eggs which are plenty. Of course, the story is full of twists and turns, and there are quality set pieces that made me question if I was playing a video game or watching a blockbuster film.
Jon Mclaren is excellent as Peter Quill. The way he can balance emotional moments with the lingering trauma while still having the mindset of a leader. Jason Cavalier as Drax had me laughing at all times, from questioning battle strategy to wearing glasses while reading a war thesis.
It’s clear to tell Kimberly-Sue Murray was having a blast as Gamora. Alex Weiner as Rocket was on the level of passion that Yuri Lowenthal channels when he dons the guise of Peter Parker. At times, some parts feel similar to the tone of the James Gunn films from Drax’s humor, Rocket’s past, and Gamora longing to find placement. Other times various iconic panels would unfold scene by scene on screen. Essentially if they made another Guardians TV show, I want this cast to reprise because each is perfectly cast.
One element worthy of praise was the element of choice. I remember moments where I wanted to take in every guardian’s values and moral judgment because each had something to express or convey to Star-Lord as leader of the team. It’s clear that the days of superhero titles being linear and predestined by letting the player be tasked with Life Is Strange or Mass Effect scenarios are significant and reflect the attention to detail the developers wanted to achieve in this project.
The game transitions from the cosmic insanity of piloting the Milano or singing “Don’t Worry be Happy” by Bobby Mcferrin. All while an alpaca named Kammy was the only one free to open the doors. To moments of tender attachment when Peter was back on earth. Before the days of being an outlaw. Quill could be found in his room as a child of the 80’s jamming out to his favorite band “Star-Lord.” This rock band made a whole album just for the game and featured some of my favorites, such as “Zero to Hero” and “Space Riders with no Name.”
The brilliance of including these flashback scenes showcases the trauma that still haunts Peter each day of his life. The game clarifies that Peter tries to quip and joke because the pain eats away at him, but he has also grown from his time in the cosmos. However, Peter isn’t the only character that the studio fleshes out.
For example, Drax reflects on his guilt from facing Thanos after the mad titan destroyed his family. Gamora collects little dolls in an attempt to rekindle a childhood lost from her forced adoption of Thanos. Cosmo is a Russian space dog sent into space because he was seen as disposable only to find his own family. Hearing him recall moments of finding solace and freedom of residing in the grass and having an owner only to see him be awoken from his grief by remembering he is father to various puppies.
Rocket comes off as cold and distant but inside, he is broken. Through hidden choices, we learn he didn’t ask to be made and lost the one person who made him feel whole, stemming from the trauma of what occurred on Halfworld.
Groot is the last of his kind and struggles with forming an identity, coming to terms that his population perished from the conflict of war. Only to see our heroes question the purpose of motivation because of the foil, in this case, the villains are the Church of Universal Truth. Though spoiling their role and weaving the story around this cosmic adventure would be a disservice. I just can’t do it because it’s brilliant on every level.
Guardians of the Galaxy has a brilliant soundtrack showcased during battle, on the Milano, or at certain story moments. For example, pairing “Don’t Fear the Reaper” by Blue Oyster Cult during a nightmare scenario is just surreal. I mean, you can listen to “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley during a boss fight or just pass the time.
Photo mode is back and better than ever, and especially playing on a PS5. One fantastic feature is how each costume and over 40 shows are attributed to the creators, editors, writers, and everyone involved and an individual journey entry from each character.
To close, Guardians isn’t just a Spider-Man clone or an Avengers reskin. It’s fleshed out and stands on its own. It was leading to a miracle for gaming and human experiences. We all know the films from James Gunn are spectacular and illustrate a layer of the MCU(Marvel Cinematic Universe), which wasn’t explored till 2014.
Of course, in 2021, it’s a clear Marvel Games cares about the humanity of our favorite heroes, but with the presence of writing an excellent narrative, our worlds are starting to reflect one another.
Spider-Man PS4 conveyed to the audience that we need to “Be Greater” and channel the hero inside of us. Miles Morales told us to be authentic and never change for anyone; instead, just “Be Yourself.” Marvel Avengers gave insight into a world unlike ours and made us understand that our heroes are not gods and humans just like us. Guardians Of The Galaxy from Eidos-Montréal peels back the layers of perfection and gives us a deep dive into our flaws and the strength of what makes us unique.
Marvel Games is relaying to their audience and the player base. We understand the passion and respect for these iconic characters and how we can elevate the past stories to justify the future.
Guardians of The Galaxy gets a 9.5/10, and it could be a worthy contender for the coveted prize of Game of the Year.