Review: Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Games based on other models – whether it be movies, TV series, books or comic books – have a somewhat motley track record. Or motley and motley; let’s be honest – most of what has been done as a license game since the 80s “easily forgotten”, to express ourselves diplomatically (though of course with nice exceptions such as Batman on NES, Battletoads and especially Witchergames). Marvel, the comic book publisher that has been under Disney for many years, has, however, been excellent at maintaining consistently high quality in its film adaptations of the comic books, even though much is cast in the same form, they often cast both right and skilled actors and give us the most consistently skilled the entertainment of perhaps all, big brands out there. So when Square Enix announced that Eidos Montreal worked on an action-adventure game based on Guardians of the Galaxy we became curious and at the same time a little skeptical – the company had impressed before with, for example, Tomb Raider and Marvel has managed Spider-Man well on Playstation, but will you manage to stay away from the curse that seems to plague many licensed games? (Curiosity: Guardians of the Galaxy has been played by before, then as an episodic adventure by Telltale Games)

Guardians of the Galaxy game the gang and the lama
Our job-seeking heroes. Photo: Square Enix

Guardians of the GalaxyThe game follows the series quite well, the characters are based on the newspaper publishers and thus do not exactly resemble the actors we are used to in the films, even though the voices in their essence are very similar. In its layout, the game is a bit like a kind Dragon Age, with exploration, team-work and action sequences in battles.

The story begins with our mercenary heroes chasing a monster with a high price on its head; a monster that is of course in a quarantine zone, which is strictly off-limits. But our heroes hack their way through the shields (Rocket is the technical genius), led by farmer Peter Quill (Star-Lord), the friendly plant giant Groot and flanked by the warriors Gamora and Drax, who have a kind of hate-loving quick man only love. Of course, things do not work out really as planned and soon the intergalactic police force Nova Corp is on full alert and presents the heroes with an ultimatum – three cycles to decorate a real cure, or be locked in for a looooong time ahead…

Guardians of the Galaxy game Lady Hellbender
Photo: Square Enix

The first thing you turn off when you start driving Guardians of the Galaxy on Xbox Series X is how incredibly beautiful and elaborate the game is. Light effects and large environments in space create the feeling of an enveloping, cosmic world where anything can happen. Only the first sequence, when Peter is little in his boy’s room and listens to his Walk-man, you can get stuck for a good while in: studying CD covers with Starl-Lord (with lyrics!), Video games, magazines and – not least – a fantastic soundtrack signed by some of the 80’s greatest artists (Billy Idol! Starship!! A-ha!!!) you quickly realize that this is a Saturday candy bag for a series lover and also 70s / 80s fans.

Guardians of the Galaxy game bossfight
Photo: Square Enix

The environments are imaginative and varied – next-gen machine is highly recommended where you can choose between Full HD resolution in 60fps or more details in 4K at the expense of image update (locked to 30fps, half the image update for four times the number of pixels). We always prefer the frame rate for a smoother and more responsive experience, so even here – but it becomes clear that you actually lose some finish between the modes (even if it does not disturb so much in movement and is easily worth the extra flow). An intermediate position á la Spider-Man would have been nice, with ray tracing and a little less detail, while keeping the image update optimal (close to 60fps anyway).

The sound is absolutely incomparable; in addition to the already mentioned soundtrack (where you can turn off licensed music if you stream), the voice actors are world class. None of the names are directly known but they deliver their characters perfectly and create a wonderful atmosphere, where it really feels like an old bunch of friends gnawing (lovingly). The sound effects and surround are used brilliantly and here you can really optimize the speaker placement through the game’s built-in calibration. Top notch!

Purely game-mechanically should be recognized that Guardians of the Galaxy is not a miracle, but a very conventional explorer-action game in third-person view with simpler puzzles, platform elements and battles. And it is precisely in the battles that the otherwise so-through concept falls a few notches. The battles are not directly bad, but they are unnecessarily messy and there are a lot of buttons to keep track of while you control Star-Lord, give commands to the group arm (which all have special attacks) and keep track of meters that are recreated – all this in real time . When the screen is filled with enemies and exclamation marks from all directions (who is about to knock you) then it becomes more meaty than well-thought-out strategy and here had Guardians really benefited from some kind of turn-based mode where you can analyze enemies and give commands in turn (á la Dragon Age: Inquisition). It is simply too chaotic and sometimes becomes unnecessarily difficult, for the wrong reason.

Guardians of the Galaxy game Star-Lord fighting
Fighting looks more fun than it is, unfortunately. Photo: Square Enix

So with the plump in the protocol reaches Guardians of the Galaxy unfortunately not quite up to the highest levels, but it’s good close and snouts. This is one of the funniest, most well-written and best-packaged games we’ve run in a very long time – just as you’d expect from the Marvel movies. It requires modern hardware to get the most out of it, so a PS5, Xbox Series X or modern PC is highly recommended. If you sit on one of them, and like the genre and Marvel’s series, you have one of the most entertaining gaming experiences of the year in front of you!