Leading a ragged team of superheroes for hire is no small feat, but in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the leadership of that team will determine the fate of the galaxy. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy puts players in control of Star-Lord, the legendary outlaw. He will be joined by Rocket Raccoon, Groot, Gamora and Drax Destroyer on a chaotic mission to correct mistakes and address the consequences of his actions and choices. Developed by Eidos-Monreal, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy are a fantastic, often bombastic adventure with unstable combat and meaningful choices. The game also features impressive music with over 30 popular hits of the biggest names of the 1980s, including Blondie, Def Leppard and Tears for Fears.
The story begins with the Guardians of the Galaxy, who have been working together for some time, amid a quest to defeat and capture a monster that will lead them to the legendary Lady Hellbender to make some money. In doing so, they make a mistake that provokes the anger of the New Corps and send the team on an adventure to correct his mistakes before destroying the peace in the galaxy. Player choices help shape the narrative, and Star-Lord decisions at every turn can have far-reaching or benign consequences. The game is fast, with exciting fighting and interesting puzzles, but it suffers a bit from clumsy combat mechanics, repetitive locations and often vague instincts.
Fight u Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a huge part of the game, and players will have a variety of weapons and powers at their disposal. Star-Lord can use jet boots, elemental blasters and various DPS abilities and control a bunch of other Guardians to fight a bunch of alien creatures that can sometimes feel endless. Between these minor fights, players will also encounter difficult, if not repetitive, boss fights that last for a while and often impose a run-and-shoot strategy. Unlike most third-person shooters, players will have to shoot blindly or lock themselves on each target, and Star-Lord must target the enemy to give orders to his team, which can significantly limit positioning and make the action seem a little more inconvenient.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy are great when it comes to storytelling, especially characterization, dialogue, and integration of player choices. Although the story is more a collection of events than a close narration held by a single tension, it seems appropriate for these characters to spend most of their time staggering around, clearing up the consequences of their chaos and inevitably creating more afterwards. The story is compelling enough to keep players engaged, and the unpredictability of the Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy story provides many unexpected encounters.
The main team in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is perfectly characterized. This particular narrative adheres more strongly to comics than Marvel’s 2014 film Guardians of the Galaxy; in the game’s timeline, for example, Drax succeeds in his attempt to kill Thanos Mad Titan, and Rocket mentions what happened to his soulmate, Lylla. The characters shine the most when the team teases, usually between or during missions. Team members quarrel, present their ideas and opinions, tease each other and remember, and most of these lines are unique and unrepeatable. They also scold Star-Lord if it takes him too long to complete a task or once again check an area they specifically told him was a dead end, helping to breathe life into their friendship with organic feeling.
Similar to some of the best Telltale games, players will have to choose both between scenes and during research in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. When moving through different chapters, Star-Lord will often have to present arguments or gather his team. In between scenes, he will have to decide how to react to the situation in which the Guardians find themselves. Often, team members will react to Star-Lord’s decisions and remember his choices. In inter-scene situations, the choice Star-Lord makes can change the trajectory of the story or the team earning useful allies. If Star-Lord needs to react to the situation for too long and remain silent, the consequences could change significantly, which could act for or against the team. It’s not clear to what extent Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a game where elections really matter; players would have to re-complete the story or each chapter and make a different choice to see the full range of consequences they might face. As the game is often saved automatically, it is almost impossible to restart the scene and make a different choice in the same cycle.
While players, unfortunately, can only control Star-Lord in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, the rest of the team is integrated quite uniquely. On the interactive elements in the environment, Star-Lord can issue orders to his team. He can usually ask Rocket to climb in small spaces or hack systems, Gamora to cut through obstacles or jump and climb to high places, Groot to form bridges over heavy ravines, and Drax to lift, pull or moves heavy objects. Although the right choice is usually obvious, this mechanic gives the team more work than just following the player and makes each of them feel important to the story.
What Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy struggles with the most is its combat design. Without the ability to control other team members, players like Star-Lord are limited to issuing orders. However, with a fight that is intense and fast, as well as with a Star-Lord who often attracts the aggression of multiple creatures at the same time, it can be extremely difficult to make a strategy and create combinations that use multiple Guardians skills. Battle arenas always look about the same, usually consisting of a circle or semicircle with limited options for running and hiding. The lack of variety in these designs, along with the repeated bizarre types of enemies of alien creatures, can make the fight feel repetitive and somewhat less valuable.
Another frustrating aspect of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is the mechanical quick action and button instructions that follow the quick actions. Some quick actions will be insignificant, such as a quick push of a button to extinguish all of Peter Quill’s teenage birthday candles. However, most of these quick actions are an integral part of the plot and result in premature death if not performed correctly. It is not always clear what is expected of a player to succeed in every quick action; sometimes, they have to press and hold a button, but only when the meter hits a certain zone. Next time, they will have to use new buttons or buttons to control and aim with a gun that, outside the scene, does not require such calibrations. They become confusing and often frustrating after multiple deaths.
Repetitive fighting and confusing quick actions would be less problematic if players could count on currently loading back to their latest checkpoint. However, at least on a PC, this is not the case; loading screens can take significantly longer than expected, and multiple deaths can lead to prolonged downtime for each attempt as players try to figure out how fast action works or survive a quick battle with multiple, more powerful enemies.
The research also feels a bit empty in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, because most of the paths are extremely linear. The environment is designed to keep the fun in a particular area, although sometimes there may be alternative routes to the same location. Many of these paths lead to a dead end, and Star-Lord will often have to use his viewfinder to scan interactive objects. To move forward, he will have to solve puzzles that often involve cleaning up debris, shooting at items, or using the order function to get help from his companions, but there is never a real chance of him moving away from the goal. This could be good, especially for players who feel that open-world games have become too big and too common, but it can also lead to a feeling that is drawn through the story.
Despite some of its more obvious shortcomings, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a charming experience that seems to come straight from the pages of comics. The characters and the chaotic story are the heart of the game, and these elements are performed extremely well. Despite her clumsiness, the fight can be fun and poignant, and the way the mechanics of the choice are integrated makes it feel like the players are really causing the unpredictable consequences that the Guardians are facing. Especially for superhero games, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is a breath of fresh air that shows how much fun and how many single player games can still be.
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