Guardians of the Galaxy by Eidos Montreal is one of the top candidates for Game of the Year 2021. Especially if you enjoy story-focused, interactive adventures that waste little of your time.
When I finished my 20 hour walkthrough of Guardians of the Galaxy, I felt sad. Sad because it comes out in the shadow of the failed Avengers from the same publisher. And also because the Guardians advertising campaign is a huge failure: it failed to show even 1% of the strengths of the game.
People who haven’t followed the project closely still think it’s some kind of Avengers offshoot. One publisher. Similar visual style. The same Eidos Montreal in the credits. Everything seems to be obvious, right?
And here it is not. These games are on different ends of the modern AAA spectrum. There is little in common between them.
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If we compare Guardians with any of the Square Enix projects, then this will be a recent remake of Final Fantasy VII.
Only now the new game Eidos Montreal is even more story-driven and even more closed. And it doesn’t have boring sewer levels, but it has the spirit of Mass Effect, Star Trek and other great space franchises.
The density of events and variety of locations is much higher here than in God of War, Marvel's Spider-Man and other similar games.
After 20 hours, I feel like I’ve gone through two parts of some game of the PlayStation 3 and Xbox One generation in a row, and not one artificially bloated release of our time.
Big Trouble in the Galaxy ( Square Enix Guardians of the Galaxy )
The events of Guardians of the Galaxy start 12 years after a large-scale galactic war. At the very beginning of the campaign, the Guardians are familiar with each other with a hat, and there is no talk of any trust between them.
Drax, for example, constantly reminds Gamora of her mercenary past and expects betrayal from her, and the team leader, Star-Lord, is forced to constantly reconcile them.
Fortunately, the gang has a common problem – a zero balance in the account. That is why the Guardians secretly penetrate the most closed sector of the galaxy in order to hunt the legendary monster in it and sell the booty for big money. But, of course, things don’t go according to plan.
Instead of a terrible monster, the heroes find a strange purple llama in the forbidden zone, and Peter Quill accidentally touches a powerful artifact and releases an ominous entity that looks like a flying pile of metal filings.
What is even more unpleasant - the Guardians are immediately caught by the soldiers of the Nova Corps and the hapless hunters are issued a huge fine.
While the heroes come up with another dubious money-making scheme to pay off the space police, the entity they have freed prepares to enslave the minds of all living beings in the galaxy.
The events that follow can be described as follows. Imagine James Gunn’s Guardians of the Galaxy 3 being turned into two seasons of a well-written series.
While events are unfolding here, against which even the fourth “Avengers” seem like a trifle, the authors plunge into the fears and secret desires of the key characters as deeply as is generally possible outside of books and comics.
The case is also helped by the very nature of the main villain, who uses the weaknesses of people to enslave them.
At first, “Guardians” from Eidos Montreal seem to be inferior to their counterparts from the big cinema, but over time, the situation changes radically. And by the end credits, each member of the team wants to hug.
How it works
Judge for yourself: here you also fly from planet to planet, strengthen relationships with colleagues and chat with them on the ship between missions. True, you cannot choose a destination on your own - everything is as linear as possible here.
But if in Mass Effect 2 you had literally one loyalty mission for each participant, then in Guardians everything is more complicated and interesting.
The fears, desires, weaknesses and anxieties of the team members here manifest themselves gradually and in many ways unpredictably.
Gamora’s line in the game turned out to be perhaps the weakest – most of the time she just tries to ensure that “other girls in the galaxy” do not repeat her fate.
But the arcs of Quill, Rocket and Drax turned out to be surprisingly deep and tragic. Like James Gunn, the writers of Guardians actively use the trauma of the characters to add truly emotional moments to the narrative. A few campaign scenes can get really uncomfortable.
Eidos Montreal managed to write a colossal script that never sags in twenty hours. Even when some optional branch appears in the story, the characters themselves joke about it, reducing the degree of pathos and turning the filler into fun entertainment.
The characters here chat incessantly, and this, oddly enough, is not only not annoying, but also creates a unique atmosphere. You’re almost never alone in Guardians, and even if you’ve gone around the corner to look for resources, your team members will continue to talk, giving what is happening the necessary context.
In recent years, NPCs like Ellie from The Last of Us and Atreus from God of War have helped developers ground what’s happening on the screen – they made the connection between the player and the virtual world closer, and in Eidos Montreal they successfully pulled off the same trick with Guardians. These are not just heroes and not just NPCs, this is a tool with which we learn and feel the world of the game.
And in the world
The feeling of a shoulder is the basis of not only the plot, but the gameplay of Guardians of the Galaxy. When the characters are just exploring another planet, Gamora can help Quill climb to a height, Drax can drag something heavy or punch a passage in a rock, Rocket can hack some terminal or get into an air shaft, and Groot can create a bridge from his branches or like an elevator.
