From the moment the Guardians of the Galaxy are introduced as a space team that will do anything for quick cash, it’s obvious how much of a dysfunctional mess they are. Gamora and Rocket are at each other’s throats. Drax and Star-Lord don’t even notice. And nobody pays attention to Groot. For the next 15+ hours of gameplay, I listened to these misfits bickering, insulting and talking non-stop – much to my delight.
When I say ‘non-stop’ I mean they never stop talking. Rarely a second goes by without the Guardians sharing their thoughts. I am not exaggerating this frequency. Every silence made me wonder if the game wasn’t working properly. The amount of dialogue Eidos-Montreal has created is extraordinary, and most of it is beautifully written, offering the witty humor, genuine intimacy and sheer chaos you would expect from the Guardians.
Drax’s inability to understand common colloquialisms and expressions makes for a lot of laughs and is as good as James Gunn’s take on the character in the guards‘ movies. I’ve never said this in a review before, but the dialogue is the best part of the game. Eidos-Montreal knocked it out of the park. The rest of the game is a lot of fun, but with varying levels of quality and brilliance – the latter subtly detracting from critical parts of the experience.
It took me a few hours to warm up to both Star-Lord and the combat system. Peter Quill is a little cranky from the start, but bounces back when the team dynamics start to gel, and the story softens from the overall bombastic tone to allow him to show his emotional side. I eventually came to adore him over time, especially when he talks to himself.
His story is well written and Eidos-Montreal did a great job injecting his leadership skills into the action and decision making. Players have complete control over Star-Lord and determine the path your team takes. These picks aren’t on the same seismic scale as a Mass Effect game and don’t change the story much, but do offer fun alternate sequences and even more dialogue.
I can’t speak for all the outcomes that come from these picks, but the over ten I experienced in a second playthrough were just as good and flowed just as naturally as the ones in my first run through the game. While it was too much fun to take in the different humor or unique gameplay sequences I missed before, they weren’t enough for me to want to continue to see how the second journey would be different. Again, not much changes.
This is a game where the story takes just as much time as the gameplay. Given how fun the story is, I had no problem sitting back and watching for much of my time, especially when I was in control of the most important decisions. The allure of discovery anchors the story and touches each Guardian in a way that elaborates them thoroughly. I don’t want to spoil the plot too much, but the Guardians are after something bad they unleash. That hook stays strong for most of the experience, moving with a nice clip and striking a delicate balance between serious and downright absurd.
Eidos-Montreal fully embraces “science-fiction” themes in the worlds, characters, and that evil entity of interest. The worlds stand out with their wildly colored and oddly designed vistas. The characters are just as weird (sometimes for comedic reasons), and that evil beast moves in the most idiosyncratic and amazing of ways.
Each world forces the Guardians to use their unique abilities to navigate treacherous terrain. The paths forward are always linear and filled with platforming sequences and battle arenas, just like the Uncharted games. While the player controls only Star-Lord – a decision that works well for all aspects of gameplay – each Guardian can be summoned at the touch of a button to perform a specific task. This short entry works well, and Eidos-Montreal even scrambles the character to the desired location to make sure you’re moving forward at a brisk pace. You can summon Drax to knock over a pillar or Gamora to jump on a wall to boost you to a platform. All of the Guardians’ moves are used to solve puzzles in the environment, which starts off fun but loses its luster with repeated solutions.
The Guardians also play a huge role in combat and are as powerful as you’d hope. Groot can defeat enemies with a swarm of carrots, Rocket shoots enemies with a ridiculous number of guns, and Drax and Gamora use knives to slice and dice. For Star-Lord, however, this isn’t a game I would consider a power fantasy. His blasters are weak and he has to work hard to take down even the lowest enemies. All Guardians must be used strategically to find success. Star-Lord can run around quickly and check off the enemy’s health, but his main contribution is as a playmaker. If he wants to summon a Guardian, time slows down and he can tell them to perform a desired ability. It’s not a power fantasy, but a teamwork fantasy that is immensely satisfying when everything clicks as it should.
At its peak, the battles are handled admirably through the controls, allowing the player to dash through the arena, quickly marking targets and just as quick to tell each Guardian what to do. Given the number of characters on screen at any given time, the combat looks chaotic, but there’s a violent beauty to it, and you overlook it all, as you issue orders in various ways to rain down death. The Guardians can also link most moves together to really show off the team’s strength. Towards the end of the game, the battles are extremely entertaining and provide a good challenge. Oddly enough, the game’s most powerful ability is a Star-Lord pep talk, which always brings in a bit of humor, but pauses the fight for way too long and ends up getting quite annoying.
Now for the bad news: Battle opening hours are a rough and smooth ride. Before legitimate threats emerge from the woodwork, the Guardians take on gelatinous cubes and spheres, conflicts that are as bland as they sound. With a good majority of abilities locked for more than half of the game, the Guardians’ true potential is kept at bay for far too long and the experience suffers. This game is at its best when it’s overdone, and it will get there eventually, but not fast enough. The training wheels are on for half the game. A lack of shine over the whole experience hurts too. Some animations are a bit jumpy, specific gameplay mechanics like sliding don’t offer much precision, and the framerate of combat can be rough at times.
Another misfire is controlling the Milan in space battles. The concept is cool, but clunky controls and lack of threat make these moments little more than a visual showcase. The game’s other derivations do much better. Tracking down different colors for each Guardian is a nice reward, and some collectibles that appear on the Milan open new conversations and backstory.
As a fan of the Guardians’ comic books and movies, I thoroughly enjoyed Eidos-Montreal’s unique take on this supergroup. The non-stop character talk and beautifully designed choices make this a journey worth while, even if the gameplay takes a little too long to highlight the team’s true potential.