Review: Guardians of the Galaxy, a huge surprise

It's time for a new Marvel game! This time it's Peter Quill and his team's turn to bring a single player experience to your screen. How high does this game raise the bar against Marvel's Avengers , which flopped before, or other rock-solid Marvel games like Spider-Man?

Guardians of the Galaxy is a comic and film series that focuses on an intergalactic story with a lot of humor, a large set of worlds, cool sci-fi combat and a strong way of storytelling. This game brings a full single-player experience with a no-bullshit experience. Can Square Enix's Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy improve on perhaps the least-rated Marvel game with the Avengers? Spoiler alert: It's a huge positive surprise!

It's about flaking time!

To start off on a good note, Guardians of the Galaxy tells one of the best stories in a Marvel game, ever. Let's start with the overarching story. You play the entire game as Peter Quill, also known as Star-Lord! He teams up with his team of Drax, Gamora, Rocket and Groot to make the universe a better place. Yet his team is known for carrying out multiple criminal activities. Let's just say they're not really understood by the intergalactic governments.

In the beginning of the game you see how the original team, consisting of Quill, Rocket & Groot, has to get used to the two new members, Drax and Gamora. You notice that there are many discussions and disagreements between the Guardians. Of course, the game starts a bit lighter, something with a space llama. As the story progresses, a great, sinister force puts itself in the spotlight. It's up to the Guardians of the Galaxy to do what their name says; to protect!

Not to spoil too much, I'm just going to say that this is one of the best stories in a Marvel game ever, maybe even the best. There are a lot of elements that simply make the story stronger!

Let's start with the humor. When I started Guardians, I was a bit apprehensive about the famous one-liners and thoughtful father jokes we've come to expect from the Marvel movies, because they almost always work. So I was positively surprised when I noticed that the humor in this game is really top notch. The synergy between all characters and the spoken dialogues are so well developed that you have to laugh way too hard every 10 minutes. It's like you're actually watching one of the movies, only you have certain dialogues in hand and you play as Peter Quill yourself.

“I am… Big?”

The voice actors that have been chosen all fit their roles almost perfectly. Peter is a clumsy bastard with a heart of gold, Gamora is a cold-blooded person with secretly a bit of humour, Drax simply talks way too formally for who he is, Rocket is a little hell-rat and Groot is… Big! The voices just catch on. Although I have to say that the Rocket actor took a little longer to get into the role of this devilish little creature. After a while you also notice that he is on-par with the other Guardians.

There are also a lot of dialogues to go through. If you happen to stand still for 5 minutes because your cat thinks he needs to bother you, you can hear the Guardians arguing with each other, or making jokes. There is really a lot of dialogue and I have never actually heard double lines myself. Besides that, as Quill you have certain Telltale-like dialogue choices, which your team reacts to. There are also hidden dialogues where you can find out more backstories from the characters! So, search well.

You know what's big too? The world in Gaurdians! You will travel across different planets, encounter multiple races and some unique characters. These are all top-notch worked out and the world-building is excellent! Every planet has something in store for you. The story is in my opinion the best feature in the entire game! It just feels like you're part of a living, dynamic team.

Teamwork makes the dream work

The gameplay in Guardians took a little getting used to for me. In the first few hours it felt like you barely did any damage. You play as Quill, with his blasters. However, there are several real-time strategic elements wrapped in the game. You have few skills in the beginning, so it feels like you add little to the combat yourself. The more the game progresses, the more fun the combat will become for you.

Peter himself will unlock several skills, which all work very well, you also get several types of ammo for your blasters. You have to make good use of your skills and different types of ammo in conjunction with the attacks you let your teammates do. It's all about timing and coordination. So this is a very cool element. You can even use your team while hitting enemies. For example, are you near Rocket? Then he will finish your combo with a bang. It's all about teamwork.

Your team also has an effect on how you explore the world. For example, you can have Drax throw large objects in front of walls, or have Rocket crawl through small corridors to open a door from the other side. Sometimes you need this to simply progress through the story, but you can also use it to find hidden items! Everything is based on cooperation and that makes that team feeling even stronger.

You as Peter can shoot with different bullets, dodge with your rocket boots, punch and kick and use various skills. In the beginning you have very few skills and here the combat seems monotonous, but trust me, it gets better with the hours!

The same goes for enemies, there are quite a few different enemies that you will encounter. These all have their weaknesses, you can exploit them by using Peter well in combat. As Peter you are also very good at staggering enemies or kicking them back, so that your team can do the rest.

Huddle Up!

Something that sounds great as a concept, but in reality takes the flow of combat out of it, is the Huddle. This happens when battles get very hot & heavy. You call your team together and they come right in your face. Then you have to motivate them to get the best out of themselves and each other. They respond to your choice of speech, then one of the licensed soundtracks plays and the action is blown! You can now use your team attacks much faster and more often and they get an overall buff. However, this only applies if you give the right speech, don't you? Then only Quill himself gets a buff. Sometimes the soundtrack chosen is a bit weird for combat sequences. But hey, if you're throwing that much budget into licensed 80's music, you should use it! My problem with the Huddle is that it completely pulls you out of combat every time. The sequence is also very long and after 5 Huddles I saw it again..

Beyond all this, there are plenty of other gameplay moments that are unique in their own right, such as flying your ship, or playing a mini-game against Rocket. Each mission is so well thought out that you won't be bored for a single moment in the 15-20 hour long storyline. This also applies to the pacing of the story and the gameplay in general.

What a picture!

Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the best games I've played this year. The characters are very detailed and the facial movements are really on-point. The environments are also consistently detailed and look very good and unique. Often enough I have had my team wait for about 5 minutes to look at the view or the surroundings! The colors also have a wonderful palette in every world, where usually 1 or 2 colors stand out. The game looked good in both performance and fidelity modes. I've never really had any issues with frame drops.

Where it got a little clunky at times is when characters have to make special moves. Sometimes they teleport, or they walk really weird, they get stuck in walls. This could all be a little smoother as far as I'm concerned. These things sometimes just struck me, but I never experienced them as disturbing. There are also plenty of games that have much more issues with this.

Verdict

Guardians of the Galaxy is a must-buy for any Marvel fan. But, also for those who are just looking for a strong single player experience. The story is very well developed and both the humor and the serious moments are varied enough and hit each and every one! The gameplay starts off a bit boring, but after a handful of hours is also very entertaining. The game looks really good beyond all this and sometimes you just want to stop and look around, or search every corner for extra materials or collectibles.

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