There are puzzles in the game, but it usually takes no more than a minute to find solutions. Developers are not particularly interested in delaying the player, and all character interactions are analogous to the simplest puzzles from the first half of The Last of Us.
They almost never repeat and are only needed to dilute the action, give the characters time for dialogues and neatly “marry” the narrative and gameplay. It is thanks to this that closer to the finale, on a subconscious level, you feel how the Guardians become a well-coordinated team.
They begin to behave more independently and sometimes even get ahead of Quill’s wishes.
The locations in the game turned out to be quite linear, but at the same time grandiose in scale. The game lasts 20 hours, but not a single level here has time to get bored. Even if you return to one of the planets again, the developers change it so much that it is difficult to recognize it.
The density of content in the game is high even in comparison with Sony exclusives. It’s closer to Uncharted 4 than God of War or Days Gone. Eidos Montreal’s level designers went wild with brutalism in the spirit of Control, gigantism, and even something from Denis Villeneuve’s latest films.
The developers were so eager to turn their game into a non-stop stream of man-made content that they even almost completely abandoned collecting.
In the levels, Quill can only find two types of resources and skins for heroes, and neither the first nor the second is necessary. Throughout the campaign, I did not try to search every corner, but just enjoyed the process and came to the finale with heroes pumped up to 100%.
Actually, in Guardians there are only two types of pumping – 15 modifications (higher health, faster recovery of shields) that Rocket can collect on any workbench, and four abilities of each of the characters that pass off as experience gained in battle.
If you're tired of other games being turned into second jobs, then Eidos Montreal is clearly on your side. There is no long sitting on the menu here - only fun, jokes, beautiful cut-scenes and good music!
And in the war
If you want to criticize the Guardians for anything, it’s for not the deepest combat. In each battle, you primarily control Peter, who can shoot with two hands, spectacularly dodge enemy attacks and activate one of his unique abilities from time to time. Quill can fly over the battlefield for a while or even become invulnerable, which will help you a lot closer to the final.
The combat here is somewhat reminiscent of that of Shadow of War. I wrote a column about how Monolith’s game design creates a bizarre combination of turn-based strategy with real-time combat – with very short pauses for decision-making.
In Guardians, the situation is similar: when Peter looks at the enemy, he can slow down time for a moment, select the character to strike and the type of attack, and then enjoy the spectacle.
To die on the basic difficulty in Guardians, you have to try, but this does not mean that the combat turned out to be stupid. As in games like Batman Arkham and Marvel’s Spider-Man, it gives a pleasant feeling of being powerful. You really are Peter Quill – the head of one of the most powerful squads in the entire galaxy.
To quickly defeat the enemy, the guards must be guided carefully and not let their abilities stand idle for a second. For example, if the boss has a powerful shield, then first you should shower it with basic attacks, and when the force field disappears, deal tremendous damage with the help of Gamora’s ult, Drax and Rocket. Whereas Groot can cure all his comrades-in-arms at the most difficult moment.
Priorities are also important: some opponents increase the resistance of allies to attacks so much that you first need to concentrate all your forces on killing these “shamans”, and then deal with the rest.
In addition to the standard set of attacks on the field, there are many more contextual ones. For example, in some arenas, Rocket can mine selected areas, and Drax can throw a red barrel or a huge boulder at enemies.
And sometimes, in the heat of battle, contextual finishing may open – if you have time to press the button in time, then Groot will beautifully tear off the car’s hand, and Gamora can simply cut it off with his sword.
Most of the time in combat, you dodge especially powerful enemy attacks, watch your blasters reload (a mini-game in the vein of Gears of War), pick up injured teammates, and tap the buttons on the right side of the controller almost non-stop.
Quill’s basic shooting may seem a little weak, but from time to time he can activate a powerful burst that deals a lot of damage to opponents.
In addition to the main blaster mode, Peter also has additional ones – he can pull a distant enemy with the help of wind power, as well as freeze, set fire or shock.
All these abilities are used in puzzles, and in combat they add depth – for example, the wind helps to effectively eliminate snipers, and electricity quickly removes the shields of large groups of Nova soldiers.
When the appropriate scale is accumulated, Peter can launch the “Bunch” – temporarily stop the fight, gather allies together and give them an inspiring speech. Words should be chosen according to what Quill is saying to his guys.
If the Guardians win, they should be calmed down a little, and if they lose, they should be cheered up. If you choose an unsuccessful phrase, only Peter receives bonuses to damage and cooldowns, and if you answer correctly, then the effect applies to everyone. Well, the further battle unfolds under one of the cult songs of the eighties that got into the soundtrack.
And the main problem of combat in Guardians is not even that it is unpretentious, but that in a couple of locations the developers change their sense of proportion, and they put too many battles in a row.
At one point, I even felt that I was learning to play more effectively, not in order to survive, but in order to go further faster. Fortunately, there are not so many such places in the game, and the finale turned out to be ideal in terms of pace.
What is incredibly difficult to determine in the case of Guardians is the genre of the game. It seems to be not an RPG, and not just an adventure action game. This is, ahem, a simulation of the head of a dysfunctional family trying to save the galaxy.
To enhance this effect, the developers added elements of non-linearity to the story. And here everything is implemented according to the canons of Telltale – if you have made an important choice, a corresponding notification will appear in the corner of the screen. “Such and such a character trusted you enough and gave you the key to the door.”
The developers do not hide the fact that everyone has the same ending – epic to the point of impossibility, but the ramifications add additional agency to the game and make it better.
Sometimes your decision will show itself almost immediately – you will get fewer opponents in the next battle, and sometimes the effect will have to wait several chapters, but it will affect the narrative more significantly.
No, choosing will not allow you to see new locations or new enemies. More often than not, it just makes your life a little harder or easier, and also creates a spectacular illusion of real relationships with other characters, where one bad phrase can ruin everything.
A few days ago, I accidentally caught myself thinking that, as in my student or even school years, while working, I only think about returning to the Guardians and continuing the passage.
In the middle of the campaign, the game feels so unpredictable and vast, as if anything could happen in it … and it, ahem, happens. In the course of writing this text, I constantly beat myself on the hands and erased paragraphs so as not to spoil any of the surprises for you or not to show a spoiler scene that would immediately sell me this game with giblets.
About 15 hours after the start of Guardians of the Galaxy became my undoubted game of the year, but it was only the beginning of acceleration to the grand finale.
It’s like a release from a parallel reality, where games do it this way – without wasting time, without trying to dilute interesting content with anything to stretch the timing, and thinking only about giving fans the finished product at the final price.
But most importantly, the developers from Eidos Montreal approached someone else’s intellectual property with incredible attention and love.
Many jokes in the game make you laugh out loud, and when, in one of the final missions, the Guardians suddenly start singing together to strengthen the spirit, you really want to voice along with them.
At the same time, the voluminous lore is not fed to the player through force – if you are really curious, you can familiarize yourself with it through secondary dialogues and notes scattered throughout the locations.
Dead Space, Alien Isolation, Horizon Zero Dawn… There have been so many successful examples in recent years when the studio changed its profile dramatically and did something truly great.
“Guardians of the Galaxy” can be included without the slightest doubt in this series. Yes, only a powerful engine remained from Deus Ex, but if we talk about games in the spirit of Mass Effect or under the Marvel license, then the developers from Eidos suddenly got into the big leagues.
How to play Guardians of the Galaxy Square Enix
20+ hours to complete the campaign and a few more hours to experiment with non-linearity.
As a platform - PS5 with 4K 30 FPS mode, since the picture in it is incredibly clear and detailed, but at 60 FPS everything is too soapy.
The game has reference HDR and sound design, but DualSense features are used minimally.
The campaign consists of 16 chapters with an average of one and a half hours each.
What did you like in Guardians of the Galaxy
- This is a completely finished product. No DLC or in-app purchases. No services. Just a story game with a beginning, middle and end.
- Very detailed settings for difficulty, accessibility and sound.
- Art design that can break the share button.
- Detailing heroes, textures and environments in resolution priority mode.
- Perfect length for this kind of game.
- Crazy pace, which almost none of the competitors can boast of.
- Captivating storyline with lively and developed characters.
- The developers have come up with some great ways to connect the gameplay and storytelling – according to the precepts of The Last of Us and God of War.
- Great humor – both visual and textual. Serious moments can make you cry.
- Mostly thoughtful design, thanks to which you fly through the levels almost non-stop.
- Shoulder feeling – both during exploration and during combat. By the end, all the main characters want to hug.
- These are real Guardians. Fans of Gunn’s films and the original comics will be thrilled.
- Gathering and pumping do not strain and do not distract from the plot.
- Great soundtrack, albeit inferior to the music from Gunn’s films.
- Convincing performance of actors throughout all 20 hours. But the heroes here do not stop for a minute.
- Non-linearity adds more flexibility to the game, although it does not change the ending.
- There are almost no explicit downloads in the PS5 version. The game feels like a console exclusive.
What did not like in Guardians of the Galaxy
- Some fights in the middle can feel drawn out. If there is a second part, then it is the combat that should be deepened in the first place.
- Minor bugs and glitches that sometimes forced the checkpoint to be restarted.
- Strange platforming restrictions in places.
- The study of locations is necessary solely for the development of the plot, but nothing more.
- The 60 FPS mode on consoles is too “soapy”, so you have to play in 4K 30.