Guardians Of The Galaxy was a strange experience for me. On the one hand, I could see so much love for marvel and the universe that the comics had built up, but the game lacked polish in so many other ways.
The gameplay feels like a jack-of-all-trades. The majority of your time will be spent playing an average squad-based third-person shooter, where you run around an open space locking onto enemies. Enemies have weaknesses to different elements, which you make use of as you unlock control over those elements via your gun. Taking advantage of their weaknesses means you can stagger them or lower their defences faster, so you have a larger window of time to deal damage to them. All of your fellow guardians also have abilities that you can command them to use at any time, such as Groot being able to root enemies to the ground for a certain amount of time. Or Gamora being able to deal heavy damage to one enemy by slashing them repeatedly with her sword. Soon you begin to learn the combinations that most efficiently dispatch certain enemies.
You also have a “Huddle” meter that, when it fills up, can trigger a speech from Peter that, if you do it correctly, gives a buff to all of the guardians, and plays a random song from the game’s licensed soundtrack. This sounds great, but oftens breaks the flow of combat, as it pulls you out of the fight to choose one out of two responses to the guardian’s thoughts on the fight.
The other problem with combat, is that you’ve kind of mastered it by the time you reach the halfway point. You’ve seen almost all of the enemy types aside from these boring looking Alien-Yetis who only appear for one chapter. For the rest of the game, you’ll just have the same enemies you’ve seen before just thrown at you again and again in similar looking rooms. This problem is confounded if you play on the hard difficulty. It feels like Eidos Montreal’s idea of making combat harder isn’t creating more interesting enemy dynamics, or making more difficult enemy patterns and groups. Instead they give them multiple health bars and make them deal more damage. But once you figure out that if you just mash Peter’s dodge button, you’re mostly untouchable. The game only gets easier towards the end, when Groot unlocks the ability to resurrect you once-per-battle, and Peter unlocks an ability that makes him invulnerable for a short amount of time. So “Hard” really just translates to longer, more tedious battles.
It’s only worse when you reach the bosses: Often they’re much bigger than you, so the camera is usually angled upward, making it hard to see the graphics on the ground that telegraph where attacks will land. But even with that, I still only died three times during these fights. Once with the penultimate boss, and twice on the final boss. And what a disappointing final boss fight;. It’s a glorified battle arena that you have to survive three rounds of, before doing a couple quick time events to finish them off.
Aside from the combat, there’s a few traversal puzzles where you have to use the guardians abilities to create a path to the next main area. Early on in the game they’re pretty interesting and have a bit going on, but later on they just become one-note that I doubt could even be called puzzles. The game also very lazily adds some space-flight sections. The first is a on-rails escape sequence in the vein of something like star-fox, but the obstacles are a similar colour palette to the background, making it hard to see what’s going on. The second is a dogfight against a group of ships, culminating in a bossfight against a single fighter. The third is a similar scenario to the second, but instead you’re told to ignore them and just b-line for a marker at the other end of the arena without getting killed. All of these sections suffer from incredibly clunky controls, and are generally not fun to play at all. I actually wish that they either spent more time polishing these sections and cutting out some of the more superfluous chapters in the latter-half of the game, or just had them play-out as cutscenes.
When you aren’t solving puzzles or dealing with the games’ combat, you’re making choices in the style of the old Telltale games, complete with text boxes in the corner saying things like “Rocket appreciated you sticking up for him”. These choices do have some gravitas, influencing who comes to help in the final fight at the end of the game, and how some chapters of the game play out. My only complaint is the ones that have to deal with the guardians themselves. It felt like most of the choices regarding the guardians had next to no impact, aside from one to do with Gamora. And even then, when that choice came up, I didn’t realise it was a choice until that text-box in the corner appeared. This is because every other choice in the game has you choose from two options in a pop-up dialog box, but this one had you physically choose whether to follow Gamora up a path, or stay and fight a generic battle.
Speaking of which, The story is my biggest problem with the game. The game follows the guardians as they attempt to repay a fine to the Nova Corps, when they stumble upon an apocalyptic cult that threatens to consume the galaxy. On paper, this sounds like a decent story, but the first half of the game is spent on building up supporting characters, the reason for the fine, character motivations, and the stakes so that the second half of the game can shine. Sadly, they don’t pull it off for a number of reasons.
