Eidos Montreal's characterful comic romp served up our favourite roster of game characters this year. For more of awards, head to our GOTY 2021 hub, which we'll be updating throughout December.
Fraser Brown, Online Editor: My love for Guardians of the Galaxy makes me feel very basic—a big Marvel action game with quips, how novel!—but I can't help myself. It's an incredibly entertaining jaunt through colourful alien planets, cop-infested spaceships, and a city chilling out inside the skull of cosmic god, elevated beyond a popcorn-munching diversion by the Guardians themselves.
Star Lord is a man-child leading a bickering team of semi-reformed criminals who don't respect him. He's the only member of the Guardians you'll directly control, and starting out you're a bit of a punching bag. But over the course of the 15-hour adventure, the team becomes a support system, helping each other work through trauma in genuinely heartwarming and heartbreaking moments. And when things threaten to get sickeningly sentimental, there's guaranteed to be a joke or a fight to give you time to dry those tears.
It's very 2021—a comedy action game that's secretly a big therapy session. These different sides never trip over each other, either—it's all holistic. When you're exploring a planet or fighting some space cops, the Guardians are always chatting away, forging bonds, working through shit or firing out meme-worthy running gags. The heroes-in-training and their punchy dialogue might be the high point, but it also makes everything else so much better. I've been a fan of this lot since they first teamed up in 2008, but this might be the best they've ever been.
Morgan Park, Staff Writer: Guardians is basically an Uncharted game with better characters. All of the enjoyable hours spent shooting, climbing, and walking are really just sponges for hours of engrossing, funny chatter between teammates. I love that even in the midst of a firefight or treacherous climb, Guardians makes you an active participant in every conversation with binary dialogue choices mapped to LB/RB. Not every choice has an impact on the mission, but you often set the group's mood with your input as leader. Before long, keeping everyone's spirits high became just as important to me as shooting straight.
I was scratching my head alongside many when Eidos revealed that Guardians was completely singleplayer and Starlord was the only playable character, but this limitation does wonders for its story and gameplay. Besides generally kicking butt on their own in combat, the four teammates serve as conduits for powerful abilities that play into their personalities: Drax stuns so that Gamora can go in for a kill, Rocket blows everything up for massive area damage, and Groot is the healer/crowd control specialist.
It feels like Eidos really got the most out of a known band of characters that are mostly defined by big personalities. With loads of comics and two popular movies to compete with, making the Guardians distinctive for a game couldn't have been an easy task. I certainly didn't expect to come out of this game itching to crack open my first Guardians comic. As someone who's never cared for the world or characters of Deus Ex, I'm thoroughly impressed that Eidos has whipped up a better version of the Guardians than the MCU could ever dream of.
Jody Macgregor, AU/Weekend Editor: Here lies Morgan Park, murdered by Deus Ex fans, 2021. Guardians of the Galaxy does have much better worldbuilding and writing than Mankind Divided does, though. It reminds me of how the Arkham games drew from both the cartoon and comic portrayals of Batman's cast, a real best-of-both-worlds combo. Cosmo the space dog and Lady Hellbender are right out of the comics, as is Mantis being able to see the future, while Drax talks without metaphor, like in the movies—he even has a copy of Sarcasm For Dummies. (Unrelated, but his pecs have jiggle physics, and that's awesome too.)
Shout-out to the cast of mostly Canadian TV and film actors who seem to have been roped in to do the voice acting. The talking never lets up, with characters bouncing lines off each other without any of those awkward pauses and shouting like kids in an '80s movie, and I never got sick of hearing it. Hell, I was annoyed whenever I accidentally walked past some arbitrary point and triggered the next conversation before the last one finished.