Should I do it? Is the question I am sure you are asking yourself. In the wake of what eventually became of the complete and utter cash grab of Marvel's Avengers, should you take the plunge on Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy? The trailers for Avengers were impeccable, they were hype inducing, they had you salivating profusely for another Marvel experience after the truly superb, the gripping, the amazing (pun intended) Marvel's Spiderman. But it was quite frankly a total dumpster fire. I am aware that there are some gamers out there who enjoy Avengers, somewhere.
On one hand, the Spiderman and Miles Morales games were commercial successes. On the other hand, you have the mess that became Avengers. So, should you? Should you put your faith in Square Enix's publishing powers a second time? Usually, I would insert something here like "read ahead to find out" or "let us take a dive into things and find out together" but I have led you down the rabbit hole for too long already, and I am bored of this intro and want to move on to writing about the game. So long answer short:
YES. YES, YOU SHOULD. This game is flarking incredible!
"Why Would You Want to Save the Galaxy?" "Cause I'm One of the Idiots that Lives in it!" Rocket Raccoon and Star-Lord
I will tell you right off the bat, this game is just superb. I managed to get the game a day early due to a very fortunate posting of a pre-order, and I had finished the game within 2 days. Not in any means due to the game being short, it is actually perfect in length, but due to the fact that I was SO immersed in the game, in the story, in the characters that I just couldn't turn the game off. The last game that got to me like this was Asura's Wrath, all the way back in the PS3 days.
For two nights in a row, I was awake until about 2 AM playing this game. Putting it into perspective, I am a fully grown 30yr old man who has university full time, work part-time, I try and find time to see friends and family, and I am usually writing too many projects at a time for Zatu that I can admit to being able to keep up with at times; I am for sure, a busy guy. And yet, I genuinely lost track of time with Guardians of the Galaxy. The story and character interactions are so immersive, that I felt like I was a part of the experience.
The story is far removed from the MCU Guardians of the Galaxy as they are not the same characters. This might be a bummer for some people, but I vastly preferred getting to know a different variation of the guardians. The story is set over a decade after a galactic war with the Chitari and is set in the aftermath of Thanos being "killed" by Drax. The team seem to have assembled after this war, or at least Drax and Gamora seem to be recent additions to the team. This in itself differentiates the guardians from their MCU counterparts. Each of the guardians has had slightly altered backstories for the game, (even as far as I am aware, differentiating slightly even from the comics) that come together to make some really emotional dialogue progressions between Peter and his team.
"The Gardeners of the Galaxy" - Groot [Appended by Rocket]
This is usually the part of a review that is reserved for the gameplay. But that can wait. Let us talk about the REAL aspect of the game that pulls everything together, the thing that keeps you invested, the thing that keeps you wanting more, the thing that makes the story so much grander than it actually is: the characters.
We are all familiar with the guardians of the galaxy from one media or another, but Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy does such an outstanding job at making these characters feel real. That is not to say that the MCU guardians aren't great, because they are, but the game puts you in the seat of leadership, to bring your team together in times of hardships, to bring out their individual strengths and weaknesses. And I think this is one of the reasons why we are only able to play as Peter Quill, as putting us in his point of view at all times, we grow as a leader with him and really learn about our team.
As previously mentioned, this version of the guardians is relatively new from a narrative perspective. It is evident that Drax and Gamora are comparatively new additions to the team. This causes tension amongst the team and especially with each other. And even if you don't necessarily do much yourself to bring them together, seeing them grow fond of each other and the rest of the team is such a rewarding process to witness during the course of the game. From the way in which all the characters interact with each other during missions, to how they respond to you asking them to do tasks that clearly aren't meant for them, to deepening your bond with them via deep conversations in their personal quarters, to learning about their individual lives: the characters all come together to make one dysfunctional, flawed, family. And it is beautiful.
The rest of the characters are also incredibly well implemented, from super thirsty Lady Hellbender to best-boy Cosmo, creepy Lipless etc, every character has a unique charm.
"Sell Gamora's Trinkets to Fin Fang Foom...It Is Brilliant" - Drax
Now let us talk about the part of the game that unifies all the characters to make a cohesive, engaging game. The combat? Pfft. Not yet. The writing of course!
