Street Fighter II, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Monkey Island 2, Super Mario World, GoldenEye 64, Half Life 2, Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic, Skyrim and Guardians of the Galaxy. What do these games have in common? They’re possibly some of the greatest games of all time and certainly of their respective generations. Having played through Guardians of the Galaxy I can say with absolute certainty that this is, without a doubt, my favourite game of 2021 if not in my top five games of all time. It’s flarkin’ brilliant!
Guardians of the Galaxy by Eidos Montréal is a third-person action-adventure game that is driven by character and story rather than any frills. There’s no DLC, there’s no microtransactions, there’s no online element. It is just a perfect game encapsulated in around 20 hours of emotional escapism.
I’ve been a huge fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy since about 2008 when I enjoyed the comics by Abnett and Lanning. So, when this game was announced I’ve been following it closely with anticipation and excitement and was glad it lived up to, and exceeded, every single expectation I had.
The game is inspired in part from key comics in the Guardians of the Galaxy history. Specifically, Annihilation, Annihilation Conquest, the 2008 Abnett and Lanning run, War of Kings and Realm of Kings. However, it is a long way off being a videogame adaptation of these works. If you’re a keen comic fan you’ll love the little nods and details. If you’re totally new to the Guardians of the Galaxy or have only seen the MCU movies, then it doesn’t matter. This is a new interpretation of the characters in a wholly original story.
While I won’t spoil the story the Guardians, short on money, unwittingly unleash an evil on the universe with dire consequences. They must fight to put it right. It’s an epic tale that takes the player on a space-operatic journey across the cosmos. You will encounter other characters from the Marvel universe, battle unique monsters and foes and learn a lot about the team and their history along the way. The story is fantastic, it is well written, expertly paced and you find yourself caring a lot about these characters and what’s going to happen next.
What I found particularly brilliant were the little cutscenes or moments not necessarily part of the main story. These were scenes with such emotion and heart that I was reaching for the tissues quickly to wipe away a tear or two! Combine this with fast-paced action sequences and some wonderful humour and moments between the crew onboard the ship. What you get is a tale of a family of outcasts going up against true evil to save the universe. As an avid gamer and movie lover I say with complete sincerity its better than a lot of movies I’ve seen.
Guardians of the Galaxy Music
Rarely in games is the soundtrack discussed. But where Guardians of the Galaxy is concerned the music is almost as important as the story. What the whole team have done here is fantastic. The orchestral score by Richard Jacques is perfect and honestly deserves awards. Beautifully composed to heighten whatever mood the scene is creating without overshadowing any other element. It’s my new favourite score of any game.
Then you have the wonderful compilation of music that you would expect our hero, Star Lord, to be listening to including some real 80s gems. You can turn these off in Streamer Mode if you’re using the game for YouTube and Twitch.
Finally you have possibly one of the greatest rock albums of all time. An album I might add that was created by Steve Szczepkowski and Yohann Boudreault specifically for this game because someone decided that’s where Star Lord took his name from. I said this game is about 20 hours but if you spend a long time in the prologue listening to the Star Lord Album as I did… well it can take a lot longer. (You should also totally do this because not only is it brilliant but the nostalgia of laying in bed listening to music, reading the lyric book and a Rolling Stone magazine is like travelling back in time and I love it.
Guardians of the Galaxy Art
I reviewed Guardians of the Galaxy on both PS5 and PC and on both it was jaw-droppingly beautiful. Vibrant in colour and fantastical in creating mind-blowing alien worlds. Each place you visit feels totally unique; from the Quill farmhouse to the interior of the Milano, from alien planets to the spaceport of Knowhere. It’s all visually stunning to explore and look at and it’s well worth spending the time doing so. Photo Mode is a blessing for a game like this. The style has a grounded realism about it while still maintaining some comic book flair. While characters and some locations are recognisable, the new and unique designs are fresh and visually interesting. There is a clear love of the comics and that comes through in these designs.
Guardians of the Galaxy Gameplay and Controls
Gameplay was smooth and transitioning between locations and levels was quick and seamless giving the game a continuous movie-like feel. Jumping in and out of combat was equally as smooth. Combat is exciting with a variety of combos and moves you can master as Star Lord. What I particularly enjoyed though was the team aspect. While you can’t play as any other member you can control your team in combat to perform a series of moves which you unlock as you gain skill points.
Combat is fast paced and the camera tracking and target locking works well to maintain focus. Each member of the team performs a different function. Groot, for example, uses his root abilities to placate enemies and hold them, you can pair this with explosives expert Rocket for some satisfying high-AOE damage. It is working out these combos and how the team works together that is particularly rewarding. It becomes vital in later fights and ‘boss battles’ to master the control of your team to ensure survival and success.
