Back in October 2021, Square Enix finally released their video game interpretation of the band of misfits known as the Guardians of the Galaxy. As a movie and superhero geek, the game was at the top of my list to play… but was it a successful game aside from its connection to Marvel lore?
The game reimagines the iconic characters of Star-Lord, Gamora, Rocket, Drax, and Groot as unique standalone figures extinguishable from the canon MCU storylines, giving the characters a fresh look whilst continuing the necessary features such as Peter Quill’s leather jacket and love of rock. Whilst their different appearances are initially a little jarring, a few hours into gameplay the characters become unique “variants” with slight backstory deviations to their MCU counter-parts, creating complex multi-dimensions of the marvel universe.
Each character has their own style of humour and a deep storyline which you can explore further through interactions and collecting items of sentimental value for each member. This is an interesting feature for a superhero game which usually presumes you already know the characters backstory, unleashing you into a small, level-based, open world setting with uniquely skilled characters (although some puzzles and skills feel a little simplistic at times).
Square Enix is known for its poignant choice-based stories in the Life is Strange series and the epic worlds of Final Fantasy, so, it is no surprise that the storyline is breathtaking. Following the crew who accidentally release an all-powerful, destructive force back into the universe and must discover how to defeat the mind controlling tyrant from taking over the galaxy. Expect a rollercoaster of emotions, from an amazing soundtrack including classic rock ballads featured on ship and in epic fight scenes, to the emotional repercussions of these false visions on each team-member.
Their reimagining of the format of combat, adventure/superhero narratives diverges from the linear and lack of choice in many predeceasing superhero games, instead utilising a choice system that causes deviations in storylines and changes relationships with characters. Each decision has a repercussion on trust-levels or on the path you take as the rebellious gang of heroes. The graphics and animation style were outstanding, combining realistic facial movements and structures with a comic-like animation style to create a unique set of characters and other-worldly environments.
The controls pose an essential part of the gameplay, with many traversal puzzles involving the use of other characters under Peter’s instructions. Each character has their own battle attacks, special moves, skill trees, traversal abilities (i.e. Gamora can climb the walls) and more.
Battles feel satisfying as star-lord co-ordinates his team’s attacks against different enemy types. Peter’s abilities at first seem less impressive than that of his heavy hitting counterparts or the explosion loving Rocket, but after a few upgrades and his development in the story, he ends up with special elemental abilities for his blasters as well as melee attacks.
The newest features added to the game was the use of a visor system that can locate, identify, or change interactive creatures, as well as an in-battle ability known as “the huddle”. When “the huddle” is activated and the team is successfully inspired, gamers are treated to supercharged abilities and one of the soundtracks killer tunes to accompany the beatdown. This was a cute little mini puzzle with rewarding music; I only wish that they had added more of these scenes for a wider variety of these scenes to prevent as much repetition which occasionally broke immersion in combat.
The main downside to the game was the fact that many of the choices only lead you down the same path with no difference to the ultimate outcome of the story, only small deviations in the plot that made choice-based systems feel inconsequential. Although, the fake out endings and credit rolls are rather entertaining twists that comedically reflect on the post-credit scenes of Marvel movies in their own unique way.
With major plot twists, a gorgeous design, and engaging gameplay, Guardians of the Galaxy is a superhero game no Marvel or RPG fan should miss. Whilst the experience has a different feel to the high-flying Spider-Man games, it is a one-of-a-kind journey which heavily focuses on narrative, combat, and world/character building that fully immerses you into the world of the Guardians.