Now, I love stories. It is what pulls me into games to begin with. I am through and through a single-player, story-driven kind of game lover. You know, the type that rolls their eyes when yet another battlefield/CoD is announced. I have played (literally) thousands of games, and very few of them have struck chords in me like Guardians of the Galaxy has. Each of the main characters has their own backstories that you can reveal if you unlock conversations with them. It is during these conversations that you learn just how deeply each of the crew is haunted by their past, how their horrible experiences have shaped them, how they have become the people they are to this day, and how, at the root of everything, how deeply each of them craves a family of their own.
For example, we take a deep dive into Drax's history during the main story, and, even knowing his history going in, it still had me in tears. How one man can go through such an ordeal, hold onto what he once loved to such a degree that it is carved into his own flesh, and it is used against him to warp his perception of faith, it is nothing short of pure emotional mastery. This being the same character that had me laughing not too long beforehand reading a "Sarcasm for Dummies" book.
It is the individual stories that make this game stand out from all the rest of the single-player experiences in recent years. Every character is well fleshed out, with great history and personality. Even the supporting characters, antagonists, and side characters we meet along the way are all so memorable and well placed that the game just runs so much smoother with them in it.
The main story itself is also just as well written as all the smaller, personal stories. The antagonists and main story are not predictable, not stereotypical, and does not use characters that have worn out their welcome in current media. Meaning that there is no Thanos, no Ronan, no Ego etc, it is a fresh story using fresh and interesting characters. I loved everything about this game, and I am finding it so hard to not spoil things for you!
"I Would Be Grateful to Die Surrounded by My Friends." - Gamora
Ok, ok. I hear you. Let us finally discuss combat in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. I will say that some of you will be disappointed that you can only control Quill in combat. However, I actually found it to make perfect sense. You are the leader of the crew after all. Your job is to command them and make sure they are working to the fullest extent of their abilities.
You dictate when they use their abilities and on what enemies, if you are fighting with melee around them then they will join you in combos, you can initiate team attacks, and if all is turning bleak you can command everyone to huddle up for an inspirational talk. Each character has their own specialities of course, and it is your job to utilise them accordingly. Quill himself is actually the weakest member of the group, which actually makes sense. We are but a "puny human" at the end of the day.
The combat seems pretty weak at first. However, the further into the game you get, the more willing your team is to work with each other, the more competent you get in individual's abilities and how to use them, the more proficient you get in your own abilities, the combat grows and improves with the characters themselves. All in all, the combat flows really well and becomes a very enjoyable part of the game, taking on bosses and new enemy types is a satisfying process.
"Flark It!" - Rocket
I have not even begun to scratch the surface of all the things I want to talk about in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy! But I need to at least point out a couple of flaws in this review.
I do not like the huddle. This is my main gripe with the game. Huddling revives all party members, and if reacted to correctly, sends your team into an inspiration-filled battle frenzy. The problem with it is, that it will play a random song from the playlist to accompany the frenzy. All good and well unless something like 'Cars' by Gary Numan starts playing. Hardly a track worth fighting a battle to. I spent the game actively avoiding the huddle for this reason. I also hate the 80's music soundtrack in general, it just is not my jam.
All swear words are removed and replaced with the word 'flark'. Flark this, flarkin' that, flarkin' flarkbag. You will hear this word way too many times.
Also, Groot's jaw looks weird. I am not sure why; it just has an odd design.
"Guys! Huddle Up!" - Peter Quill
Unfortunately, there comes a point where I have to wrap this review of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy up. Otherwise, I could happily write about Guardians of the Galaxy for another 20 pages. (Between you and me, I do not think my editor would appreciate it if I did that).
There is no surprise that I adore this game. It has hit the gaming sweet spot that I have been craving for so long. I feel as though I should point out, that this review is not coming from a Guardians of the Galaxy fanboy. I found the MCU films to be generally 'ok'. Genuinely, I just engaged so well with this game.
I didn't even get a chance to talk about how amazing the game looks. How great the character models are. The incredible voice acting. The diverse range of planets you visit etc. I genuinely found it hard to find fault with the game. Other than small niggles that probably don't even bother most people. A game like this could have had a turn-based combat system on it for all I cared. The writing is what truly made this game a masterclass. It made me smile and laugh. It had me excited, it kept me hooked, and it even had me shed tears at several points.
Do not let the reception of Marvel's Avengers sway your decision here. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a truly superb game and I loved every flarkin' second I spent with it.