guardians

"Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy" embraces its absurd premise and surroundings.

Cue the music — the galaxy is being overrun by a sadistic cult, a talking dog is flying around in a celestial's hollowed out skull and the lost deity of the universe has returned: solely to speak in alliteration. There’s only one team that can stop this madness — the Guardians of the Galaxy. 

“Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy'' is a third-person-action adventure that finds success in its story-driven gameplay and stunning scenery. The studio behind it, Eidos Montreal, set a clear plan from the beginning — create a limited scope and focus solely on developing the elements within that vision.

This results in a journey that thrusts its characters and narrative beats at the forefront while allowing time for the crew’s relationships to develop and the story to flourish, even when the game lacks some overall polish. 

Let’s begin with the usual rundown of the basics. The player will take control of Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord and leader of the Guardians, as he struggles to maintain harmony among his agitated crew. 

At the beginning, the team is made up of Gamora, Drax the Destroyer, Rocket Racoon and his fellow tree companion, Groot. 

After spending only a few moments with the newly formed Guardians, a botched mission turns sinister as an unknown entity is released upon the galaxy and, naturally, sends the Guardians on an adventure to stop the impending lunacy. 

The premise and surrounding elements are absolutely absurd, but “Marvel’s Guardians” embraces this and steers the madness into a cohesive and fun narrative. It knows when to really lean into the hysterical and when to slow down and explore each guardian’s personal growth. 

It's during these specific scenes that I began to truly understand each character's motives to stick with one another. Drax wasn’t just some dumb muscle but rather a grieving father who lost his family to the recent galactic war. Rocket wasn’t just a raging furball with no filter, but a tortured being who was given a soul with the only purpose of being experimented on.  

And, after exploring the underlying connection between each character, the zealous crew would jump right back into discussing which guardian would defecate on themselves in their next mission. It’s a back-and-forth that defines the game’s identity and made the entirety of my 23-hour playthrough an engaging experience. 

The structure of the game is divided into 16 chapters, and throughout these chapters are layers of world-building and nods to the comics. With each new costume, item and world faction introduced comes a handy description in the game’s encyclopedia that defines its origin and importance in the comics. 

This might not intrigue all players who pick up the game, but as someone who enjoys the extra lore, I greatly appreciated this small addition. Even more history is revealed as the player traverses through the gorgeous locales spread throughout the chapters. 

The crew will tell tales and disclose past experiences as they trudge across the vibrant planets painted with deep hues and dense flora. These hefty conversations provide entertainment but also showcase the dynamics of each character's relationship with one another — even when major narrative events aren’t present. 

Dialogue decisions are available for the player to choose from during these conversations, but the overall impact of this feature is slightly underwhelming. Each decision is normally inconsequential, and most will only lead to slight differences in upcoming dialogue or small advantages in the following boss battle. 

Enough of the story and characters — let’s talk about the battle system and map design. Each chapter is linear, setting a clear path that the player must follow with some generic puzzle solving along the way. It’s not the most intricate design, but the linearity plays well with the pacing of the story and flow of combat. 

When encountering enemies, a transition will occur and the player will begin to fly around the designated combat area with Quill. The combat can seem hectic at first, as Quill not only has his own skillset to manage but also the moves of his fellow guardians. Each guardian has up to four skills, and each skill aligns with one of the four categories: area of effect, crowd control, dealing physical damage and building up stagger damage. 

It’s a system that takes some time to get used to, but the potential synergy between each character on the battlefield makes every moment of learning well worth it. The only issue I encountered was the lack of polish on the animations and transitions with certain movements. 

Quill will have the option to do auto-finishers with nearby guardians when an enemy is low on health. These animations didn’t always line up with the correct positioning of the character models, and a good portion of the time, I was punching or shooting an empty space. 

I’ll add that for some players, the limited number of four abilities spread between each character might not be enough variety to keep them satisfied toward the end of the game. For me, the cinematic nature of each move and strategic layer during combat kept me satisfied, but acknowledging this potential pain-point is important.

There were some slight hiccups in the game’s performance. I ran into the occasional pop-in when exploring planets, some repeated audio clips during combat and a single-system crash on my PS5 during Chapter 14.

Most of these bugs didn’t occur often enough to create any frustration while I was playing, but keep note that the game has some areas to improve on with future updates. 

Overall, “Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy” is an over-the-top experience that knows how and when to use its humor to brighten a scene or further develop the impact of a narrative beat. It’s world-building creates a natural curiosity for its surrounding cast, and even though some aspects of the combat lack refinement, its system evokes a true sense of synergy between the player and their fellow guardians. 

Contact Daniel Carter at carte3dt@dukes.jmu.edu. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.