I’ll admit, I was initially wary about Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Marvel games have been pretty hit or miss recently, resulting in amazing highs like Insomniac’s Spider-Man and middling lows like Marvel’s Avengers. When it was first shown off at this year’s E3, Eidos Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy looked a lot closer to the latter than the former. Boy, was I wrong. After spending a decent chunk of time with Eidos Montreal’s take on the Guardians, I can’t wait for the full release.
I got the opportunity to go hands-on with an early section of the game. I was dropped into an early chapter with a small number of skill points to divide among the team. Star-Lord and co. weren’t absolute powerhouses during the demo, but they had a few useful abilities under their belt. I can’t really comment on the story because I was dropped into the middle of things, but the short section I got to play through showed that Eidos Montreal absolutely nailed that Guardians of the Galaxy vibe with this game.
The preview began aboard the Milano, which acts as a hub between missions. Here, you can chat with each of the Guardians, upgrade Quill’s gear, and rock out to Quill’s playlist. Comparisons are obviously going to be drawn to the Normandy from Mass Effect, but the Milano feels a lot more compact than the Normandy does. There won’t be long conversations that set up loyalty missions aboard Quill’s ship. Instead, it just acts as a quick pit stop before you and the team head off to another alien world. Of course, that could change as the game progresses, but it didn’t seem like you’d be spending a whole lot of time on the Milano from what I played.
Moving onto actual gameplay, the team travels to a Nova Corps station to obtain a part they need. It looks like nobody’s home though, so they naturally get to exploring. It’s here that I started to feel a bit more relieved about the writing. The opening cutscenes didn’t do much for me – the humor didn’t really land and these versions of the Guardians didn’t make a good first impression – but they’re much livelier when you’re walking around and solving puzzles. It reminded me a lot of Uncharted, only this time there are four people constantly talking instead of just a duo.
Star-Lord can’t solve every puzzle on his own, though. You can call upon the other Guardians at any time to contribute to a puzzle, and you’ll need to choose the right Guardian for the job. Any time you call upon another Guardian, they’ll have unique dialogue too. At one point, I had to ask Rocket to open a door twice. He wouldn’t listen to Quill the first time because the two just had an argument. It’s a small touch, but it shows that Eidos Montreal is going the extra mile to nail that team dynamic.
After a brief exploration segment, I got to take a peek at the choice mechanic. During cutscenes, you’ll sometimes be presented with two dialogue options or actions. Your choices will affect your relationship with the other Guardians and can lead to some tricky situations. They won’t lead to entirely different endings or routes or anything like that, though. One of the choices I made caused a notification to appear letting me know that the Guardians didn’t think that was the best idea. I’m curious to see how much these decisions will actually affect things in the final game.
Of course, the Guardians obviously got into trouble during my preview session, and this is when I was really sold on the game. The combat in Guardians of the Galaxy is an absolute blast. I was skeptical at first about the decision to make Star-Lord the only playable character, but now I realize that placing emphasis on the strategy and giving commands was the right move. You really feel like you’re leading the team.
As I mentioned above, you can only directly control Quill. His blasters lock onto enemies for easy shooting, and there’s an active reload mechanic lifted straight out of Gears of War. He also has access to elemental ammo, which helps a lot during fights. Ice ammo was the only elemental ammo type available during the demo, and it was perfect for freezing tough targets. You can also shatter frozen enemies with a quick melee combo, which is as satisfying as it sounds.
The real meat of the combat, however, is giving orders to the rest of the team. Just like you can call on the Guardians for puzzles, you can also command them during fights. Calling on an ally during combat will cause them to perform a special attack. For example, you can tell Groot to trap a group of enemies with roots and then tell Rocket to toss a grenade at them. The cooldowns for these skills aren’t that long either, so the other Guardian’s abilities feel like standard parts of Star-Lord’s moveset. You can also unlock more abilities for each Guardian using skill points, letting you personalize your playstyle and team composition.
The best part of the game’s combat, however, is the Huddle. The Huddle is essentially the team’s ultimate ability. After reaching a certain point during combat, you can get the Guardians together and psych them up for the fight. Depending on how the fight is going, their morale will either be low or high. You then have to choose the correct dialogue option to motivate them. Choosing incorrectly doesn’t harm you, but selecting the right option will buff the team in various ways.
After a Huddle, Star-Lord will queue up a song on his MP3 player and that will become the new combat music. In my first Huddle, the fight was going pretty well so the Guardians were already pretty hyped up. Drax wanted to get back into the action and Gamora was feeling herself. I chose the cockier of the two dialogue options, and the Guardians returned to battle feeling better than ever. On top of that, Quill queued up Take on Me and that played for the rest of the combat encounter. I was surprised at just how many songs were included, and they’re all bangers too.
While the story and dialogue are okay, the combat is where Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy really excels. It feels great to freeze with ice ammo and dodge enemy attacks with slides and flips, all the while giving commands to the rest of the team. I thought only playing as Star-Lord would make the combat incredibly simple, but it’s actually quite the opposite.
Also, Eidos Montreal’s level design prowess really shows here. Each combat encounter was unique and engaging. At one point, enemies ambushed the group from above and I had to use Star-Lord’s ice ammo to take some of the heat off everyone. The big setpiece of the chapter was a wide-open arena where I had to shoot several clamps to unlock the Milano. If the game can keep combat encounters feeling this fresh in every chapter, it’ll be a great time.
The best word I can use to describe Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is “kinetic.” Once it gets going, it doesn’t really stop. It’s a ton of fun. The game has fantastic music, flashy combat, and a lightning-fast pace, just what you’d expect from a Guardians of the Galaxy game. I’m still a bit iffy on the story and dialogue, but hopefully things will be a bit more engaging in the full game. At the very least, I know I’m in for a good time next month with some satisfying combat and great tunes.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy will be released on October 26 for PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X|S.