It’s time to enter Marvel’s Square Enix Universe, which almost sounds like the cinematic counterpart if you speak out the MSEU acronym. After 2020’s Marvel’s Avengers, 2021’s Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy had a decent amount riding on the line. They almost literally had to be Guardians of Galaxies in and out of the game in order to show that Square Enix wouldn’t completely muck up Marvel games. This time, with developers Eidos-Montreal and a tighter story focus, Square Enix nailed it. Guardians is an absolute blast.
What’s it About?
The story places you in Peter Quill/Star-Lord’s rocket boots in the early days of the group. Gamora and Drax have recently joined Peter, Rocket, and Groot. They’ve all gone through their troubles with the law and are using the group, to various extents, to make themselves legitimate. Of course, they quickly find themselves in trouble with Nova Corps, but soon find something far worse happening throughout the galaxy. A malignant force has been unleashed and is corrupting more and more of the galaxy through a religious zealot. With incredibly personal stakes at play, Peter and the Guardians must take down the corruptive force and save the galaxy – that would be a good reason to have their business cards, after all.
Why Should I Care?
Guardians does a great job balancing out an emotional story with plenty of humor, frenetic group energy, and solid action. A lot of that has to be with the representation of the characters in this setting. Most will be familiar with the Guardians through the James Gunn films, but while there are definite shades of MCU characteristics, this group stands out well for those who may love them from movies, shows, or comics. It makes the story such a joy to play through, even if it can get heart wrenching. I didn’t anticipate getting so emotionally compromised in late stages of the game, but it uses characters’ losses in such an earnest way and shows growth for all of the Guardians. The trauma each character has experienced is highlighted in ways that serve the story well and really sell the Guardians as a tight unit.
It really does help centering everything through Peter Quill’s perspective. When the news first broke that the single player game would only have you control Peter, I was bummed because to play as any of the characters sounded exciting. But in practice, it was definitely the best choice. The story is so dependent on Peter’s POV and decisions that jumping perspectives would have been clumsy. That said, you still get fair control over combat specifics of the entire team and you absolutely need to since Peter cannot take down most groups of enemies by himself. Your blasters aren’t good enough to handle everyone, so you’ll need to command the rest of the Guardians to use their special moves during battles. Often, efforts will build up the Team Huddle bar, which has you call the team together and provide a quick motivational speech. Making the right choice will boost everyone’s abilities; making the wrong choice will only boost your own. Either way, it creates a more fun atmosphere by also deploying one of the licensed 80s songs that makes things more epic or funny (I mean, how could you not love “I’ll Tumble 4 Ya” as the theme to you fight?).
Choices play an interesting role in the game. This doesn’t get to any Telltale levels of choice (that’s very much already been done), but they pop up here and there beyond the huddles. Depending what sort of support you give to team members or how convincing you can be with other characters, it can make later stages of the game significantly easier or much harder. For example, one choice made about midway through the game saved significant effort in the last chapter because of what I did to benefit the other character. Nothing ultimately changes the story outcome, as there’s only one ending, but it does have a solid impact on how things play out. It’s a good balance because you don’t have to spend the entire game stressing about making the right choices. Most dialogue decisions will have no major impact on how the story plays out.
I had only a few gripes with the game. First, combat felt a little too clunky early on. It wasn’t obvious how to effectively use Peter’s blasters, so I spent too much time firing individual shots when you should be sending steady flows of blast. The tutorials were not always obvious. Second, the chaos of bigger battles made it difficult to tell what was really going on. It creates visibility and button mashing issues. It wasn’t always obvious if a teammate was unavailable due to a specific enemy attack, so it created wasted command efforts. I also had trouble with button recognition between Peter’s special attacks vs the team’s. Often, my attempts to trigger a team member’s attack only resulted in triggering my own because of a messy flow of button mashing needs. Finally, I wasn’t completely sold on Peter’s voice. I don’t know how a Midwest boy got a stereotypical California Dude accent, but it was jarring and kind of irritating. But the overall characterization helped subside that in the end.
What Makes It Worth My Time and Money?
I would absolutely recommend Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy if you want a fun and exciting superhero game to play. Focusing just on the Guardians and not trying to overload the story with a ton of characters really helped create a cohesive event with lots of good action. It’s got a lot of personality and charm, as one could expect from the Guardians.
That said, it may be hard to see a lot of long-term value from the game. It should net you a solid amount of time for the first play through, but there’s not much to do more of in New Game Plus mode. If you spend enough time exploring your environments, like I did, you can unlock every ability by the end of the game. You might not get every costume, but that may be the only thing left to do in NGP. That’s not entirely worth it. Additionally, with no DLC or multiplayer planned, it’s more of a one-shot deal. Definitely consider that if you want to pick it up. But if you do? You’ll get a great experience.