Himbo Dad Saves the Universe: Guardians of the Galaxy Game Review

Once again, Guardians of the Galaxy, the comic book IP that no one saw coming, swoops in and not only entertains, but far exceeds expectations.

Spoiler-free review: It was exciting, funny, and emotionally engaging on a level that I was not expecting. You play as Peter Quill, a human/spartax (alien) hybrid who is the leader of the ragtag mercenary group, The Guardians of the Galaxy. The plot centers around the Guardians getting picked up by the Nova Corps (space cops), Peter meeting a child named Nikki on board the ship, meeting his old flame Ko Rel who turns out to be Nikki’s mother, and having to save Nikki and the galaxy when she gets turned into The Matriarch, a figurehead for a religion that is indoctrinating everyone. But more on the plot later.

The gameplay was fun, though some suggest the combat gets a little repetitive by the end of the game. I was never bored by it, though. You get to command your teammates in real-time combat, sending them to perform specific attacks, pinning enemies for combos, staggering groups at a time, or dealing devastating damage. The upgrades you earn for yourself and your allies kept things fresh for me, so I never found it dull.

You can also call your teammates together in a huddle to try and inspire there. It’s a fun little mini-game where you listen to them tall for a moment then try and choose the most inspiring speech to give. If you pick the right one, your team does extra damage and you can basically spam their special attacks without cooldown.

Speaking of dialogue, you spend the entire game basically trying to bring your team together. You get to choose what you say to them and hopefully you make everyone feel more cohesive, but often poor Peter puts his foot in his mouth or pisses someone off. I wonder how much of the game is a forgone conclusion, but there were many times where it felt like what I chose to say made a huge difference in the story. Even if it made no difference, the fact that the game made me feel like I affected things drastically is a plus in my mind.

And, as you may have surmised, Peter spends the entire game thinking that Nikki is probably, almost definitely, his daughter. He is woefully unprepared to be a father, but being the heart-of-gold type, he is gung-ho about being there for Nikki. When I say that he’s a himbo, it is in the truest sense of the word. Poor Peter desperately wants to be inspiring, wants to be respected, wants to be loved, but is always just stumbling around in the dark, as it were. Fortunately for him, he’s charming and just smart enough to know it, which lets him scrape by and even succeed.

And you want him to succeed. Not only because he’s the player character, but because he’s doing things for the right reasons. He’s trying to help. He’s trying to bring his team together. He’s trying to be there for his daughter. And bless him, the himbo is a delight.

“Buh? …Juh.”

So, again, the story was engaging, the gameplay was exciting, it was remarkably funny, and I would recommend this to comic fans, action fans, and those who are looking for an impactful, emotionally rewarding story. And the soundtrack was pretty badass, too.

Also, if you played Avengers and worried that it was another cheap Marvel tie-in, it was not. It avoided so many of the pit-falls that Avengers suffered from. No messy menus, no 1,000 items you can equip your characters with to improve stats, no forced grinding. The whole experience is tight and streamlined and wonderful.

NOW, ON TO SPOILERS!

When I say that this game was emotionally impactful, I mean that it hit me harder than a mack truck. I’m sure that part of it was that I’m a dad, myself, but seeing Peter help his teammates deal with their trauma and then help Nikki deal with the death of her mother was an experience that I don’t think I will ever forget. She is taken in by The Promise, an entity sprung from Adam Warlock that draws power by making people believe they can have their heart’s desire. For Peter, it was saving his mom. For Drax, it was being with his family. For Nikki, it was being with her mom and Peter as her dad. Of course, it is all a lie, but for a 12-year-old child, it would be near impossible to reject having your family back.

I remember playing through the day that Peter lost his mother and thinking that it was good character development for Peter that helped us understand his character. When I realized that it made him all the more empathetic and capable of helping Nikki navigate her own grief, it almost brought me to tears.

Because that’s what this entire game is about: trauma and grief. It was an exemplary psychological examination of these characters and emotionally, I don’t think I’ve ever felt more affection for video game characters than here. And I played through all the Mass Effects.

You help Rocket deal with his trauma of being locked in a tank of liquid and being experimented on.

You help Gamora deal with her guilt of killing her sister, feeling like she failed Nebula.

You help Drax deal with the trauma of losing his wife and child.

And you help Nikki accept her mother’s death. It is a hell of a moment and the game nails it.

The only one you don’t really help overcome trauma or grief is Groot. Which I think is a little bit of a missed opportunity because he lost his entire population and planet! Seems like there must be some damage there. But Groot is a rock, metaphorically speaking, always there for his teammates and always positive. The others let their issues get in the way of the team working well, but since Groot is always a team player, his issues get sidelined. Plus, he’s a tree, so maybe his emotions are different than the others. But I digress.

The game does an excellent job of engaging emotionally. It makes you feel for Drax, Gamora, Rocket, Nikki, and even Peter, king of the himbos. But this game does a great job of walking the tightrope of emotion, humor, and action. You not only get the heavy emotional beats, but you get some great humor, performed by outstanding voice talent. And you get some impressive and thrilling action moments! This game delivers the hits, in every way.

The is an actual still from the damn game. My still. Glo. Ri. Ous.

Unfortunately, right now there is no news on a sequel. It wasn’t a huge hit when it was first released, which I blame on the underwhelming Avengers game coming out only the year before. But now that people are aware that Guardians ducked a lot of the issues that Avengers suffered from, it seems to have found a new fandom thanks to that and being released on Game Pass. It also is up for some awards, so hopefully, the hype will allow the talented writers to pen another chapter in the Guardians of the Galaxy book.

I really hope that people will check the game out and give it a chance. Peter Quill and his team of misfits have now proven that they can entertain and break hearts in two major mediums (I admit I haven’t read any of the comics) so naturally, I crave more of their adventures and want everyone else to enjoy the ride, too.

So check out Guardians of the Galaxy! There was even more to the game that I didn’t touch on in this quick review because I wanted to focus on certain aspects. Lady Hellbender, Adam Warlock, friggin’ MANTIS are all wonderful. But know that it was great fun and I’ll probably be starting a New Game+ to live out space himbo daddy’s journey again!

Join the Conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s