When Square Enix announced Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy at E3, I’m a bit confused. I was expecting a co-op multiplayer game Marvel’s Avengers, where everyone controls a different hero. Instead, I know it’s a completely solo experience, where the player only directly controls Star-Lord, and can command Drax, Groot, Rocket Racoon, and Gamora, but not play as them.
At first glance, it seems like an obvious missed opportunity. I mean, who wants to play Star-Lord when Groot is standing right there? But after playing the 90 minute demo of the game, I was completely sold out. Traffic navigation game of Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy The team-based dynamics setting of a Marvel squad is better than any superhero game I’ve played.
A sly parody
I begin the story succinctly, as my group goes for a walk on the Milano. After messing around with Rocket Racoon and getting some of his tragic backstory, I jumped into the cockpit and navigated to our first mission. We need to go down to a planet and get parts to fix the ship – looks like a funny llama has chewed some rope.
Immediately, The game’s Mass Effect influence is obvious. Walking around Milano and chatting with my crew is very reminiscent of hanging out in Normandy, except for the romantic options (let me like Drax, the cowards). That similarity starts to make more sense when we actually land. Guardians of the Galaxy essentially serves as a parody of those games, trading their grizzly stories for nerds and fictitious oaths. It’s a video game version of Cosmic ball.
Teamwork creates dream jobs
However, the squad mechanics are no joke. I quickly found that systems make a lot of sense. Pressing on the left bumper opens up a small wheel featuring each Guardian. Star-Lord can give orders to each person both in and out of battle. Early on, the team found themselves trapped behind a locked door. I opened a small vent and used the menu to get Rocket through it. Then I ordered him to break into a door panel (I tried asking Drax to just tear it off first, but he scoffed at the idea).
The system really starts to stick in battles, though it took me a second to get used to the flow. Using that same bumper wheel, Star-Lord can target enemies and send allies to perform a specific skill on them. For example, Groot can briefly tangle enemies on vines, while Rocket can drop a bomb that will knock out enemies across a wide area.
The characters also have some environment-specific actions. If I see a crate hanging over some enemies, I can press a button to get Gamora up there to cut the rope and take out my enemies. Star-Lord itself can fight by shooting and doing some basic punches, but the game is more about crew management and calling shots in battle.
Once it was all clicked on, I was completely smitten. I can command Drax to throw an explosive barrel at a group of enemies, have Gamora take out a sniper above me, and have Groot lock the enemy in place, allowing me to get a few good licks before Rocket finishes him off with a massive bomb blast. Defeating enemies enough will also trigger some special attacks, adding to the team’s motivation. When I get the prompt to hit B and Y at the same time, my entire team will come together to take down an inanimate enemy.
The most important thing here is that all of this happens very quickly. Men can be a slow process in action games, but it all happens extremely quickly here. Sending commands to all four allies takes just a few seconds, with a few quick button presses for each ally. With fast cooldowns on skills, battles become a superhero ensemble, with allies inflicting pain in all directions. When all goes well, I feel like a capable team leader. When they didn’t, I felt like I let my team down, not the other way around.
That whole idea culminates in the game goofiest team mechanic: Team chat. When prompted to press both pads, Star-Lord will invoke a timeout. The team argues over a few lines before Star-Lord has to choose between two inspirational lines. That activates a super mode where everyone gets a little boost. But more importantly, it makes an ’80s tune kick in. The first time I enabled it, Final countdown began to explode in battle. I can’t tell you how much that immediately blew me away.
My only real worry with the game’s squad system comes from dialogue. The characters are constantly being satirized, as you would expect from the Guardians, and I noticed a lot of repetitive single-line passages in my short play. Whether it’s the lines spoken in a group chat or the one-sided remarks during combat, the repetition is so remarkable, it makes me wish I could command the crew to fire down and rehearse. focus on combat.
Nitpicks aside, I’m surprised by how much I enjoy the roster system here after initially being turned off by the idea on paper. While I’ve played a lot of games that require me to give orders to my team, this is one of the few that really makes me feel like the leader of a well-oiled team. In a way, it makes more sense to me than multiplayer superhero games where everyone does their own thing. This is not free for all; it was a concerted effort.
Or maybe I’m just a controlling narcissist. But how can I help it when calling the photos feel good like this?
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy launches on October 26 for PC, PlayStation4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.