Square Enix surprised gaming audiences at E3 2021 when the publisher unveiled Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. While Tomb Raider veterans Crystal Dynamics continue work on Marvel's Avengers, the makers of Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Eidos Montreal, are tackling a different corner of the Marvel Universe. It's time to go cosmic with Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, which follows the motley crew (not Motley Crue, though they might be in the soundtrack somewhere) of space-faring heroes led by "Star-Lord" Peter Quill.
While this adventure follows the full Guardians team, it immediately stands out by having Star-Lord as the game's only playable character. That's not to say the rest of the team takes a backseat. The other members of the Guardians are omnipresent throughout the adventure and even with a single playable character, Eidos Montreal seems to be effectively conveying this as an ensemble adventure. Shacknews recently had the opportunity to dive into Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, skipping ahead a few hours and diving right into the mid-point of the game's story.
The first thing to note is that the Milano (Quill or Rocket's starship, depending on who you ask) is a major set piece. Players will spend ample time in-between missions aboard the ship either exploring their findings or talking with other team members. What's fascinating about this component of the game is that in most cases, Quill isn't the one initiating a conversation. The team will frequently banter with one another, which often means hollering across the ship. Players have the option to engage in the conversation and can even defuse a couple of hostile arguments. As for the conversations that Star-Lord does start, players will often be presented with dialogue choices. In a few instances, I noticed that, like another Guardians of the Galaxy game, some dialogue choices will please certain team members and anger others. Part of being Star-Lord is accepting that he can't (and usually won't) please everyone. It's too early to tell whether these dialogue choices will have any long-term ramifications for the story, as we only played a small vertical slice, so that's something to look out for once the full game releases.
After the Milano reached its destination, it was time to step into the next chapter of the story. The Guardians have run afoul of the Nova Corps (again) and now have to report to their headquarters in order to pay a substantial fine. Upon exiting the ship, something immediately feels off. There are no Nova Corps officers to be found anywhere. The entire facility appears to be empty.
This sets up one of the more interesting ideas with the game's core concept. Many of the doors to the Nova Corps HQ are closed and the Guardians need to reroute the power to open their path forward. This means puzzle sequences that utilize both the player's arsenal and also Quill's teammates. Star-Lord's helmet can see objects of interest through its visor, while certain objects can be manipulated with the use of his trusty Element Blaster. In the case of this early portion of the level, players had to rerout floor wiring to make sure current went to a closed door. (Accidentally shocking Quill's teammates led to some fun banter.) Meanwhile, a lever was sitting in a room behind a small vent. That meant Peter needed to order Rocket to squeeze through in order to progress. Other puzzles throughout the game will utilize the Guardians' specific strengths, whether it's Gamora's sword, Drax's brute strength, Rocket's tiny frame, or Groot's long reach.
Before long, the Guardians do encounter what appear to be Nova Corps centurions, but it turns out they're empty shells being controlled by the Universal Church of Truth. This paves the way for the game's combat. For the most part, it's a straightforward action formula, where Quill can mix up punches with long-range shots from his Element Blaster. Just be careful about taking those long-range shots, because it's possible for the Element Blasters to overheat. The real meat of the combat involves how Star-Lord can direct his crew. Players can point at enemies and send the other Guardians after them, like something out of a tactical strategy game. Occasionally, players will find environmental objects that only specific team members can interact with, such as exploding barrels that Drax can toss or precariously-hanging crates that Gamora can cut down with her sword.
This adds a degree of strategy that some players might not expect, because for all of the advantages that one gets by sending teammates into a slew of enemies, there are downsides to that. Sending teammates into a situation where they're outnumbered will often lead to them calling for help. In fact, there were multiple instances where all four of my teammates were all KO'd. When a teammate is knocked out, Quill has to manually revive them, which is easier said than done when under heavy fire. So, for as much fun as it is to send Drax into a one-versus-ten situation, it usually won't end well. That's why players will need to be more diligent with how they manage teammates, whether it's on the field or through the pause menu.
This was just a small sample of what awaits in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. There are several other features that I wasn't able to try out, including character upgrades for Star-Lord, as well as the other Guardians. As mentioned before, dialogue will play a major role in this game, but what I saw was just a small taste and it remains to be seen how many of the dialogue choices will impact the game in the long haul.
Speaking of dialogue choices, a look at the Guardians of the Galaxy wouldn't be complete without jumping into the game's music component. The main instance where the music comes into play is through the Huddle mechanic. A fully charged meter will allow Star-Lord to call together a team Huddle. The action will briefly stop where Quill ventures into a dream sequence (something I have to assume is a dream sequence, because the other Guardians just smile, almost creepily, directly into the camera) where his crew will talk about the sticky situation they're in. At this point, players are presented with two dialogue choices. If Quill picks the right one, he'll encourage the rest of his team, the whole team will receive a boost, and any downed party members will be instantly revived. If Quill sticks his foot in his mouth, as he is prone to do, only he will receive a boost. Regardless, once everyone is powered up, one of the game's many '80s tracks will play to amp up the atmosphere. If that's not enough music, there was a sequence near the end of the Nova Corps HQ stage where Rocket had recovered the Milano and cued up one of Quill's cassettes. There will be a lot of music playing throughout this game, whether it's the many famous bands of the 1980s or the actual "Star-Lord" band, which the Eidos Montreal team has crafted just for this game.
It won't be long before Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy blasts off into the cosmos. The game will release on PC, PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on October 26.
This hands-on preview is based on a demo provided by the publisher.
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