Preview: Guardians of the Galaxy – promising space action from Square Enix

Comic book publisher Marvel has a long history of successful, and some less successful, film adaptations of their superheroes. The boom began in the early 2000s, with the popular film adaptations of Spider-Man and X-Men. Eventually, the genre gained new momentum in 2008, when Iron Man became the beginning of Marvel’s successful universe of coherent superhero movies. The rest is, as the saying goes, history.

Marvel’s success, however, led to them also being able to focus on highlighting lesser-known characters from the long and extensive list of licenses. One of these was the Guardians of the Galaxy, a team of unequal heroes from a distant galaxy. The films that came out are classified as some of the most humorous in the genre, and have in turn led to increased interest in these lesser-known Marvel heroes.

Comic book inspired

However, it should be said fairly immediately that Square Enix’s new Guardians of the Galaxy game is not based on the movie version. Although there are some similarities, and then we are mainly talking about the designs for the tree creature Groot and the raccoon-like Rocket. The remaining characters, with the half-human and also the main character Quill in the lead, can, on the other hand, feel foreign to those who are not familiar with anything other than the films.

Guardians of the Galaxy
Photo: Square Enix / Marvel

However, just a few minutes of playing is enough to notice that at least the tone is the same. The characters speak with the same playful jargon that we are used to. And there is a lot of talk, which is still nice when it’s still a single – player game with a strong focus on story. Something that unfortunately was not the case with the spiritual predecessor, the Avengers.

Here we instead get many chances to improve ourselves in the characters’ different backgrounds and personalities, for example by interacting with different objects we find on board our ship. For the sake of the unusual, we can choose to have long dialogues and choose the orientations, much as we otherwise do in regular role-plays. This before we even left our ship to take on the first mission.

A further development of a proven concept

Guardians of the Galaxy, however, is not a role-playing game, but is basically very similar to the action-packed Avengers. Our gang distributes everything from pure melee attacks to shot cavalcades and sword blows, all in line with how the characters are portrayed otherwise. However, we are only given control over Quill, an all-in-allo who can hand out fist blows and shoot from a distance. As a leader, he can also give orders to other “guards”, resulting in all sorts of entertaining types of attacks.

Guardians fighting
Photo: Square Enix / Marvel

This prevents the battles from becoming pure “button mashers”. We are rather forced to think tactically, as all the characters in the team have their own specialties. Muskelberget Drax, for example, is good for busing against extra armored antagonists. Drawing up all the examples of synergies takes away the fun from everyone who intends to play it themselves. But we can at least guarantee that we are dealing with something more dynamic than in, again, the Avengers.

Eventually, we also work up a special special meter, which upon activation allows Quill to assemble the gang for a quick pep talk. Here it is important to keep track of what our comrades are expressing at the moment, and then try to give the right kind of motivation. Being a good leader has its rewards, but we do not really know yet whether pep talk affects anything other than the battles themselves. However, this does not mean that our entire demo session was an ultra-linear experience.

Steer the story in your own direction

Along the assignment, we encountered special dialogues that, depending on the response, triggered various events. One of the most crucial only showed up when we replayed the demo a second time. Then we chose a completely different alternative than at the first attempt, and thus also changed the approach to the assignment. It is still too early to draw any conclusions about how prevalent these choices are, let alone how they ultimately affect the story.

Guardians story
Photo: Square Enix / Marvel

But again, the fact that they are there bodes well for the replay value. The same goes for all the secrets we find along the demo track. For those who choose to explore in more detail, there is everything from alternative dialogues to secret costumes. The latter is really appreciated, especially since that feature costs real money in Avengers. But how come we can not write a preview of Guardians of the Galaxy without mentioning the previous game?

Promising new start

Probably because we were hoping for a big deal then, an Avengers in the style of Insomniac’s Spider-Man. But what we got instead felt more like a light version of any team-based action game. The few cinematic sequences in the game only served as a bridge to the pure online experience that awaited. And thus the missions themselves also suffered.

Guardians vs. Nova Corps
Photo: Square Enix / Marvel

A couple of hours with Guardians of the Galaxy shows that the focus is now the exact opposite. Instead of riding the wave of prevailing live service games, Square Enix chooses to take on the criticism. To build on the few elements that worked last. And to hopefully give Marvel fans an entertaining in-class action adventure with the films based on the license. Exactly how well the developers succeed this time, you will find out in our upcoming review.

Guardians of the Galaxy launches October 26, 2021 (Playstation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series X / S, PC, Switch).

Footnote: We tested an early beta version through game streaming, directly from Square Enix computers via the Parsec app.