Grab your cassette player and favorite mixtape, Marvel’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy is coming in hot. Guardians of the Galaxy blends familiar elements from both mediums and adds the necessary originality to make it a compelling experience for die-hard Marvel fans and those looking for a fall blockbuster.
Eidos Montreal has worked to create an original spin on the rag-tag group of characters we’ve grown to love from the comics and MCU films over many years. At this point, we’ve seen studios attempt to elevate the superhero genre with varying success. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy steps in as a single-player, narrative-focused experience. It’s a tantalizing prospect, putting all the game’s eggs into the narrative basket. We see the game
examine the deep relationships between the group of five outcasts banding together to ultimately save the world.
Marvel’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy does have to balance that narrative focus with a gameplay loop that’s very non-traditional. Stepping into the role of Guardians of the Galaxy leader Peter Quill aka Starlord, you command the squad of Groot, Rocket, Gamora, and Drax. The number of options and systems at play can feel like they come at a cost of fluidity during combat; it can take a lot of getting used to. Though once mastered, you begin to feel like you are the glue holding these characters together. You start to hit those ‘Hell yeah!’ moments more often. Combat and the 80s jams meld together in a way that’s fitting and expected in a Guardians of the Galaxy tale.
Putting the “guardians” into the Guardians of the Galaxy
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy picks up a short time after the gang has met and began traveling the solar system together. In a bid to legitimize the Guardians as a respectable mercenary outfit, Starlord and co. have taken to running bounties and hunting for space monsters. We see the gang attempt to locate an oddity for a war-lord named Lady Hellbender, ruler of Seknarf Nine. Naturally, nothing goes according to plan for the Guardians and things begin to spiral out of control very quickly.
It’s not before long that everything escalates. The Guardians are thrust into taking down radical religious zealot Grand Unifier Raker and the Universal Chuch of Truth. This not only sets up the Guardians to become heroes but tests the inner workings and trust between the individual members of this unlikely team. This endeavor to set everything right helps explore each character in a very intimate way. Spending so much time with these characters, you really begin to understand and appreciate them on a new level.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy feels very familiar. Readers of the comics will see inspiration taken from contemporary runs like Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s. There’s also the more mainstream and well-known version, being James Gunn’s adaptation for the MCU. Eidos Montreal took the best aspects of each medium, put them together and built an original story around the whole thing. The tone is just right. While the occasional misfired joke may not land, there’s always another one around the corner that gets you. However, I do feel some performances are too inspired by their MCU counterpart. There are times when Rocket sounds exactly like Bradley Cooper’s version, which does break the immersion.
Leader of the pack
Starlord is very much the commander and leader of this motley crew. This means he has to keep the peace in his dysfunctional family. Although Marvel’s Guardian’s of the Galaxy is a linear story-based experience, there are dialogue decisions to make throughout the story. Starlord’s responses and interactions can have small to medium-sized effects on characters. You’ll see the butterfly effect come in different forms. At times, you’ll be granted additional banter between characters. Other times, your choices in dialogue can affect small story beats. There are no wrong decisions at the end of the day.
Starlord’s leadership is intrinsically tied to the combat and other systems in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Players control Starlord, who in turn commands the rest of the characters. During combat, players can open up the team skill menu, which contains up to four abilities for each character, including Starlord. You’ll then have to choose which ability you’d like that character to use. You can then build combos between characters, raising your damage multiplier. The higher the combat score, the faster you’ll earn skill points. The system is unconventional and reminiscent of ARPG mechanics. Thankfully, the game eases you in and slowly explains how all the systems work in unison.
The system I adore the most is the Team Huddle. Once you build your huddle meter, Starlord will call all Guardians together. You can then motivate the team. Once completed, the 80s soundtrack kicks in, all characters are given buffs, and the hype gets ratcheted up to 11. Nothing says Guardians more than flying around as Starlord, firing blasters, all while The Final Countdown blares in the background.
Love at the heart of it all
The team at Eidos Montreal has a clear passion and appreciation not just for Guardians of the Galaxy, but Marvel’s universe. The game is ripe with deep references and connections between the Guardians and the greater galactic side of Marvel. From niche characters in the Nova Corp. to more familiar faces like Mantis, it’s all here. There’s no shortage of referential nods to notice when traveling the stars in the Milano.
The source material is also used elegantly in cosmetic items. Littered throughout each level are scraps that can be crafted into passive and active buffs for Starlord. On top of that, you can find outfits that are torn straight off the pages of comics throughout the ages, as well as MCU-accurate ones. Eidos has also designed some thoughtful outfits that fit the style and tone of what Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is all about.
Of course, a Guardians game needs a powerful soundtrack. As already mentioned, music plays into its punchy combat but can also be heard within the Milano ship and throughout the game. Eidos nails the music, with a soundtrack featuring 30+ songs like Blondie’s Call Me and Joan Jetts’ Bad Reputation. Streamers and content creators may not be able to take full advantage of the licensed music, but the game also features 10 original tracks from the fictitious rock band Star-Lord. These tracks hit hard and become an earworm right off the hop.
The cinematic score also compliments those blockbuster moments that you expect to experience in a Marvel property. The exhilaration you normally feel in a theatre seat happens often throughout the story.
With familiar touchstones sprinkled throughout its beefy single-player campaign, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy remains faithful to its source material. While some performances lacked originality or were mirroring the MCU too closely, the tone was what I needed. Characterizations and relationships between the Guardians are realized in a way that can only be achieved in games. Spending so much time with the core cast, you’ll understand each member of the team on a new level, regardless of your exposure to the films and comics.
Combat and the systems Eidos Montreal chose to use are interesting. A part of me wonders how Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy would have played if you only controlled Starlord. However, I understand that thematically, commanding the crew and building those combos is essential to the feeling of Starlord being the leader; it just takes getting used to.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is that quintessential blockbuster game we crave at this time of year. Spectacle, humor, and lore-building, Eidos Montreal brought it all to the table.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is available on Oct. 26 on PC, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Switch via Cloud, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox One.
A review copy of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was provided by the publisher for review purposes.