Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy (2021) Review
“We got this… Probably…”
The newly formed Gardeners, sorry, Guardians of the Galaxy – a ragtag group of five outcasts – have taken on a risky job that involves breaching a restricted Nova Corps (essentially the galactic police) quarantine zone in order to capture a rare creature for their client, Lady Hellbender, to cash in on a huge payday.
Peter Quill, a.k.a Starlord, is the team’s charismatic leader. He’s extremely vain, a terrible singer, and oftentimes comes off as an idiot-savant rather than a stalwart leader. He’s an optimistic goofball that holds the team together through thick and thin.
Rocket Raccoon is a genetically-engineered super soldier with a love of explosives and acts as the team’s engineering expert, upgrading weapons as well as keeping the ship in flying condition. He is cynical and often butts heads with Starlord concerning the leadership of the group.
Gamora, ‘the Deadliest Woman in the Galaxy’, is a skilled assassin and the adoptive daughter of the fallen Thanos, a galactic conqueror obsessed with Death. She has only recently joined the Guardians, renouncing her previous role as an intergalactic hitman in an attempt to reconcile her past.
Drax the Destroyer is a big angry green dude (sound familiar?) that Starlord met in prison with a loose understanding of sarcasm. He is known throughout the galaxy as the man who killed Thanos. He is a warrior and highly loyal to Starlord.
Groot is Groot, a sentient tree-like being known as a Flora Colossus and an exile from his home planet, the now destroyed Planet X. He speaks a language only Rocket can understand and throughout the game collects (or smuggles) various plant species from the different planets the Guardians explore to his own little corner of their spaceship.
After picking up a shiny yellow gem and inadvertently releasing an anomalous entity the Guardians escape the quarantine zone before being captured and arrested by the Nova Corps. The team is subsequently charged with a hefty fine and given a certain amount of time to pay it before a device attached to their spaceship goes off and they are rearrested. The search for funds leads the Guardians on an adventure spanning the galaxy as they concoct various schemes and plans to get rich and they eventually come across a sinister group hellbent on taking over the universe.
The gameplay of GotG is primarily a lightweight action-shooter with special abilities and team coordination elements. It’s a casual style of fun that provides just enough different mechanics to keep things interesting without bogging the player down too much. The focus here is much more on visuals and story, and for me this was a worthwhile compromise as the game looks stunning and the story kept me mostly entertained throughout its 20+ hours.
As Starlord your primary weapons are his dual blasters which have unlimited ammo but are prone to overheat. With the help of Rocket you can upgrade your equipment using scrap found throughout the game. As the story progresses you also unlock elemental upgrades for the blasters such as lightning attacks, which can spread among multiple enemies, frost attacks which can freeze enemies solid, and a cyclone attack that can stun enemies or pull them in close for a melee attack. It’s a fairly simple gameplay loop that’s easy to pick up and the progression ensures a steady improvement throughout the game, naturally it’s bound to get repetitive – this is especially true in the later stages of the game – but for me the story and visuals more than make up for it.
In addition to the weapons and abilities available to Starlord each of the Guardians have their own set of abilities to unlock and upgrade. Rocket is an explosives expert and has access to a multitude of grenades for a wide area of damage, Groot can entangle enemies, locking them in place for a time, Gamora has a range of high damage abilities with her sword, and Drax’s abilities focus on building up an enemy’s stun gauge which stuns and increases the damage an enemy receives in addition to sometimes allowing a special follow up attack which can remove an ability such as a tail attack or flying.
As Starlord you can issue orders to your team, firing off their abilities as they’re needed, abilities are unlimited but have cooldown timers. You also have a ‘super’ ability known as ‘huddle up’ in which Starlord rallies the Guardians, increasing health, damage, and begins playing a song from the game’s soundtrack. It’s something you can use to get out of a bind and provides for cool moments if you get a good song.
Collectibles in the game include alternate costumes for each of the guardians, key items that unlock additional dialogue and background info on your team, and lore about the game’s universe and supporting cast. They aren’t game-changing in any way but if you’re a fan of the characters it’s a neat way to learn more about them and adds a small amount of exploration to the game’s otherwise straight shot level design.
Where the game shines is in its story. It’s a very cinematic and well put together experience on par with the movies in terms of quality. We follow the Guardians as they go through the motions, first starting out unsure of each other and the integrity of their group, throughout the story we see major characters’ attitudes change and overall it has a good sense of character development. The dynamic between the Guardians works very well, they engage in conversation as you explore and each character gets a handful of memorable moments throughout the course of the story.
Despite the game’s linear design it constantly kept things fresh by moving forward at a decent pace, introducing a plethora of new locales and eccentric characters along the way. The game perfectly captures the spirit of its namesake as we embark on a cosmic adventure with a ragtag group of misfits exploring quirky planets and getting into all sorts of trouble.
The graphics and overall art style of the game is masterclass, I loved the new style of the guardians and the environments were great to wander. The game also has a kickass soundtrack, featuring classic rock tracks such as Blue Oyster Cult’s Don’t Fear the Reaper, as well as tracks from Pat Benatar, Hot Chocolate, and Billy Idol.
The game exceeded expectations and it’s probably the best Marvel-based game I’ve played in a long time, possibly ever. Definitely pick this one up if you haven’t already.
Watch the trailer: