Positive surprises in the gaming industry feel rare at this point. We’re so used to companies making mistakes, and products not ending up as we wanted them to. This is not the case here, as Guardians of the Galaxy not only is 2021’s biggest surprise… It might personally be the biggest surprise ever for me.
I’ve never played a lot of Eidos Montreal titles, in fact, I barely touched Deus Ex, and I’ve only dabbled with Thief. I know they’re a beloved developer, that has released (mostly) great-amazing games. But since my experience with them was low, I didn’t know quite what to expect.
With the initial reveal of Guardians not landing quite as I wanted it to, I was beginning to feel worried. And it’s also hard not to mention Eidos’s sibling studio, Crystal Dynamics, which released Avengers in 2020 to mixed reception. Simply put: There were certain expectations for this title.
In fact, for some reason, the reveal coupled with a few other factors gave the entire game an aura. Watching reactions to the later trailers, or even talking to friends, everyone had this weird attitude about the entire project that kind of brought the excitement down for me as well.
But let me tell you… There’s no need to worry at all. There never was.
Eidos did not only make a good game, but they also made an absolutely amazing, and wonderful experience, from top to toe. Every inch of the game is carefully crafted with a lot of love and as a big fan of all things Marvel… It shows.
Where I want to start, is where the game shines the most. The narrative and writing. It’s hard to put into words how well-made the script for this game is from beginning to end. It’s so good in fact, that I’d say that this is the best adaptation ever for some of these characters. That could be attributed to the vision of director Jean-François Dugas, as well as the Narrative Director Mary DeMarle.
There’s a great interview with DeMarle over at CBR when she and Gameplay Director Patrick Fortier sat down and talked about the game, that I think shines a light on why it’s so darn good.
Right from the start, it became clear these characters were going to shine. What’s different about Guardians of the Galaxy is that they have strong personalities that conflict and need a vehicle for the ever-evolving relationship between them. We need some of that time for exploring or puzzle-solving…well, I say puzzles, but they’re not big puzzles; they require the team, and they create paced moments. It wasn’t about focusing on any particular mechanic; it was about making this handcrafted experience that would spotlight being with the Guardians, talking with the Guardians, seeing how they behave in certain situations. For instance, there’s one room where Drax is fascinated with a soda machine. Moments like that are important to us in bringing these characters to life. That’s where the experience would stand out compared to other games.
That might sound like standard talk or something that we’ve seen countless times in games like Uncharted or Horizon.
The key here is that it’s extremely good and natural. I never once felt like the dialogue was weak, and when a corny joke came – it felt like a natural thing to happen for that particular character. I’m not the only one that thinks this, as the game just won Best Narrative at the Game Awards 2021.
For me there are two characters, in particular, that shine in a manner I don’t think they previously have. Drax for one is one of the best adaptations of the characters ever and for me, voice actor Jason Cavalier is the best performance of 2021, period.
But the character I want to focus on, is Star-Lord himself, Peter Quill.
Star Lord, Man
I love the movies, they’re great. But I’ve always found that the MCU lacks a few important things from the comics. All of that is solved in Eidos’s adaptation. For one, action-wise he has his elemental blasters, something that makes him cooler (and more unique) than a flying shooting space-dude.
But the most important thing, that the movies truly missed the mark on for me: Peter is the leader, and he’s respected by the others.
The movies constantly remind us that Star-Lord is the leader of the Guardians, it’s his ship, they follow him – but they rarely give us any reason to believe so. In MCU, Peter is pretty unreliable, and as a matter of fact: The Guardians doesn’t listen to him. A great case in point was in Infinity War where they blatantly acted on their own accord.
I love that this game starts off like that, everyone acting on their own, with low respect for their leader – but by the end of the game, it feels deserved. You get to interact and prove your worth to each individual guardian. They come to you when they feel concerned. They want you to make the tough decisions, good or bad. They value your opinion.
This is further backed by the gameplay, in which you as Star-Lord command your allies, it basically always reminds you of your allies’ worth, as well as how they value you.
Even though I’ve never been a big fan of the Spartax origin for Star-Lord, I’d say that this adaptation for him is as close to perfect as you can be. There are barely any faults to him.
Cinematic Action at Its Purest
While Narrative and Writing is top-tier, it’s also backed by great cinematic gameplay. The game feels and plays amazing, and this is perhaps the biggest shock for me.
I usually am not a big fan of command-based combat, but playing as Star-Lord, shooting people in fast-paced combat felt so good. On top of that being able to shell out command attacks with different effects from your allies… The cherry on the top.
The length of the game, and it is linear, works in its favor as well. My best example of a similar game would be Uncharted. The combat would probably get repetitive if both games were longer, but the length bundled with a steady flow of powerups and new abilities make you never truly grow bored of it.
Alongside that, the level design should not be ignored. If you’re like me and have missed quality linear games, this might be one of the best ones in a long time. The stages look amazing, there are setpieces around every corner, and I truly loved being back in an environment like that.
We also shouldn’t gloss over the bosses in this game. I was very surprised at how fun the bosses were to fight against, and the steps you would have to go to get through them. One boss, in particular, was a major surprise story-wise to me but was also extremely fun to play against.
The only thing I could draw as a negative is that I did have some framerate dips during two segments, but they were only noticeable for around 2 seconds or so. However, it’s the first game that has occurred to me on the PlayStation 5 since its launch.
Never Gonna Give You Up
I cannot in good faith do a review of anything Guardians of the Galaxy related without mentioning the soundtrack for the game.
First and foremost; Eidos created an entire band, called The Star-Lord Band – which, by the name alone, of course, ties into the story as well. And the album they put out slaps. HARD.
Aside from that, there’s also licensed music, which also is a mix of banger music. However, worth noting is that mostly, the music plays during certain battle moments, and when roaming the ship. There’s only a handful of licensed songs that actually appear in the story.
But even the instrumental theme is actually very good, and I’ve found myself having listened to the soundtrack multiple times post-playing it.
The sound mixing overall is great, however, the “huddle” mechanic in the game broke the voice acting and music entirely multiple points for me. I also had a problem in which dialogue would cut out, but the mouths and subtitles would keep coming. It happened so rarely it didn’t really bother me, and luckily it never happened during an important scene.
Groot Out of Ten
It’s hard for me to even put into words how much I loved this game. If 2021 wasn’t a very strong year for games (In my opinion); this would easily be my GOTY, but it’s without a doubt in the top 3, if not my second favorite game of the entire year.
Eidos truly did an amazing job, and I’m a massive fan of theirs now. As a Marvel fan, and as a new Eidos fan…
Please make more games in the Marvel universe.