REVIEW – First announced at E3 2021, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is the new project from Eidos Montreal, the studio behind the latest Deus Ex and Shadow of the Tomb Raider. After Crystal Dynamics developed Marvel’s Avengers, this is the second game resulting from the partnership signed in 2017 between Square Enix and Marvel. That said, GotG clearly wants to differentiate itself and proves to be a single-player third-person shooter and adventure game set in its own universe. But while this band of heroes has become known to the general public thanks to the MCU films, does the title manage to deliver a story and characters as compelling as those in the feature films?
If you don’t know who the Guardians of the Galaxy are, here’s a little background: behind the name is a team of cosmic superheroes from the Marvel universe first introduced in 1969. If this first version of the group is little known to the general public, it was not until 2008 that the members who make up the current gang appeared in the comics. More than this re-introduction in the comics, it is above all the film adaptation of the same name in 2014 that makes the Guardians of the Galaxy known to the general public. Thanks to its humour, charismatic characters and soundtrack, the film brings a natural breath of fresh air to the MCU, and the Guardians quickly become characters adored by fans.
A new interpretation
As we will see, this Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy shares many points with its MCU films. However, we think it’s essential to specify right away that the game is Eidos Montreal’s own interpretation. As a result, we find the team members from both works: Star-Lord, the leader, Gamora, Thanos’ daughter, Drax the Destroyer, and Rocket Racoon and Groot, a talking raccoon and tree. As such, the title’s action takes place twelve years after a war waged by the Chitauri (the aliens who make up Loki’s army in the first Avengers film) that has ravaged the galaxy.
In this rebuilding universe, we follow the adventures of the Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy as they hire out their freelance hero services to the highest bidder. The game begins as our heroes are getting tired of living on odd jobs and are looking for a big score to keep them out of trouble for a while. They decide to travel to a forbidden area to capture a rare creature and sell it to Lady Hellbender, a monster collector. Unfortunately, in addition to coming up empty-handed, they are eventually caught by Nova cohorts, the galactic police, who fine them heavily for entering the quarantine zone. The Guardians then have three days to get their hands on a large sum of money to avoid jail. In their quest to recover financially, our heroes will cross paths with some dangerous individuals and will be called upon to play a significant role in the galaxy’s fate.
A linear adventure
While the adventure takes us from planet to planet, the structure of the game is primarily linear. However, to reinforce the player’s involvement, numerous dialogue choices are offered throughout the story. While some of these choices are just a chance to talk to your team members to feel for the game, others will have consequences later on in the story. For those decisions that have heavy consequences, the game warns you with a small text panel in the top right of the screen, in the manner of Life is Strange, for example. Through the sum of all these small choices, you end up feeling more and more invested as the story progresses. Unfortunately, we also understand that these choices do not always have a significant impact. They mostly allow you to avoid a fight later on and please the fans, which doesn’t give the title too much replayability.
As far as the adventure is concerned, it must be admitted that it builds up power but doesn’t always have the epic breath we might have expected. In fact, the Eidos Montreal teams deliver a more intimate story that focuses on its main characters. And clearly, the latter is the main strength of the title. Thanks to numerous moments of collaboration on their ship, the Milano, or during missions, we quickly get attached to the Guardians who have been carefully written. Each team member is obviously a strong character, but we also get to know them thanks to their own past, which emerges throughout the story. Of course, GotG does not forget to be an amusing title, just like the films. Humour remains a central element, and it’s not uncommon to let out a laugh at some of Rocket’s interventions, for example. Finally, let’s also note that the game is full of comics that testify to the developers’ genuine love for the Marvel cosmic universe.
An efficient combat system, but…
In terms of gameplay, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a third-person shooter in which, we remind you, we only control Star-Lord. Thanks to his two blasters, our hero can shoot at his opponents without interruption until he overheats. To overcome resistant enemies, his weapons can also produce elemental shots with different effects: ice immobilises, electricity paralyses several enemies, wind allows you to grab an opponent or a structure, etc… But Star-Lord’s greatest strength lies in his jet boots, which give him excellent mobility in combat, both for gliding and dodging. To keep the action readable despite all the movements that can be made, the developers preferred to integrate a locking system that proves very useful.
