(SPOILER WARNING: Some story-related spoilers ahead.)
Let’s get one thing straight: Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is nothing like Marvel’s Avengers.
When Guardians was first announced, I saw a lot of people online dismiss it, thinking publisher Square Enix was cashing in on another Marvel property after the disappointing sales of Avengers. And it’s unfortunate that this game was put under the shadow of its stablemate from the very start. Because Guardians is a very good game – a must-play for fans of the movies and the comics.
Instead of the live service model adopted by Avengers, Guardians is a story-focused, single-player experience, where you play as Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord, as he leads his space-faring band of misfits in an epic adventure to save the galaxy.
In case you didn’t already know, you don’t get to play as the other Guardians – at least not directly. This didn’t seem to sit well with some people, who lamented the opportunity to have a co-op Guardians game. Believe me, I get that. I also found this decision quite strange at first. However, after two playthroughs of the game, I now understand why developer Eidos Montréal went with Quill as the sole playable character. And it has a lot to do with how the game tells its story.
Guardians is essentially about a dysfunctional family who learns to put their differences aside and trust each other in the face of danger. And by framing the story from Quill’s perspective, you learn about the group from the eyes of their leader, who has to hear them out and eventually get them to work together.
I mean the Guardians, as Quill himself admits at the start, aren’t upstanding citizens. They’re loud and brash outlaws who don’t exactly fit the traditional hero mold. Gamora is a ruthless assassin. Drax is a serial murderer. Rocket is a maniacal pyromaniac. And Groot is…well, he’s Groot.
Despite all this, all of them are extremely likable in their own unique way thanks in large part to how they’re written in this story. And I’m not just talking about the dialogue here, though that is also worthy of praise. Rather, I’m referring to how each of them carries their own emotional baggage that they have to overcome with the help of the team.
One chapter in the game, for instance, has the Guardians venturing into Drax’s mind, where he’s deceived by an illusion that sees him spending the rest of his life in peace with his dead wife and daughter. The team tries to convince him to accept reality and snap out of the spell to no avail…until Quill tells him that they are his family now. Drax embraces the illusion of his wife and daughter one last time, saying he’ll cherish the time they had, and bids them goodbye. It’s a touching moment showing that under Drax’s brutish figure and deadpan humor is a man who’s grieving and harboring a lifetime’s worth of guilt.
All five members of the team go through a similar internal journey of transformation, which ultimately strengthens their bond and dynamic as a team. And, boy, is it incredibly satisfying to witness.
You kind of experience the same thing watching the two James Gunn-directed movies, albeit much less developed. And it’s hard not to compare the two mediums from each other. The blockbuster success of the movies has helped shape the idea of who the Guardians are for many of us, and the game doesn’t seem shy to take some cues from it. The overall feel and attitude of the game – from the licensed 80s tracks to the look of the Guardians – were clearly influenced by the movies. Even the roster is the same.
But games and movies are two different mediums, especially in length. There’s only so much you can fit in a two-hour movie that it’s almost impossible to fully flesh out each of the five characters. Whereas in a game, developers have free rein to tell a longer story. And Guardians takes full advantage of this in a way that complements its influences.
While the game’s story brings more depth to the Guardians and their checkered pasts, I don’t think saying that it’s better than the movies or comics makes any sense. The way I see it is each medium offers a different “flavor” of these characters but all of them enhance the property as a whole.
Original Guardians story
The game is an original interpretation of the Guardians by Eidos Montréal, which is not directly connected to the movies or comics in any way. And I appreciate that the developers took some liberties in creating each of the character’s backstories without straying too far from the source material. They all feel familiar yet different at the same time. So if you go into this having seen the movies or read the comics, you’ll not only feel right at home with these characters – the endless antics and banter between them – but you also get a deeper dive into their distinctive personalities and quirks.
The difference here is that your journey feels a lot more interactive. You’re playing a game, after all. And by interactive, I mean you feel like an active participant in this story, where your in-game decisions can influence how much you get out of it. For example, I love that some of the optional collectibles open up new conversations with the Guardians, where they tell you more about their tragic backstories. These are small moments in the overarching story, but they’re so effective at getting you invested in your team and making your journey with them feel more personal. The collectibles aren’t out in the open. You have to deliberately go off the beaten path to find them. But the payoff is too good to ignore.
At the core of this emotional and often humorous blockbuster-style thrill ride is a story about conquering trauma, building relationships, and finding a family. And once again, it doesn’t deserve to be in the same conversation as Marvel’s Avengers. This superhero story is worth your time, plain and simple. – Rappler.com