|Platforms||Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S (reviewed), PS5, PC, Switch (Cloud)|
|Release Date||October 26th, 2021|
Revealed at E3 2021’s Square Enix Press Conference, gamers were skeptical of another Marvel game from the famed published after their last Marvel title turned out to be such a disappointment. As one of my favorite Marvel teams, I was cautiously optimistic for the game as there was already a TellTale adventure featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy. I am happy to say that with absolutely no micro-transactions, dozens of outfits unlockable through gameplay, and no games-as-a-service model, GotG has turned out to be one of the best games of the year.
Violence: There is violence aplenty as enemies get impaled, blown up, stabbed, shot, burned, frozen, limbs are cut off, etc. However, there is not blood or gore whether facing humans, beasts, or robots.
Language: Frequent using of the word “flarkin” which is an in-universe substitute for the F word. Then you have your standard curse words.
Drug Use: Rocket can sometimes be found smoking cigars, there is a scene in a bar on Knowhere where characters are drinking, gambling, and participating in other acts of debauchery.
Sexual Content: Characters will make frequent quips and jokes filled with sexual innuendo, and there is a whole plot point centered around one of Star-Lord’s previous one night stands and whether or not he is a father as a result.
Spiritual Content: There are some allusions to Peter’s father being a God, as the story and origins are closer to the comics than the MCU, and the main antagonists are part of the Church of Universal Truth, a devious cult hellbent on taking over the galaxy.
Guardians of the Galaxy (GotG) opens with Peter Quill (Star-Lord) listening to his favorite band before heading upstairs to celebrate his birthday with his mom. Players will take control of a teenage Quill and can get a feel for the general movement and exploration gameplay. But before players see what happens when Quill heads upstairs, time jumps to the present where Star-Lord is being woken by Drax for their latest mission, acquiring a ferocious monster to sell to Lady Hellbender. In typical Guardians fashion, things don’t go according to plan and soon the team find themselves on the run from a death cult and a dark creature that emerged from one of the Infinity Stones uncovered on their first mission.
Moment-to-moment gameplay feels like a nice mix between the quieter moments interacting with your crew in Mass Effect and the crazy, hectic combat of similar superhero adventures. While published by Square Enix, this game is a far cry from the Avengers game as combat is fast, fluid, and snappy. Players control Star Lord throughout the entire game but can issue commands to the other Guardians to have them execute team attacks, finishers, and a range of other abilities that can stun enemies or heal allies. Team abilities can also be used outside of battle. For example, Gamora can toss Star-Lord up to out-of-reach areas by digging her sword into specially-marked walls and rock faces, while Drax can throw heavy objects or push over pillars to create new paths. Groot can use his roots to create a bridge out of thin air, allowing the team to advance, or he can raise special platforms to help players reach costumes and other collectibles. Meanwhile, Rocket can climb through vents and hack certain doors to allow access to restricted areas.
Perhaps the most diverse of these abilities in and out of combat are for Star-Lord himself. In combat, he can use his jet boots to fly above the action and rain down fire from the skies, and he can get a shield, grenades, and even elemental attacks. These elemental attacks can also be used to melt ice, freeze water to create blocks, shut off electricity or power electric panels, or even utilize the power of wind to render certain plants harmless and open up new pathways through a level.
In between missions, players can rest up in the Milano, and new allies that are encountered will show up here offering new dialog options and bits of backstory. Mantis is one such character, and she sticks with your team through most of the second and third acts of the game but never directly joins you in battle save for one specific mission. So players won’t be collecting additional squadmates like in Mass Effect, but one similar thing from the ME trilogy that does carry over is the ability to find certain objects or artifacts hidden in the levels that unlock new dialog options with the other team members. For example, Gamora collects dolls and other trinkets since it reminds her of a happier time during her childhood with Thanos. Giving her a new addition to her collection will allow her to open up a bit more in conversations and further her bond with Star-Lord.
These special items, costumes, and the various bits and bobs that players find to upgrade their abilities really encourage exploration. Exploring is fun, too, as random enemy encounters can trigger and there are sometimes multiple routes to use to reach a certain collectible that will be entirely different based on what decision was made in the last mission. Workbenches are also hidden in the levels and available on the Milano, and will allow Rocket to upgrade your health, weapons, and special abilities. Team abilities are upgraded from the main menu using points acquired while leveling up in battle.
There are also a handful of boss fights with giant enemies that can feel pretty epic as certain QTE prompts and special options for attacks will appear as the fight drags on. Aside from each character’s personal abilities, after filling up his combat meter, Star-Lord can rally his allies to his side where players can choose one of two motivational speeches to give to the team which offer various buffs for a short time during the fight. These may give shields to each team member, heal the team completely, or fill the combat gauge and keep it filled so players can spam abilities on enemies. What buffs are awarded appears to be random, and using a work bench to upgrade this ability allows players to trigger it multiple times in boss fights and other battles that tend to go on for several minutes.
Storywise, GotG is every bit as good as its MCU counterparts. There were certain moments during the campaign that literally made me laugh uncontrollably and others that made me shed tears. The writing is top notch, every character is voice acted well, and the visuals are so stunning that sometimes you feel like you’re playing with real people. Not only does this story have heart but it has the wit, charisma, and action to rival the films.
Guardians of the Galaxy fans would be doing themselves a disservice by skipping this one. It has none of the predatory elements of Avengers and it’s just an all around blast to play. Each character is well acted and players feel like they’re actually there as Star-Lord commanding the team in a raucous space adventure.
The Bottom Line
With its engaging exploration, deep gameplay, well-acted characters, and a story that rivals those told in the MCU, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is what more Marvel games should strive to be.