Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Surprisingly superhero-ish

by Mick Fraser
Mick Fraser
Mick Fraser
Mick has been writing about games for years, and has no intention of stopping anytime soon. You'll always find him willing to talk about games and gaming, and... read more
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  • Save the galaxy in style with Marvel's favourite motley crew
  • Head into battle and control all the Guardians at once
  • Experience an original story set across diverse, colourful locations

Since the 2014 movie, the Guardians of the Galaxy have served as the heart of the MCU. There were already enough characters representing the brains and brawn and honor, but the ragtag crew of misfits as presented by James Gunn, et al, gave us something we hadn’t yet seen in a franchise that, at the time, needed an injection of levity.

Still, while the original movie will always rank as one of my favorites, I wasn’t expecting much from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy game. The trailer gave that same uncanny valley feeling, as I was watching characters that kind of looked and kind of sounded like the heroes I knew. Within an hour, those fears were blown away like so much drifting space debris.

Besides some of the aesthetics and character touches, the game takes very little directly from the MCU. In fact, it barely takes a lot directly from the comics universe either in terms of its actual story. It’s set in a time when the Guardians are already a team, but a fledgling one, having only been on 13 missions together and still very much finding their place.

All for one

Peter Quill, aka Star Lord, remains the human core of the group. He’s the one we, arguably, relate to more as there’s still so much about the universe he doesn’t know. This is not the MCU Star Lord, but it’s not far off. He’s still a well-intentioned clown, always quick with a joke or an excuse but never failing to pull out the goods when he needs to. Playing as Quill allows us to learn things he learns, but it also positions us at the center of the group in such a way that we can call on them at any time during battle.

Rocket Raccoon, though, might as well be the very same version from the duology. He’s foul-mouthed and mean-tempered, but oddly he has some of the most emotional moments. You can collect odds and ends then discuss them with the group later aboard the Milano, and learning through this medium about his traumatic time spent as an experiment on Halfworld is genuinely quite moving.

In fact, all the characters have an incredible dimension to them – even the villains you meet along the way. The dynamic between Gamora and Drax is superb. She is the adopted daughter and former assassin of Thanos, the supervillain who killed Drax’s family and who Drax, in this universe, was the end of. They don’t hate each other, exactly, but Drax’s open hostility is so honest it’s almost endearing, and Gamora does her best to shrug it off despite the fact that she continues to do everything possible to atone for her past.

Dancin’ in the stars

And Groot… well, Groot is Groot, as he repeatedly confirms in his three-word language that Rocket unreliably translates for us. But even Groot has his moments. On top of the great characterization, there’s also a great soundtrack, filled with licensed tracks that evoke that retro-futuristic spirit at all times. 

Quite surprisingly, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a game about choice and consequence. Throughout the story, you’ll make many, many choices, some obvious and binary, presented as clear-cut dialogue options. These may force you to take one side or another in an argument, or go with one teammate’s plan over another. The characters remember your choices for the entire game and will even bring them up again hours later.

Other choices are more subtle and in fact, you may not even realize you’re making one. Opting to, for example, wander off the obvious path can lead to one or more of the Guardians following you for a conversation you may not have experienced otherwise. Sometimes it will simply lead to them chastising you for wasting their time.

We are Groot

The more hours you play, the more you’ll see certain lines and exchanges repeated, but there is a ton of dialogue in this game. It’s not all pure gold, but the majority of it absolutely nails the Guardians brand. And the voice acting is some of the very, very best I’ve ever heard. Kimberley Sue-Murray and Alex Weiner as Gamora and Rocket respectively absolutely powerhouse their roles, but the other actors remain on point throughout too.

In an original story that sees the Guardians bungle a fairly simple ruse and end up indebted to the Nova Corps and up to their necks with a savage monster dealer, the crew hop between some incredible locales. And in these locales, of course, are some pretty wild alien enemies.

Sadly, though, the combat is probably the weakest element in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s not bad, exactly, but there’s a messiness to it that never manages to quite come together. As Star Lord you’ll use elemental attacks and standard blasters and can command your allies to activate any of a trio of unlockable moves. Drax can stun the enemy, Groot can entangle them, Rocket blows stuff up, and Gamora has devastating attacks that can obliterate single weakened enemies.

Teamwork makes the dream work

You’ll find scrap hidden all over the place (along with alternate outfits for the team) that let Rocket apply upgrades to your attacks and gear to give you an edge in battle and make exploring worthwhile. 

But there’s so much combat and it’s so scrappy that it’s not always easy to see what’s going on or keep track of where characters even are. At certain points, you’ll be able to activate an ultimate ability called the Huddle, which causes Quill to call his allies in for a pep talk.

As an element in a Guardians game, it’s easy to see what Eidos Montreal were going for. It’s pure Guardians fun – however, these moments break up the combat to such a degree that they become a hindrance. I don’t want to take a break mid-wallop to hear Gamora whine or Drax grumble about his lot in life. And if you fail a Huddle, which is easily done, you lose out on a group damage buff. Hardly a major issue and something else that renders them a little superfluous.

Motley crew

Misfiring gimmick aside, though, the combat in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy at least brings the team together in a meaningful way. As you progress, you’ll see the bonds between them strengthen in ways you may not even notice. At the start of the game, you’ll need to ask them to do things for you, such as Groot bridging a gap with his roots or Gamora leaping to a high cliff face to give you a boost.

By the late game, they do this without your agency, showing that they are beginning to synergize as a team. Likewise, the sharp dialogue and verbal lashings begin to soften as the characters find common ground even in seemingly random dialogue exchanges. It’s not just a cool system, it’s one of the best examples of character development I’ve seen in an action game.

If there’s a major downside here it’s in the performance. Whether I kept the graphical settings high or dropped them to accommodate, I still experienced areas of massive slow down and frame rate drops. Twice it kicked me back to desktop after a Huddle, and there are all sorts of physical glitches like vibrating characters and animation bugs.

There was nothing that ruined my fun, but a triple-A should be in better condition at launch. Also, if you’re playing with a controller, look out for a weird bug that repeatedly scrambles the control prompts across Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch inputs. That one is a lot of fun during QTEs, as you can imagine.

Completion and achievements

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy will take around 15 to 18 hours to beat, but if you want to explore every nook and cranny for hidden collectibles and outfits it will take more than 20.

There’s a full suite of achievements on PC that ape the console list, so if you’re a trophy hunter there’s plenty to get stuck into. You can unlock all trophies in one run, but there are missable achievements ties to the collectibles, so you may want to use a guide here.

Final thoughts on Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

Perfectly nails the Guardians atmosphere
Stunning alien worlds
Incredible soundtrack
Struggles technically
Huddle system is a bit of a misfire
Combat can feel a little tedious

Final Score: 4/5

Despite some annoying bugs and a few hit-and-miss gimmicks, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an exceptional cinematic adventure. The choice system is excellent and feeds into the stellar character development in ways you may not even realize at the time.

Crucially, it doesn’t outstay its welcome or get bogged down in filler. The combat isn’t always a winner though, which is a shame because there’s so much of it. Ultimately, this game is just a lot of fun, with some genuinely touching character moments sprinkled in that will give you pause for thought among all the wise-cracks. Don’t let the bugs put you off: Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a fantastic blast of intergalactic adventure.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is available on PC for around $49.99. It’s also available on PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X and S. You can see its recommended specs on the Steam page.

*Disclaimer: Reviewed on PC. Review code provided by the publisher.