From the moment the Guardians of the Galaxy are unveiled as a space travel team that will do anything for a quick buck, it’s clear how much a dysfunctional mess they are. Gamora and Rocket take each other at each other’s throats. Drax and Star-Lord disagree. And nobody pays attention to Groot. For the next 15+ hours of play, I heard these underdogs quarreling, hurling insults, and chattering incessantly – much to my delight.
When I say “continuously” I mean that they never stop talking. A second seldom goes by without the Guardians sharing their thoughts. I am not exaggerating this frequency. All the moments of silence made me wonder if the game wasn’t working properly. The amount of dialogue that Eidos-Montreal has created is off the charts, and most of it is well-written, offering the witty humor, warm intimacy, and sheer chaos you would expect from the Guardians.
Drax’s inability to understand common vernacular and idioms causes great laughter and is every bit as good as James Gunn’s interpretation of the character in the Guardian‘Movies. I’ve never said that in a review, but the dialogue is the best part of the game. Eidos-Montreal kicked it out of the park. The rest of the game is great fun, but with different quality and polish – the latter subtly violates critical areas of the gaming experience.
It took me a couple of hours to warm up with both Star-Lord and the combat system. Peter Quill is a bit annoying from the start, but comes up when the team dynamic begins to gel and the story softens from its overall bombastic tone so that he can show his emotional side. I have adored him over time, especially when he talks to himself.
Its story is well written, and Eidos-Montreal has done an excellent job of incorporating its leadership skills into action and decision-making. The players have total control over Star-Lord and determine the path of your team. These choices aren’t on the same seismic scale as a Mass Effect game, and don’t change the story much, but offer fun alternate sequences and even more dialogue.
I can’t speak about all of the results that come from these decisions, but the more than a dozen I experienced on a second run were just as good and flowed as naturally as those on my first run. While it was too much fun capturing the varied humor or unique gameplay sequences that I missed before, they weren’t enough for me to want to move on to see how the second trip would be different. Not much changes here either.
This is a game where narration takes just as much time as gameplay. Given the fun of the story, I had no problem sitting back and watching a large chunk of my time, especially when I was in control of the most important decisions. The fascination of discovery anchors the story and touches each Guardian in a way that shapes it thoroughly. I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot, but the Guardians are chasing something evil that they unleash. This hook stays strong for most of the experience, moving in a nice clip, and striking a delicate balance between seriousness and downright absurd.
Eidos-Montreal completely encompasses “science fiction” themes in the worlds, characters and this evil being. The worlds steal the eye with their wild colors and strangely designed views. The characters are just as strange (sometimes for comedic reasons) and this evil beast moves in the most peculiar and amazing ways.
Each world urges the Guardians to rely on their unique skills to navigate treacherous terrain. The paths forward are always linear and full of plat form sequences and battle arenas, similar to the Uncharted games. While the player only controls Star-Lord – a choice that works well for all aspects of gameplay – any guardian can be summoned with the push of a button to perform a specific task. These short inputs work well, and Eidos-Montreal even skews the character in where you want them to make sure you move forward at a solid pace. You can summon Drax to knock over a pillar or Gamora to jump on a wall to get you onto a platform. All of the guardians’ movements are used to solve environmental puzzles, which is fun but loses its luster with repeated solutions.
The Guardians also play a huge role in combat and are as powerful as you wish. Groot can knock down enemies with a swarm of roots, Rocket annihilates enemies with a ridiculous array of weapons, and Drax and Gamora use blades to cut and dice. For Star-Lord, however, this is not what I would call a power fantasy game. His blasters are weak and he has to work hard to bring down even the lowest of enemies. All Guardians must be used strategically to be successful. Star-Lord can zoom around quickly and tick off the enemy’s health, but his most important contribution is his playmaker. If he wants to summon a guardian, time will slow down and he can tell them to perform a desired skill. It’s not a power fantasy, but a teamwork fantasy that is very satisfying in the end when everything clicks the way it should.
At its peak, the battle is handled admirably by the controls, allowing the player to whip around the arena, quickly highlighting targets, and just as quickly telling each guard what to do. Given how many characters are on the screen at any given time, the battle looks chaotic, but it has a violent beauty and you oversee everything by issuing commands in various ways to rain death. The Guardians can also string most moves together to really show off the strength of the team. At the end of the game, the fights are extremely entertaining and provide a good challenge. Oddly enough, the game’s strongest ability is an encouraging conversation from Star-Lord, which always has a bit of humor on it, but interrupts the fight for far too long and ends up getting quite annoying.
Now for the bad news: the battle hours are a tough and uneventful ride. Before legitimate threats are thrown out of the wood, the Guardians pick up gelatinous cubes and balls, conflicts that sound as boring as they are. With a good majority of the skills locked away for over half the game, the Guardians’ true potential is kept in check for far too long and the experience suffers. This game is best when it’s over the top and it eventually gets there, but not fast enough. The training wheels are on for half of the game. A lack of polish throughout the experience hurts too. Some animations are a little erratic, special gameplay mechanics like sliding don’t offer a lot of precision, and the frame rate of combat can be harsh at times.
Another misfire controls the Milan in space battle sequences. The concept is cool, but cumbersome controls and the lack of a threat make these moments little more than a visual showcase. The game’s other distractions do much better. Tracking down different suits for each Guardian is a nice reward, and some collectibles that appear on top of that Milan open new conversations and background stories.
As a fan of the Guardians comics and films, I really enjoyed Eidos-Montreal’s unique take on this supergroup. The non-stop banter of the characters and the nicely crafted choices make this journey a worthwhile trip, even if the gameplay takes a little too long to reveal the team’s true potential.