While the mainline Avengers got their video game opportunity with the release of Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers game in 2020, their intergalactic counterparts get their own adventure with Square Enix and Eidos-Montréal’s Guardians of the Galaxy, so, of course, comparisons will be made. While Avengers was an enjoyable third-person action game that fell short due to its overreliance on live-service elements, Guardians of the Galaxy avoids that pitfall and doubles-down on the best elements that superhero games should comprise of: fun combat, a great story, and a focus on the characters themselves. This has allowed Guardians of the Galaxy to reach its potential and stand firm as one of the must-play games of 2021.
While you solely take control of Peter Quill / Star-Lord throughout the adventure, the Guardians themselves are, of course, a team affair, and the developers have ensured that this notion is intertwined throughout just about everything you do in the game. From overcoming obstacles, tacking on enemies, and even managing dialogue situations, you need to rely on your team and, furthermore, lead them. The main theme of Peter being a reluctant yet endearing leader, where he is understanding the sacrifice and burden of his role, is put at the forefront. And this is translated excellently into gameplay, where you have the ability to direct the other AI-controlled characters — namely Groot, Drax, Gamora, and Rocket — to follow your lead in combat and when interacting with other Marvel characters that you’ll encounter. Choosing whether to lie, be honest, which teammate to use as a distraction, and even what the strategy of the conversation gives you a real sense of immersion, compared to just watching cutscenes unfold.
Taking a note out of the Uncharted or The Last of Us‘ book, Guardians of the Galaxy relies heavily on conversational moments while traversing or moving to the next combat point. The characters are constantly having a back and forth with each other with some brilliantly-written dialogue, and you have the ability to chime into these conversations or not, resulting in different outcomes with each little interaction. It’s a brilliant decision that allows each character to flesh themselves (and each other) out without halting the action too much.
Speaking of, the action itself is fun, frantic, and often hilarious. As Peter, you’ll primarily be shooting enemies using your elemental guns, while dodging, hovering using Peter’s jet boots, and unleashing your own special attacks. You’ll even get to fly their spaceship, the Milano, in a few intergalactic dogfights, which was a nice touch. However, the real crux of the combat is timing and executing your teammates’ special abilities via command-wheel to get the upper-hand on foes when the punching begins.
Each character has unique abilities, such as Groot’s crowd controlling vine grab and Rocket’s large-area damage grenades, which can be combined for great effect. So, while hovering (which is a little awkward, but works), you can order Gamora to deliver a deadly strike to a stunned enemy, or ask Drax to throw an explosive barrel, for example, which adds a kind of meta game to the combat, and when it gels, it looks glorious in motion. Thrown in is some sublime voice acting and riffing between one another is unrelentingly enjoyable and really does make you feel like you’re playing alongside your best friends.
This is emphasised even further, as even the decisions you make in the heat of battle are reflected in the quiet conversation moments when you return to the ship, such as an example where Gamora appreciated that you trusted her to go after an enemy on her own (you could’ve ordered her not to). These moments really make you feel like you’re having an impact on the team with your actions and that you’re interacting with real characters, not simple NPCs who punch their way through all problems.
The colourful and bombastic nature of Guardians of the Galaxy‘s characters and world shines through in its video game counterpart, showcasing really detailed character models, vivid and diverse environments, and great facial animations that line up excellently with the dialogue and emotions of the heroes. With that being said, there are some awkward and janky animations during some of the more chaotic combat sequences, but this subtle lack of the polish doesn’t creep into other parts of the game too much.
Even with some incredibly minor visual hiccups, Guardians of the Galaxy is one of the most enjoyable and true-to-form superhero games out there; not to mention that it manages to set a new standard for AI companions thanks to some majestic dialogue writing and emphasis on teamwork. This is the Guardians game that you’ve been waiting for.
Guardians of the Galaxy is available on Xbox Series X|S, PS5, Xbox One, PS4, and PC.