Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

The biggest announcement at the Square Enix E3 2021 presentation was undoubtedly Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, which is being developed by Eidos-Montréal. Almost 18 minutes of precious presentation time was spent on this one game, which is pretty strong evidence that Square Enix is feeling super confident about this as a major release.

I’ve been discussing this reveal with my fellow Half-Glass Gaming crew members, and there’s a bit of a disagreement about it. It seems like a lot of folks are pretty down on this. And I think that’s a valid way to feel, especially after what Square Enix already did with Marvel’s Avengers.

However, I think there’s some potential here. The temptation is to compare this to Avengers, which is maybe not completely fair. While there are some clear similarities — these are both Marvel properties, they both focus on teams (rather than a single individual, like the Spider-Man games), and both have mega-blockbuster movie franchises now — they are actually being handled quite differently. Most importantly, Guardians feels like it has a much tighter focus than Avengers.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

Of course, it’s the blockbuster-movie point that seems like a sticking point for a lot of people. While these games are designed to be closer representations of the movie versions of these characters than the comic book versions, they didn’t get the movie actors to reprise those roles. That forces the developers to create similar-but-not-too-similar versions of these characters rather than offering fresh designs. This leads to a bit of an uncanny valley effect. If you’ve only ever seen Chris Pratt as Star-Lord, then seeing some Johnny Bravo-looking dude put on the mask feels weird.

The Spider-Man games have an easy out here. While there have been Spider-Man movies, we’ve seen so many different actors play him now that yet another new face doesn’t really feel that much different than it did seeing Tom Holland or Andrew Garfield in the role for the first time. When Chris Evans has showed up as Captain America in almost a dozen Marvel films, seeing the video game version of him does feel super off.

Marvel's Avengers

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy will have to get past this; that’s an uphill battle for sure. But as someone who’s read a pretty good amount of Guardians comic books, I’m used to seeing different versions of Peter Quill, drawn by different artists with vastly different art styles and interpretations of the character.

For example, the iteration of Peter Quill in the 2019 Guardians of the Galaxy comic series (shown below):

Peter Quill

Is a far cry from the version that was introduced back in Marvel Preview #4 back in 1976.

Peter Quill

As a comics reader, I think I’m probably a lot more acclimated to character redesigns than someone who’s only ever seen the movies, so I’m going to be less bothered by the look of these characters than my movie-loving friends will be. So maybe I’m not representative of the game’s target audience. But for me, seeing different character designs and hearing different voices won’t be the turnoff for me that it is for a lot of other folks.

Another critique I’m seeing is that the game will only let you play as Star-Lord, despite the fact that the Guardians are a team. As fun as it would be to control Groot or Gamora or friggin’ Rocket Racoon, you’ll be controlling Star-Lord for the duration of the game.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

Now, the team element here is a bit of a double-edged sword. While forcing us to play solely as Star-Lord does feel like a missed opportunity, this also lets Eidos-Montréal focus on a singular combat style and hone it to perfection — the way Marvel’s Spider-Man focused solely as Peter Parker (and the follow-up focused on Miles Morales). Those games both feel incredible to play, and I would argue that it’s partially because of their singular focus on just one combat style rather than trying to blend a dozen or more into a single game.

Of course, this doesn’t mean Guardians of the Galaxy will be fun to play by default, but the singular focus I think might end up being a boon rather than a drawback. And from what we saw in the presentation, combat actually looks pretty fun, with dual-wielded Quad Blasters for damage-dealing and rocket boots for mobility. I’m especially fond of what I assume to be a combo rating system or an overcharge system, where you see words like “Uncanny” and “Fantastic” pop up on the screen. As a Marvel comics reader, I appreciate the use of these particular adjectives.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

What really has me excited, though, is that Dan Abnett is involved in this. Abnett has been writing Marvel’s cosmic stories for a long time, and he’s been a huge part of the Guardians of the Galaxy series in particular. In fact, Abnett is co-creator of the team (alongside Andy Lanning), though the team was initially built using preexisting characters.

Abnett and Lanning’s work on the Guardians comics is still upheld among some of the best story arcs in the cosmic side of Marvel’s universe. Abnett definitely has the chops to not only be working on a Guardians video game, but to make it feel true to the comic books. And for me, that’s a lot more exciting than just getting a flimsy adaptation of the movies.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not expecting Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy to blow my mind. I really think of this as more of a fun way to experience a new Guardians story rather than a groundbreaking Game of the Year contender. But as a new Guardians story, especially one with creative input by Dan Abnett, I think this one has some legs. Weird, creepy space legs maybe, but legs nonetheless.

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