Admit it: you're singing that song RIGHT NOW.
The rumours were true: Guardians of the Galaxy is the latest from Eidos Montreal, and it’s coming in late October of this year. Ahead of its official E3 2021 reveal, Stevivor was able to sit down with Mary DeMarle (Executive Narrative Director) and Olivier Proulx (Game Director) in order to get an in-depth look at the title.
If you were imagining something akin to Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers, think again; Guardians of the Galaxy is a single-player action game where you’ll be controlling Star-Lord, the Guardians’ “so-called leader”. The other Guardians — Groot, Rocket, Drax and Gamora — will all fight at your side, with Star-Lord able to encourage his teammates to perform better and even call upon their attacks in battle.
Despite vocal backlash against Avengers’ games as a service mindset, Eidos Montreal’s Proulx asserted that Guardians — much like Shadow of the Tomb Raider and the Deus Ex franchise before it — started as a single-player, narrative-focussed game and will remain as such.
“At Eidos Montreal we love to do those single-player experiences with really strong narrative arcs,” Proulx said. “When we had the option to discuss with Marvel and approach these amazing characters in this franchise, for us it was kind of tapping into our strengths as well, and we felt really comfortable going with that approach.”
Eidos Montreal’s take on the Guardians borrows from both the comics the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), with Drax looking a little more like his film counterpart and Gamora like the comics. A special pre-order bonus will provide the team with Throwback costumes that wholly embraces comic book looks, though each and every single costume is available to be earned, in-game, by all… and furthermore won’t be locked behind DLC or microtransactions. Regardless of appearances, these Guardians are Eidos’ own, complete with an original adventure to embark upon. Set about a year into the Guardians’ formation, some bad decisions by the new mercs for hire kickstart a chain of catastrophic events that mean they need to hero up in order to stop them.
While DeMarle is fiercely protective of her narrative — as to not spoil eager fans — she was happy to admit that Peter ‘Star-Lord’ Quill is the perfect lens with which to view Eidos Montreal’s story.
“He’s human, so we can understand [his perspective],” she told Stevivor, adding that through Quill, players will be able to see “would it be like to actually have to be wrangling these people and being the leader who has to react to the unpredictability of what they do.”
DeMarle also admitted that long-time Guardians‘ comic writer Dan Abnett wasn’t directly involved in this story, he’s certainly across it; moreover, he featured in a short presentation praising Eidos Montreal’s work. DeMarle also teased that Abnett does have something to do with Guardians‘ endgame, but that we’ll have to wait until October to see what that is.
This new video game certainly taps into the MCU’s usage of a killer 80s soundtrack, with Eidos Montreal confirming that 30 classic 80s songs from the likes of Iron Maiden, Rick Astley, Kiss, New Kids on the Block, Pat Benetar, Europe, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and more will feature in the game. While players will be able to access these songs by using a jukebox any time they’re on their starship, the Milano, DeMarle also emphasised that Guardians‘ soundtrack is directly tied into its narrative.
“Yes, you’re picking songs that that will be used in very cinematic moments,” she said, “but at the same time, it was really important to us to make the music not just a passive thing, but actually bring it in to moments of gameplay.”
One of the ways that this is done is through the Guardians’ huddle, a combat move which requires a full power meter. Upon activation, Star-Lord will call his teammates into an actual huddle and begin a motivational speech inspired by — you guessed it — 80s power tunes. If successful, Star-Lord and his teammates will receive buffs, making them all the more dangerous.
“Star-Lord always gets a boost ’cause he always motivates himself,” DeMarle joked, “but sometimes the Guardians aren’t as motivated as you.”
Regardless, one of the 80s tunes you’ve used will blare out after you finish your huddle, remaining in play as you finish off your opponents. While Proulx confirmed “The Final Countdown” by Europe can play out a huddle, we saw Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’ “Bad Reputation” do the same in gameplay.
Combat isn’t all song-and-dance; Guardians appears to be very combo-based, not going as far as to include a counter but certainly encouraging Peter to string together his own attacks with those of his allies. DeMarle and Proulx told us that each character has four main abilites, with one of those being a mega-ability that can only be be earned through story progression. We witnessed Groot wrapping a baddie up within his botanical self, allowing for his teammates to then focus fire on the captive, and Rocket using some sort of freezing ability to effectively do the same. Star-Lord himself has a blaster for long-range attacks alongside melee strikes and jet-boots that help to power aerial or sliding attacks.
A combat progression system seemingly ranks your performance after each battle, levelling you up as you go. Those levels in turn offer upgrades, and Peter can also obtain equipment upgrades for himself and his team through exploration and by crafting.
While combat was one of Eidos Montreal’s focuses as part of our early sneak peek, dialogue between the Guardians themselves was arguably moreso. In a sequence on the Milano, the Guardians spent quite a bit of time arguing over a brewing plan — should they offer up Rocket or Groot as bait to get into the lair of the villanous Lady Hellbender? As Star-Lord, you can listen in on everyone’s takes, and you’ll occasionally have make a choice or two. Do you let Groot speak his mind (spoilers: “I am Groot”), focus on Drax or side with Gamora? Do you go with Groot or Rocket as bait, and do you change your mind on that before it’s time to actually go through with the plan?
While Guardians certainly offers points like these with branching story paths, DeMarle asserted that Eidos Montreal’s story is largely linear and has a single definitive ending. There may be slight potential variants, sure, but a single real resolution nevertheless.
Those branching moments are also paired with smaller ones that give you an immediate sense of how you’re handling your teammates. At one point on Lady Hellbender’s planet, Drax offers so throw Rocket across a chasm so you can progress. Our Star-Lord’s playthrough elected to do just that, which was immediately met with an on-screen tooltip that read, “Rocket is furious that you let Drax throw him”. Calling the functionality Eidos Montreal’s “memory system,” DeMarle explained how it works.
“We’re not going deep into something like a Dragon Age where it’s like how I’m handling my characters will actually cause them to have reputations and all that stuff,” she said, but it certainly will have short-term ramifications.
“A little later in the level you’re going to come upon another challenge, and you may [find] — because you pissed him off — he refuses to help you in in one moment.”
With promises of more to do with the Milano — DeMarle and Proulx didn’t confirm there was space combat, but also didn’t rule it out — alongside hints of planets painted in neon pinks and all the other colours of the rainbow, Guardians of the Galaxy has certainly caught our interest. It looks absolutely gorgeous (running at 30FPS and up to 60FPS on consoles, with ray-tracing in the works) and is packed with intense action and humour. Fans of the MCU, Marvel’s comic books or anyone else looking for a sci-fi adventure know what they’ll be doing this October.
Guardians of the Galaxy heads to Windows PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series S, Xbox Series X, PS4 and PS5 on 26 October 2021.
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