PS5 Games – That Went Better Than Expected
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy feels like a game both ancient and ultra-modern. It’s a throwback to linearity in video games in a way we almost never see in AAA blockbusters anymore. And yet it’s also hyper-advanced in its storytelling, utilizing animation, voicework and a seemingly endless script to great effect.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, made by Eidos Montreal under the Square Enix umbrella, is the direct inverse of its sister game, Marvel’s Avengers, made by Crystal Dynamics (with some early help from Eidos as well). The game is determined to do nothing but tell a lengthy, straightforward story. No loot grinds, no live service elements, probably no DLC.
It’s not as if single player story games are dead by any means, just look at Sony’s catalogue. But Guardians of the Galaxy has leaned so hard into this concept, it’s something I really have not seen in years. The game is relentlessly linear. There is nothing resembling an open world to explore, nor really even open sections within a linear story map like you might see in a more recent Uncharted or Last of Us game. You might go down a single secret path to find some resource or a new costume, but that’s as exploratory as it gets. And you cannot come back to previous locations to poke around further. Only forward, never back, is the Guardians’ motto here.
This allows the game to do something unique, however, using an old concept to do something very modern with the script. Simply put, this is the most dialogue I have ever heard consistently in a game. Any game.
I am sure there are games with more total dialogue, branching Mass Effect conversation trees and such, but the way Guardians is structured with its linearity means that there is probably never more than a span of 30 seconds in which Peter or your team is not talking. And it’s not canned lines, it is all current commentary on what’s happening in the story or in the action. The linearity here allows all the dialogue to feel fresh because you’re never not progressing the story forward. Hell, there are even unique lines when you decide to explore a path to find secrets, as your team will chastise you in various ways for going off mission (they are trolling Peter, the hero, not you, the player, so I didn’t find it annoying).
And the voicework here is mostly…great? A combination of visuals which make for beautiful character models and realistic animation, and quality voicework from a pretty unknown cast means you won’t get sick of the talking, which is more or less the backbone of the entire game. I was especially impressed with Rocket, Drax and Gamora, who stand toe-to-toe with their A-list MCU counterparts in terms of delivery. And by the end, lord knows they’ve all spoken more than the Guardians have in total across 3-4 different movies now. I was less enthused about this surfer dude iteration of Peter Quill whom I liked the least, and while I’d like to say he grew on me, but he mostly didn’t. But he’s tolerable, and I suppose meant to be kind of a doofus, and the rest of the cast really shines to compensate.
As for the actual storyline, I won’t get into much detail as it’s a key part of the experience to uncover its layers. We start out trying to earn money from Lady Hellbender by capturing and selling her a rare monster, and end with trying to prevent the imminent destruction of the galaxy by a cultish church who is brainwashing entire planets. And there is a lot in between, and the story probably clocks in at about 15-20 hours, depending on how you play. I was sure it was ending a few different times and it just…keeps going. I’d argue there are some pacing problems in there as a result, but it mostly works, and creates a fantastic non-MCU Guardians story probably on par with anything we’ve seen onscreen so far. And Marvel fans will love the roughly 50,000 references and easter eggs the game contains.
But actual gameplay? That’s…where things start to slip for me.
You only control Star Lord, and your four teammates are essentially your “super moves” by extension. Peter has his own specials, but none of them seem as good as spamming your teammates abilities which all have absurdly low cooldowns and do far more than anything Peter dishes out. Gamora does huge damage, mainly to single targets. Drax does stun damage. Groot has CC lockdown. Rocket does AOE damage. Peter is mainly useful for matching elemental gun types to various shields, and then again, going back to spamming his teammates abilities. I would advise upping the difficulty to one level past what you normally would, as it felt almost a little too easy for me, I’d say, even the boss fights, which are mechanically neat but kind of a breeze. The game offers little challenge unless you really crank things up.
I’d argue the lack of challenge extends to the puzzle element as well. In addition to commanding your teammates in combat, you also tell them to do certain things in the environment to get past obstacles. Gamora cuts vines and pipes, Drax smashes walls and floors, Rocket hacks doors, Groot bridges gaps. But after about an hour it’s just painfully obvious what the “solution” to every puzzle is, that again, there’s no meaningful thinking or going on here, just like there’s rarely a need for actual strategy in combat.
And just in terms of the “feel” of it all, combat is a bit too airy and Peter is too disconnected from the action with so much teammate ability spam. Even if Guardians laps Avengers in terms of storytelling and game structure, I think Avengers and its extremely good character kits trump Guardians here. I would love, for instance, to have played a version of this game where you hopped between five Crystal Dynamics-designed versions of the Guardians, each with their own gameplay. The Star Lord uber-control idea is…fine, but it’s outshined by all other aspects of the game.
The worst bit of combat is easily the huddle mechanic, a flow-breaking concept that has Peter pause the battle talk to his teammates with a goofy dialogue matching minigame to give everyone a boost. This would have worked infinitely better as an instant summon ability, and it got so annoying I actively tried to avoid using it in combat, and only did when I accidently hit R1 and L1 together when I was trying to do something else. That’s how obnoxious it was.
One thing I remain unclear about after playing all the way through is what actual story choices mattered in the game and what could have gone differently. You are often asked to side with one teammate or another, but you never really have any idea of what might have changed otherwise, and this does not strike me as a storyline with loads of different endings, though I could be wrong. The only way to find out is to I suppose, go check YouTube after launch, or play the game’s New Game Plus mode, but there’s little point to doing an entirely new playthrough as you will have literally nothing at all left to unlock in terms of skills or perks. So I can’t imagine doing that.
I suppose we can now venture into the old “is Guardians worth $60?” debate. If you miss hyper linear story games with no live service BS, and are a big Marvel fan, then this might be the game for you. If you are hoping for Devil May Cry level combat and God of War type puzzles and exploration within a linear story, you will be disappointed. But I can safely say this is probably a better end product than most people were expecting, and that alone is a pretty big win for a game that felt like a bit of a risk and like it’s been lacking in buzz leading up to launch here. It has issues, but it gets a lot right, and pushes storytelling in ways I haven’t seen in this genre before.
A review code was provided by Square Enix for the purposes of this review.
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Pick up my sci-fi novels the Herokiller series and its audiobook, and The Earthborn Trilogy, also on audiobook.