As the leader, Star-Lord is not alone and can rely on the other Guardians during confrontations. At any time, it is possible to call upon one of their skills to get the better of opponents. Each of them has four unique abilities and their own speciality: Gamora does the most damage, Drax stuns his opponents, Rocket does area attacks while Groot immobilises his targets and heals his companions. Thus, the key to combat is effectively combining these abilities to defeat the attackers as quickly as possible.
Between Star-Lord’s mobility, the various elemental shots, and the Guardians’ synergy, the combat system effectively offers fluid confrontations once well mastered. These brawls become even more fluid when you use the Gathering skill, which motivates your team members by grouping them. If you find the right words, your companions are reanimated and benefit from a significant and temporary damage boost. In addition, once activated, one of the many licensed tracks is triggered (more on this below), giving an even more dynamic feel to the fights.
While the battles with the Gathering are very enjoyable, you have to admit that you can get tired of the gathering animation, especially once you’ve seen it dozens of times. The same goes for the combat system as a whole, which also struggles to renew itself towards the end of the adventure, giving an inevitable feeling of repetitiveness despite a good build-up. A sense that is not broken by the boss battles, which are rarely exciting and sometimes shows the combat mechanics’ limits.
Musically captivating, visually okay
Apart from its confrontations, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy offers exploration phases in which you often have to solve puzzles with the help of your teammates’ skills or Star-Lord’s elemental blaster shots. If these sequences try to break the linear aspect of the adventure, it must be admitted that they are not always of great interest and that they tend to repeat themselves. As proof, towards the end of the game, our champions end up using their own skills to unlock the path without you having to ask them. There are also a few sporadic flight phases aboard the Milano. These sequences are often relatively short, and with simple gameplay, they are pleasant without being transcendent as they allow you to break the routine. Finally, between two missions, it is possible to chat with the other Guardians in the Milano to get to know them better and enjoy the often effective dialogues.
To conclude on the artistic aspects, Eidos Montreal’s title offers a unique result on a visual level. On the one hand, it does very well technically thanks to its detailed character models, good facial animations during major cinematics and several striking panoramas. The care given to the Guardians is such that there are numerous costumes throughout the adventure that can be obtained for free and allow excellent customisation of your team members. But on the other hand, the particular artistic direction might not please everyone, like the bright and flashy colours of some environments. We can also observe that several landscapes don’t always look very good because of the not systematically excellent graphics when we look at them closely. Moreover, facial animations are not as convincing during minor cinematics, and the lip-synching in French is not always perfect. However, aside from this, the title benefits from a successful technique on PS5, both in quality mode that favours resolution and in performance mode that emphasises the frame rate.
Just like in the movies, the music also plays a central role in Eidos Montreal’s title with a vintage soundtrack full of well-known songs: Take on me by a-ha, Holding out for a Hero by Bonnie Tyler, Wake me up before you go-go by Wham!, Call Me by Blondie or Never gonna give you up by Rick Astley… There’s plenty to be pleasantly surprised about with all these prestigious big names. A fictional band called Star-Lord has also been invented for the occasion and offers many very rocking tracks in the spirit of the rest of the soundtrack.
An agreeable surprise
With its endearing characters and effective humour, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the good surprises of the end of the year, which is aimed at a very wide audience. Behind this careful writing, we feel a deep love from the developers of Eidos Montreal for its space outcasts. And suppose the adventure isn’t as epic as we hoped. In that case, the journey is no less enjoyable thanks to its moments of collaboration and the numerous choices offered that reinforce the player’s involvement. It is a seductive journey, thanks to an efficient and fluid combat system that shows its limits at the end of the game and when facing bosses. Finally, it is more on its visual part that the title could divide. If there are original environments and neat character models, on the one hand, there are also less convincing facial animations in some places and sometimes less fine landscapes. Nevertheless, it is an engaging adventure alongside the galaxy’s greatest magnificent losers that will please MCU fans.
+ The Guardians, more endearing than ever, and their team cohesion
+ An often effective humour
+ An enjoyable action-adventure with team elements
– Not always very fine graphically
– Choices don’t have that much impact on the adventure
– Clashes that can get repetitive over time
Publisher: Square Enix
Release date: 26 October 2021.