One of the most anticipated games of the fall is Eidos Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and Square Enix gave us a hands-on, playable sneak peek of the game earlier this month. Their last game based on a Marvel comics property took some interesting liberties, meshing the mythos from the comics and the more-known beats from the Marvel Studios films, blending them into a unique gameplay experience that made me hunger for more time with the team of misfits as they traipse across the universe looking for trouble, or dealing with trouble finding them.
Guardians of the Galaxy is very much a team game, though the player only controls Peter Quill, aka Star-lord. The developers have created a unique “solo teamplay” experience that lets the player direct the rest of the team — Drax, Rocket, Groot, and Gamora — throughout the adventure with contextual button presses and other unique integrations. For example, during the heat of battle, Peter can direct Drax to pick up and throw an explodable barrel just by pressing the triangle/Y button. This gives the player a greater sense of control over your teammates, and in the full game, I can imagine how this will compound with new unlocked skills and combos.
Combat is your typical wave-after-wave assault with the player controlling Peter and his guns, jet boosters, and even the music. Peter is tasked with not only assigning attacks when needed but also with rescuing downed teammates if things get out of control — and these are the Guardians of the Galaxy, so things are always out of control. The action was fast and it looked great, even as things quickly devolved into chaos for me and my team.
One of my favorite aspects of the combat was the team huddle. In the heat of battle, Peter can call a huddle and the team all come together for a brief pep-talk/ battle planning session — in my mind, I could imagine the enemies were just standing around, looking at each other and trying to figure out what is happening. The player can choose which conversation thread to push, and as quickly as it started, the huddle breaks with the team pumped up and ready to go. When I did it, the talking session broke with Peter turning on Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” to boost the team in battle. I couldn’t help but laugh, as the song choice was just so… perfect.
The team will also help the player during Guardians of the Galaxy‘s exploration components. If I was stuck, I could initiate a conversation with one of my teammates who would offer a hint at what needed to be done to unlock a door, find a needed clue, and the like. It also pays to just listen to the ambient conversations that are happening while exploring, as they provide clues and context as to where to go, what to do, and why we’re doing it.
Guardians of the Galaxy has many action-RPG elements, including decisions that have ramifications throughout the story, and a deep customization component. In a way, I was pulling Mass Effect vibes during my playthrough, based solely on team elements and the combat. If those vibes prove to be more than a feeling, Guardians might be a very special gaming experience.
Players can also craft new weapons as well as enhance them, and even the outfits the team wears can be swapped out on the fly. In fact, the first thing I did in my playthrough was swap Peter’s film-based digs for his classic comics outfit. Yeah, I’m that guy.
My hands-on session dropped me right into the middle of the story. I won’t delve too much into what was happening at this point in the narrative, but through conversations, both self-triggered and nominal chatter, the team alluded to many things that have happened so far — including moments that clearly predate this game’s narrative. There was mention of the “bug invasion,” which made me incredibly excited, as 2006’s Annihilation is one of my all-time favorite Marvel Comics events. And, of course, Thanos’ shadow looms large over these characters.
During my time with the gang, I got a feeling that this story is borrowing from all of Guardians of the Galaxy’s history, while maintaining its own take on the story and characters. The game looks fantastic, features some amazing voice work and music, and thought this was but a brief snippet of the whole experience, I could tell the developers understood the characters and this world. In short, I’m very happy and very excited to delve into this story when Guardians of the Galaxy releases on October 26.
This preview is based on hands-on time with the PC version of the game.