Despite what it looks like, Eidos Montreal's Guardians of the Galaxy game wasn't born out of the response to Marvel's Avengers. Still, it's not hard to see why you might think it was. Square Enix's live service simulation of Earth's mightiest heroes landed with a dull thud last year, and has continued to flounder in wooing back players turned off by its infinite currencies, needless progression systems, and grindy combat.
Even now, the game is struggling to justify its continued existence, despite the wealth of free updates to come, including this Summer's War for Wakanda Black Panther expansion. Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy, meanwhile, is a full-bodied single-player adventure, pure and simple, and you could practically hear the internet's sigh of relief when today's Square Enix E3 showcase confirmed it.
While it might seem weird to cheer at the idea of a game sticking with tradition, avoiding the potential risks and rewards of the nascent live service gold rush, the Marvel's Avengers' case study only shows how damaging the Destiny effect can be upon a game's ability to tell stories and keep its players compelled.
As a result, Guardians of the Galaxy's singular focus is cause for celebration, setting it up as a game that places characters above currencies, storytelling above social spaces, and having something to say above locking content behind paywalls.
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The narrative focus of Guardians of the Galaxy is even more exciting a prospect when you consider Eidos Montreal's pedigree, as the Canadian studio behind Deus Ex: Human Revolution and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. While I'm disappointed to see another E3 come and go without the return of Adam Jensen, the character's legacy does at least illustrate what this team is capable of when it comes to bringing a new twist on existing worlds and stories.
And make no mistake; this version of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy is very much a twist on the band of misfits that we know and love. While there are certainly echoes of Chris Pratt in the game's Peter Quill (the only playable character of the adventure), Eidos Montreal is dedicated to telling its own story in its own universe, with all the surprises and subversions that might entail.
There's even a hint of Telltale's narrative adventure stylings (that studio also released its own original Guardians of the Galaxy title in 2017, incidentally) in the way that Quill's fellow team-mates will react to decisions he makes throughout the events of the game, allowing for a branching storyline that you can't imagine Eidos Montreal being able to invest in had it chosen to follow Marvel's Avengers turn towards live service storytelling.
This isn't to say that Guardians of the Galaxy looks like the perfect superhero power fantasy. The game's frame rate appeared to be struggling to keep up with the heat of combat during an extended walkthrough on Square Enix's showcase; something which, incidentally, was also noticeable when the publisher was showing off Marvel's Avengers this time last year.
Relatedly, the combat itself appears to stutter and stop-start in places, while certain textures and animations pop out for all the wrong reasons. That said, Eidos has some time to polish things over before the game launches this October, so we'll refrain from passing full judgement on its aesthetics until we're playing it for ourselves.
A true marvel
Still, even if Guardians of the Galaxy looks a little rough around the edges, it has already won many over as an unintended antidote to everything that soured players off of Square Enix's last stab at the Marvel universe. Where Marvel's Avengers felt like a game being pulled in several different directions, not to mention somewhat lacking in content at launch, Guardians of the Galaxy is aiming to be cohesive and complete from day one.
In an industry obsessed with amorphous buzzwords like "user engagement", "recurring profit", and "endgame content", there's something to be said about a project that just wants to make you feel like a true guardian of the galaxy, and nothing more.