Guardians of the Galaxy (2021): Video Game Review

Square’s last game using the Marvel license, Marvel’s Avengers, was a live-service game that did not fare well. Last year, however, they put out a different video game take on some of Marvel’s characters – The Guardians of the Galaxy – which focuses on the spacefaring team of heroes, and it pulls of the concept much, much better.

Guardians of the Galaxy, much as with Marvel’s Avengers, puts the story separate from the MCU, while still borrowing some concepts from the MCU versions of the characters. Much as with the MCU, the Guardians are made up of Peter “Star-Lord” Quill, Gamora, Drax The Destroyer, Rocket Raccoon, and Groot. As with this lineup, Drax is not a resurrected human, as with his 616 counterpart, but is instead an alien whose world was attacked by Thanos, the Mad Titan. The game picks up after a massive war between Thanos and the Chitauri and much of the rest of the world has wrapped up, with the Guardians having been part of the resistance.

Lady Hellbender from Guardians of the Galaxy
Lady Hellbender might have been a better Giantess pick than Lady Dimitrescu

While trying to obtain a space whale to sell to the monster collector Lady Hellbender, the team accidentally releases a mysterious force from what turns out to be the Soul Stone, and that force turns out to be the Magus – the dark side of the personality of the mysterious near-godlike hero Adam Warlock – and with the Universal Church of Truth taking advantage of that power to brainwash the Galaxy, it ends up being up to the Guardians to stop the Universal Church and their leader, Grand Unifier Raker, from succeeding where Thanos failed.

Guardians of the Galaxy puts you exclusively in direct control of Star-Lord. You can zip around the battlefield, zap enemies with your ray-guns, and, more importantly, help direct the other members of your team in when to use their special abilities, and what abilities to use, for the best effect against various enemies. As the game goes on, and you build up your combo meter over the course of the game, you’ll be able to unlock three powers for each Guardian, with a fourth power for each character coming at specific points in the game. With a little time and practice, I found myself able to rip through some groups of enemies with ease. This is not to say the game isn’t difficult. The game is balanced fairly well – with me experiencing a few deaths, most of which I was able to quickly bounce back from once I figured out what I was doing wrong and adjusted my tactics accordingly.

Screen grab of Guardians of the Galaxy's upgrade screen

Additionally, there are various gadget upgrades that can be obtained for Star-Lord directly, allowing him to get extra health for beating enemies with melee, providing additional ways to build up certain enemies stagger meter, or helping to spot crafting materials in the environment. I didn’t have too much of a problem with obtaining all of those upgrades, and that was even with not getting around to crafting the upgrade that helps you find materials until the middle of the game.

Screen capture from one of Guardians of the Galaxy's huddles.

The game also has a mechanic where Star-Lord can call the Guardians together for a huddle, with the player having to choose a dialog option based on a list of choices determined by what the Guardians say leading into the fight. Picking the right option will give the whole party a health and damage upgrade for a limited time, which can particularly turn the tide of a more intense battle – the wrong option only provides the buff to Star-Lord, but either way, it will also give a full heal and shield recharge to your party members, and revives any downed Guardians. There is an option in the game to automatically pick the best option for you, without otherwise decreasing the difficulty, if you’re not great at reading what the other Guardians need to hear.

Screen capture of combat from Guardians of the Galaxy

Where it all gets a little wonky is when it comes to some of the level traversal. While the level design is generally intuitive, I encountered more than a couple occasions where I needed a party member to bash open a wall, or slash something that would open a passageway, or other similar things, and it took me far longer than I’d like to find what needed to be smashed open and where. I can’t help but feel that there could have been something done in the game to better signal to the player, when they were stuck, where the barrier was and what needed to be done to clear it.

Ultimately though, Guardians of the Galaxy was a tremendously fun game to play, and a marked improvement compared to Marvel’s Avengers, and I hope that if Square-Enix does make future Marvel games using the license, they follow in this game’s footsteps, and less so with Marvel’s Avengers.

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