Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy from Square Enix and Eidos-Montreal is, essentially, all about that: guarding the galaxy. Well, and trying to make money. And failing. And getting caught. And screwing up. But don't worry, as the game constantly reminds players, you've got this. Probably. And for the most part, it's a pretty enjoyable ride if you can look past a bevy of bugs.
As Star-Lord, players are tasked with managing a roster of Drax, Gamora, Rocket, and Groot through intense firefights and delicate negotiations. You've got to make the call, and sometimes, your compatriots aren't going to agree with you, and they won't be quiet about that fact. But when the Guardians accidentally release something they should not have, it's all hands on deck to fix it before it fixes them -- for good.
Playing as Star-Lord and only Star-Lord might sound a bit limiting at first, but it makes what could otherwise be an incredibly complex process less convoluted. And even then, Star-Lord essentially dictates who does what both on and off the battlefield. Want Drax to pull a giant rock close to a ledge? You're the one that does that. Want Rocket to use an ability on a specific group of enemies? You do that too.
Where the Guardians most assert their independence, beyond simply fighting without direct instruction on autopilot, is during various in-game cinematics and cutscenes. Different characters have different opinions on how to, for example, deal with Lady Hellbender, and as Star-Lord, players have to side with one or the other. These decisions have certain ramifications, like whether an enemy is weakened later or not, but do not really change the critical path of events. It's more of a seasoning that is sometimes spicier and sometimes not.
Combat in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a relatively standard affair that, while never boring, can get pretty repetitive. Each Guardian only has four special moves each, and those unlock over time, and even though Star-Lord's Elemental Blasters are cool and fun to play around with, and there are always environmental hazards like explosive barrels to take advantage of, the variety of enemies isn't exactly astronomical. More than once I found myself thinking, "Ugh, not these people again."
It helps that even the lamest adversaries can be a dangerous element on the battlefield if you're not careful. More than once, I found myself having to restart a fight because I underestimated what I thought was simple cannon fodder. The AI knows how to hurt you, and it isn't afraid of doing it. You'll want to be sure you're stacking up on Star-Lord's perks at crafting benches in order to have every possible advantage because you'll need it even on the normal difficulty.
If you're the kind of person that digs through all the logs and journals in a video game for Easter eggs and references, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy has you covered. From direct, overt "here's a character you know and love showing up to berate Star-Lord" to tiny details about the experiences of the Guardians themselves and others, it's chock-full of them. I won't spoil anything that hasn't already been seen in trailers, but let's just say that if you were excited to see Adam Warlock, that's just the tip of the iceberg.
However, if you're looking for multiplayer, look elsewhere as the game is strictly single-player only. That might be disappointing for some, but it's clear that a lot of care went into making sure it's the kind of single-player game folks will want to keep coming back to between narrative choices having unique repercussions and in-game skins being scattered throughout. It also helps that there's a New Game Plus option once you've completed it, which takes longer than you might think but not so long that it outstays its welcome.
My otherwise enjoyable experience with the video game was marred by constant bugs. The most common of which were visual, ranging from the targeting reticule getting stuck on the screen to button prompts not appearing and more. There's a particularly nasty boss fight that I had in the bag, for example, before a button prompt simply did not show up in the middle of it. It reappeared the second time through, but even so. Some of these are clearly known about, and a Day 1 patch will likely fix a number of the issues I encountered, but it's worth noting that I spent what was probably the most emotional cutscene in the game as a floating shirt because I dared to interact with an object as it kicked off.
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is a good game that wants to be, in Peter Quill's words, metal. It doesn't quite reach that mark, but compared to other recent Marvel video games that aren't Spider-Man, it succeeds more often than it fails. If you've liked other incarnations of the team's lovable misfits and misanthropes, you'll like what the developers have done here. And even if you're only somewhat aware of its Marvel background, there's a lot to love already here that a fresh coat of bug-fixing polish will only make better.
Rating: 4 out of 5
Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is set to release for the PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Xbox One, PC, and Nintendo Switch via the cloud on October 26th. A PlayStation 5 review code was provided by the publisher for the purpose of this review, and it was, of course, reviewed on a PlayStation 5.