First, the game’s main antagonist is not properly introduced until half-way through the game, and you do not end up seeing them that much throughout the game. You know little about them, and you only really begin learning more about his backstory in the latter half of the game, which is mind-boggling given the amount of set-up and exposition that was placed in the first half of the game.
Second, the team itself at times is insufferable. In fact, The main antagonist was not as hate-able as Rocket for me. Early on, you have the chance to make choices to help rocket out a bit, make the team respect him as a person more, and listen to his ideas. I did all of these things, but despite that he still seemed to seethe with hate whenever he saw Peter. He complained everytime we did something vaguely nice, and it’s only in the last couple of chapters that he finally seemed to actually like being part of the guardians. He and the other characters also seem to really hate it whenever you go exploring. They’ll insult Peter, tell him he’s lost, and just generally complain and moan. Given the game’s emphasis on choices and actions having consequences for the story, I’m worried this will stop players from doing so, which is a real shame given the game’s collectable costumes can be pretty good. Some of the costumes even reference some of the original comics. Additionally, it becomes pretty necessary to do this exploration to gain components to unlock perks for your guns.
They also, never, ever shut up. Now, I don’t mind a bit of talk here and there, but the guardians always have something to say during the missions. This got to the point where I’d often trigger a cutscene or a fight that would cut them off mid-sentence by accident, which just felt very awkward. What’s more mind-boggling about this, is that they never repeat any dialogue whilst you’re moving around the level, but the developers seemed to forget to make a larger pool of dialogue for the combat. You know, the stuff you actually spend most of the game partaking in. I never want to ever have to hear the lines “I guess even she has her limits” or, “What’s next Peter Quill” again.
Thirdly, a sub-plot around Peter’s origin goes unresolved. The game opens with a quick scene in his childhood home with his mother before he became a guardian. We return to this flashback a couple times in the first half of the game, but it feels like the side-plot it sets up is never properly resolved. In my playthrough, I heard a couple off-hand lines that felt like a feeble attempt at resolving it, without actually going into detail of how it was resolved in that way. It’s especially frustrating, as the first half of the game builds it up as if it will become the backbone of Peter’s character, and that it will tie heavily into the main story later on. Except, after the main villain uses the flashback to attempt to brainwash Peter, the side-plot more or less gets thrown away, along with it’s wasted potential.
Fourthly, the game has multiple points where it feels like it could very easily tie up the stories and end. It feels like Sacrosanct, the main villain’s ship, becomes a location in the second half the guardians are constantly commuting back and forth from, each time getting so close to actually saving the day. It feels almost absurd. Additionally, the game has the balls to throw in a fake-out ending, before chucking in one last boss fight. It doesn’t even contribute anything to the story by that point- We’ve already defeated the main antagonist, we’ve wrapped up all of the side-plots (aside from peter’s backstory), and the galaxy has already been more or less saved. It’s just an excuse for the game to last an extra twenty minutes more than it needs to.
Aside from all of that, the game was also very buggy. With Cyberpunk 2077 earlier this year, I was very lucky that the bugs I had were mostly just weird, with only a couple game-breaking bugs. Admittedly, that was on my PC, whereas I played Guardians on my Dad’s PS5.
BONUS BUG GIFS 1/3 pic.twitter.com/QjsBYegUUH
— Asher Trigg (@TriggAsher) November 2, 2021
With Guardians, the bugs got progressively worse as the game went on. The first half of the game plays really smoothly, but then in the latter half of the game I managed to break the boundaries of a level, I had guardians teleporting around the room, getting stuck in walls and ceilings, and even de-spawning. The de-spawning got particularly annoying, as it meant I couldn’t do the puzzles that required a guardian to use their ability in order to move on through the level. Thankfully, the game has the option to restart from a checkpoint in the pause menu, and that usually fixed the issue. Except one time where the game just completely froze, and I had to close the game completely.
As much as it’s always cathartic for me to write a review on a game that I don’t like, I still feel like this game was wasted potential. The first half of the game was genuinely fun, and I was interested to see where it was going. But the longer it went on, the more the cracks in the game began to show, and by the end I stopped checking in with my companions, I stopped looking for collectibles, and I began to rush towards the end of the game so I could say that I had finished the game. At least it had a good soundtrack.