Guardians of the Galaxy from Square-Enix is — and I know I’m going to take a lot of heat for saying this — mediocrity at its finest. Before everyone on the internet castrates me for my opinion and tells me that I’m wrong, allow me to explain why. The story starts with our band of misfits already brought together as a group, with little to no origin story as to how. Their designs and appearances are derived more from the Guardians of the Galaxy comics and not the movies. To a die-hard Marvel comics fan that may be a large selling point, but fans who are mostly or only familiar with the characters via the MCU films may find this a turn-off.
The story in Guardians of the Galaxy is quite linear and simple to follow. There are various dialogue options, but while they can affect individual missions, they don’t alter the game’s ending in any way.
At least from my perspective, it’s alright because the different mission outcomes do give a reason to replay the game. Since Square-Enix included a New Game Plus feature, being able to carry on from where I left off does make it a bit more enjoyable for me, and it allows me to go back to the start to try things over again.
The biggest grievance I have is the music selection. Because my interest in Marvel Studios wasn’t derived from the comics but from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, when I’m playing a game called Guardians of the Galaxy my mind is thinking of wise-cracking Chris Pratt with his iteration of Star-Lord and the rest of the team from the movies, rocking out to well-known tunes from the ‘60s and ‘70s.
When I’m fighting large quantities of enemies I’d rather have a dynamic music system in place that switches to something fitting for such a large engaging moment. Instead, I’m forced to listen to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin. I’m not knocking on the classic ‘80s songs, but I am knocking on Square-Enix’s decision to use those songs for intense moments during combat.
The live-action version of Star-Lord arguably set the tone for how the character should be from now on because we’ve seen Star-Lord in action, we’ve heard his music selection, and it was all so well done that the movie still holds at a solid 92% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Instead, Square-Enix has decided to ignore what made these characters more enjoyable and accessible to the general public — the Marvel Cinematic Universe — and in doing so has butchered not only Star-Lord as a character, but the entire Guardians of the Galaxy team (minus Drax the Destroyer, who was reading a book on sarcasm for dummies, and Mantis, who is possibly the best comic relief character in the entire game).
The other glaring issue found during combat in Guardians of the Galaxy is Square-Enix’s decision to toss in a limit break mechanic similar to what they have in their Final Fantasy titles. But instead of it being a dynamic part of battling, like Cloud using Omnislash or Squall using Renzokuken, all combat stops entirely while the other Guardians run towards you and you give them a motivational speech in one of the worst cutscenes you will encounter in the game. And you will encounter it a lot.
Imagine, if you will: you’re fighting large, super-deadly, world-devouring enemies that are equal parts difficult and frustrating, and instead of making it a dynamic part of the combat experience, you’re ripped out of combat to a cutscene where you’re forced to give a motivational speech. If you pick the wrong thing to say no one gets a buff except you, and combat will then resume where you left off but now you’ll be forced to listen to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” or any of the other poorly picked music.
Square-Enix somehow managed to take something as wonderful as the Guardians of the Galaxy and put little to no thought into it. I won’t lie, I’m disappointed in them for doing that. They’ve created so many immersive games, from Final Fantasy to Dragon Quest to Parasite Eve, and the moment they touched Marvel properties it has just been disappointing.
The writing for Guardians of the Galaxy feels sub-par at best because the overall story never changes outside of three or four cutscenes that will affect the final sequence of the game. The best parts of Guardians of the Galaxy are the colorful characters that never got fleshed out enough in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, such as Mantis, Cosmo, and even Drax. But they also ended up butchering Rocket Raccoon: he’s so abusive and toxic that I’d say it wouldn’t be much of a loss if the rest of the Guardians cut him loose.
Plot synopsis, if you want a run-through of the story: first and foremost it’s broken up into chapters, in which each sequence involves two to three segments of story mixed with an overabundance of combat. The next chapter begins after a final cutscene of the previous chapter plays out.
The story itself focuses on The Guardians of the Galaxy trying to make money. They break into a restricted area owned by the Nova Corps and immediately get caught by one of Star-Lords old lovers. He subsequently spends the rest of the game wondering if her child is also his daughter, and that becomes a major driving point for the story when he finds out she is possessed by an evil creature that was accidentally freed from the Soul Stone by his and Rocket Raccoon during the break-in. The Church of Universal Truth believes her to be a divine being, and she begins brainwashing everyone in the universe to come to worship her.
To put it simply: the story is about overthrowing an organized religion that is more toxic and dangerous than all of the churches found in the Bible Belt of the United States.
I haven’t even mentioned the combat controls yet either. At the very beginning of the game, they show you a quick controller layout of how things will work, but once you enter into combat you’re tasked with handling multiple characters simultaneously, giving them instructions to perform their special moves. Normally this would have — and should have — been easy for Square, as they’ve created some of the best active battle systems in gaming, like those used in Final Fantasy VII Remake, Final Fantasy XV, and so on.
However, they basically forgot to do that for Guardians of the Galaxy, and instead created something new where you’re struggling to select which character you want to use an ability for, and if you’re trying to combo it with Star-Lord as you play, well, it tends to cancel out whatever ability you are using, and half the time it doesn’t even register your input for the character’s abilities at all.
Conclusively, while Guardians of the Galaxy isn’t that great of a game, it doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun playing it. I’m merely telling everyone the gripes I have towards it and why I’m profoundly disappointed in Square-Enix. They could have looked at any of their completed works and borrowed code from those existing games, and not only would it have saved development time, but it also would have created a better product.
There are some positive notes about Guardians of the Galaxy, one of which is that they have as Easter eggs additional character costumes hidden throughout the game to find and unlock, such as costumes from the comic books and even the outfits from the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
They also include some additional interactive cutscenes where you can learn more about the other Guardians by finding items scattered around the stages and other chapters of the game. But by far my favorite aspect of the game was all the side characters that make appearances during the story, from enemies of the Nova Corps to enemies of S.H.I.E.L.D., not to mention a special appearance by a legendary and fabled creature who used to wear purple pants.
Despite the glaring issues Guardians of the Galaxy has Square did a lot of research in terms of their comic book origins, for which they deserve some major credit. My points, however, remain valid, since many of those looking to play a Marvel game may have never even picked up one of the original comics and instead are only familiar with the characters as they are portrayed in the movies. It would have been a safer approach for both characters and gameplay to draw from the more widely known and accessible films, and then use the comics to help set the tone for the stories.
Square-Enix dropped the ball on another Marvel title. If they were trying to create a Marvel Game Universe they’re failing and flailing hard. Could they have done things better? Of course, they could have, and yet they willingly chose to do something different and risky. Props to them for that, but in doing so they made what could have been a wonderful game into something not-so-great. I can only hope that if Guardians of the Galaxy ever gets some DLC where we fight Thanos that it will do better (but considering their version of Thanos looks like Ronald McDonald’s friend Grimace, I’m not holding my breath).
Final thoughts: despite my criticisms, I did enjoy Guardians of the Galaxy, and at some point, I’ll even be streaming it. If you want to try it, go for it. The game isn’t bad, it’s just disappointing, so if you’re going into this with high hopes and higher expectations, tone those down a bit and you’ll have a good time. The best parts of Guardians of the Galaxy are without a doubt Cosmo and Mantis. Just those two characters alone make playing the game worth it.
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