Sunday, June 13, 2021
Guardians of the Galaxy is a “single-player, story driven, third person action-adventure game.” It literally took Eidos-Montréal – developer of the fantastic single-player Deux Ex games – about five minutes before it had drilled that home, when showing off its upcoming Marvel Comics title to press in the build-up to E3 this week. That makes for a refreshing change of focus, after Marvel's Avengers - a game (developed by Crystal Dynamics) that felt drained by its multiplayer focus. Everything we’ve seen of GotG so far is incredibly promising.
Eidos-Montréal’s Guardians of the Galaxy is an “original take” on the motley band of spacefaring rogues, according to Olivier Proulx, Senior Producer on the title, one that “will take the players on a wild ride throughout the cosmos.” Based on our first look, I think the developer might have nailed that – the characters are recognisable, yet their designs feel fresh. The studio appears to have hit a perfect balance between the characters looking unique, yet instantly recognisable, both from a style and sound perspective.
“It’s not a matter of trying to replicate the comic, or trying to replicate the film,” noted Dan Abnett, a Marvel Comics writer who has years of experience working on the Guardians of the Galaxy series. “It’s trying to take the medium you’re working in and make the best version of the Guardians out of that.” Mission accomplished.
In Guardians of the Galaxy, you take control of Star Lord, the leader of the Guardians - who, in classic Guardians fashion, inevitably end up making a mountain out of a molehill with their madcap antics. And that’s about as much of the story we know at the moment, but we're assured that the “stakes are high,” as ever.
During our demo, we pick up with Peter Quill (Star Lord) and the rest of the gang, in what appears to be right at the beginning of the game, as they discuss ways to earn 7,000 credits, or risk losing their ship. Right from the off, you’re thrown into the Guardians’ group dynamic, and Eidos-Montréal introduces one of the central mechanics in the game: choice and consequence.
At a juncture in the dialogue, Quill has to decide who to listen to while devising a plan. Quill can call on Groot, hear out Drax, or focus on Rocket Raccoon – and it seems like he can opt to say nothing, too, as what appears to be a dialogue timer ticks down. In this instance, Quill decides to listen to Groot – thanks to the usual translation from Rocket – choosing to sell Rocket (another choice) to the villainous Lady Hellbender, in exchange for some hard-earned cash. Later, you’ll be able to bust Rocket out of captivity, of course. This sees our formidable fivesome then head to the planet Seknarf Nine, to swindle the rather ominous-sounding Hellbender.
When on Seknarf Nine, it becomes apparent that Guardians is a combat-focused brawler, with Star Lord wielding his blasters as a main attack, but rather niftily using the four Guardians of the Galaxy members as special companion abilities – mapped to the face buttons. Each support ability has its own cooldown, as well as four unique attacks, to boot, while an active reload, combo meter, stagger bar, and special meter contribute added depth to the chaotic combat.
Once the special meter is filled, Quill can perform a special 'Huddle' move, where he embraces the power of music thanks to his trusty Walkman. Upon activating it, the Guardians become amped-up with a pink aura surrounding them, smashing bad guys to devastating effect, all while Joan Jett & The Blackhearts’ ‘Bad Reputation’ blasts out across the battlefield. Honestly, it's one hell of a badass moment, and something that clearly demonstrates that Eidos-Montréal 'gets' the Guardians of the Galaxy.
As in the Marvel movies, music serves a crucial role in Guardians of the Galaxy; Mary Demarle, Executive Narrative Director at Eidos-Montréal name-dropping bands like Kiss, Iron Maiden, Wham, Blondie, and Pat Benetar as examples of who to expect on the soundtrack. And the fact that we heard the aforementioned Joan Jett, Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out for a Hero’ and Hot Chocolate’s ‘Everyone’s a Winner’ during a single gameplay demo, indicates that music will be infused into the heart of this game.
It’s at the point when the combat subsides that Quill is presented with another choice – to let Drax throw Rocket across a chasm to activate a bridge or to stop him. In Telltale Games fashion, a “Rocket is furious that you let Drax throw him” notification flashes up on-screen, just to make sure you know that your decision might not have been all that wise. Gulp. It should be noted that players won’t get a multiple-ended, multi-branching story in Guardians of the Galaxy - Demarle was quick to stress that the game has one beginning and one end. It is, after all, a narrative-driven story and they’re the writers, not us. But players will definitely have some agency in how certain scenarios play out.
“The decisions you make will have lighthearted to haunting repercussions and the game will react to what you do and say,” notes Proulx. You, as the quasi leader of this unconventional crew will have to manage the wants and needs of the group, and even on occasions cheer them up if you’ve been particularly unfair with them. “You will have to decide how you deal with the situation, and sometimes that can be on a very small scale, like in the immediate challenge at hand, or sometimes those consequences will affect some of the bigger scenarios in the game where how things unfold will be different” added Jean-François Dugas, Senior Creative Director on the project.
In our brief presentation, it’s abundantly clear that Eidos-Montréal seems to be on the right track with its vision for Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. The studio clearly understands what makes the characters tick, and as someone disappointed by Square Enix’s recent take on Marvel’s Avengers, it’s encouraging to see what Eidos-Montréal is currently cooking up. It’s early days, and this was only a brief look at what's in store, but the fact that this is a pure, single-player experience – with no DLC or microtransactions planned – and looks to be a unique, accomplished take on the Guardians, both visually and from a voice perspective, the early signs are looking extremely positive.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is out on 26th October 2021 for Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PS4, PS5 and PC.