The music has also been entwined in the gameplay with the huddle mechanic. This feature means that you can pick the right choice in a dialogue option to boost your team in combat and is accompanied by some awesome music.
During my playthrough I only encountered one bug where Star Lord got stuck but the game knew to respawn me and the whole process, while foolish on my part, was seamless. The variety of gameplay was also exciting. There’s the third-person action-adventure elements as you would expect, but also levels which require you to pilot the Milano in dogfighting scenarios, reminiscent of games like Rogue Squadron, that I wish there had been more of. Plenty of environmental puzzles to solve and lots of combat as well. The game never felt boring or repetitive because of this. The gameplay also provided a good level of challenge but never became frustrating.
The development of characters are well implemented with the four team members gaining a special ability during story progression. As for Star Lord he gets additional progression in the form of the element guns. This is well executed, and each power becomes necessary for solving those environmental puzzles or during combat. One welcomed addition to gameplay was the idea of choices mattering. There are at least two cutscenes where your choices determine how difficult the last section of the story will be. It’s wonderful when you see your choices pay off later. Dialogue options continue to play an important part of the story throughout, and this is something Eidos Montréal have always done well. Often the player, as Star Lord, will need to decide how he will react to what’s going on around him and his teammates interacting with each other and the situation.
Controls were logical and intuitive, and the game does a great job in teaching you as you progress or skill up without breaking the immersive story. Another great feature was the use of components to upgrade Star Lord’s skills and abilities. This was implemented by seeing Rocket at the workbench and even this became part of the story in a way. The attention to detail and the level of care made the entire experience very natural and never detracted from the game.
As you would expect from a game of this type voice acting is so important. Every part is voice acted. Thankfully, every part is exceptionally voice acted and the cast did an amazing job embodying these characters, lifting them from the pages of the comics and giving them their own fresh breath of life. The cast really deliver. Jon McLaren may just be the greatest Star Lord of all time.
The quality of the acting, the interaction between each other even in combat and the emotional range, made me believe they were these characters; drew me in and made me laugh, cry and cheer along with them. Even the most minor characters that showed up kept this quality. The game has so much humour between the characters with their constant familial bickering it must have been a fun day in the office if the cast got to record it together. The chemistry here is something special and so every moment, every interaction, is so rich in depth and quality that I never got that urge to skip or rush through anything.
There are three cutscenes that stand out as moments of perfection and what really bring this game up to levels of ‘GOAT’ status. Star Lord and Drax talking on Knowhere about loss, Gamora talking to the team about belonging and self-hatred and Nikki talking about family and loss and heartbreak. Find these scenes, watch them in full, get lost in them. You will really appreciate how every single element: story, music, art, and acting is combining to make moments of pure cinematic greatness. This is more than a videogame.
Guardians of the Galaxy has an impressive array of accessibility features to make this game available to so many people. There’s subtitles, language options (which include overheard dialogue), closed captions which have a ‘character name on’ option, the ability to change subtitle text size and decide how much background they have. Combat has a variety of movement and target-based options to tweak to an individual’s particular needs.
There are four difficulty modes which can be further customised with options controlling the huddle, ability cooldown, outlining objects, compass system and so, so, so many more. There is an understanding here that every gamer is different and wants and needs different things. What Eidos Montréal achieved here is a game accessible to so many people; and with a game based on a team who feels like they don’t belong or are ostracised, having such an inclusive game is just so wonderful. It’s so Guardians of the Galaxy.
For Marvel comic fans I loved the incredible volume of references, cameos and elements lifted from the pages of the comics. From walking through the Collector’s Emporium on Knowhere, to characters that pop up along the way, Guardians of the Galaxy delves deep into the legacy of Marvel’s cosmic universe. This grounds the game with so much worldbuilding and lore. It’s also a delight to spot them as you play. On more than one occasion I exclaimed in excitement at spotting something so minor on set decoration like a vending machine. Comic book fans will find this a treat while those that aren’t, won’t have anything taken from their overall enjoyment. Also, Cosmo the telepathic space dog is in this game and that instantly makes it better – more games need Cosmo!
If you were on the fence about picking up and playing Guardians of the Galaxy, then don’t be. Trust me as a superfan of these characters, a lover of games and a storytelling enthusiast. This game is worth it. You will laugh, you will cry, you will cheer. You will be on the edge of your seat and won’t be able to stop playing until you beat it. I genuinely don’t remember the last time I was this impressed with a game. The whole team at Eidos Montréal have knocked it out the park and truly made something fantastic; if not perfect. In Guardians of the Galaxy, I couldn’t have hoped for, or wanted, more… except a sequel. As I said it’s flarkin’ brilliant!