Square Enix has made it clear that Eidos-Montreal’s Guardians of the Galaxy has underperformed commercially. Despite strong reviews, not enough players were tempted into picking up this excellent space-faring adventure and giving it a whirl.
It was either a mistrust in the brand after Marvel’s Avengers’ evident mediocrity or a lack of solid marketing, but either way it hasn’t set the world on fire. This is a tragedy. Guardians is easily one of the best narrative experiences we’ve seen in quite some time, outpacing its cinematic counterparts when it comes to characters, dialogue, world building, and so much more.
Now it’s coming to Xbox Game Pass, so you owe it to yourself to play it.
I’m not a fan of the Guardians of the Galaxy films. It’s largely because of Chris Pratt being a giant bellend, but I’ve also never really gelled with its sense of humour, often favouring tongue-in-cheek jokes and silly set pieces over emotionally poignant narrative moments. It gets awfully close, especially in the second film, but far too often it exudes a level of reverence that isn’t for me. It’s classic James Gunn, but I think his attitude comes across far better when he’s given ample room to be unhinged and vulgar, with The Suicide Squad being a prime example of his creative vision being expressed without compromise.
Given my relative disdain for the films, when the game was announced I couldn’t care less. It was clearly trying to ape the cinematic universe with its character designs and tone, using iconic pop songs to underpin narrative milestones while relying on constant banter between characters to keep the momentum moving. These ragtag explorers don’t always get along, and even the reveal trailer made that animosity clear. But part of me expected it to be a linear, scripted adventure with a handful of RPG systems sprinkled in for good measure. My initial expectations weren’t too far off the mark, so won’t be for everybody, but Eidos-Montreal takes its development pedigree and applies it to the Marvel property in ways me or nobody else could have expected. It’s excellent, and knowing it landed with a whimper breaks my heart.
The fact it’s arriving on Game Pass so soon after its release is a clear indication of how it’s performed. Weeks after release it was heavily discounted and discussion of the game on social media was restricted to small circles of players singing its praises and trying in vain to convince others to play it. I was admittedly late to the party, finishing it up just before Christmas and kicking myself for leaving it so long. It does take a while to get going, requiring you to understand Eidos-Montreal’s interpretations of these characters and this universe before you can truly appreciate them. Once you’re invested, the storytelling here is expertly crafted, so much so that it made me like a character as detestable as Star-Lord.
His personality here is far more likeable and subdued. He still cracks wise and believes he’s the smartest guy in the room, but he develops a level of empathy towards those around him that Chris Pratt could never dream of. The Candle Scene between him and his pseudo-daughter in the game’s conclusion is stellar, forcing this egotistical character to abandon his own insecurities and understand the plight of those around him. He cares for people, and clearly wants to do the right thing, even willing to sacrifice himself to save the galaxy when it comes down to it. I hated him at first, but it took no time at all for this hero to grow on me.
The same can be said for Rocket, Drax, Gamora, and Groot. These are my Guardians now, with the films feeling like outsiders that I’m afraid will take them into a different direction that doesn’t consider the excellent stories explored here. Drax isn’t a well of empty one-liners anywhere. Well, he is – but this game takes time to explore his past and show all the things he’s lost along the way. We care about him, and we care about everyone else throughout the campaign in ways that expertly tug at the heartstrings. It won The Game Award for best narrative, but knowing that this excellent display of storytelling went largely unnoticed by the masses, and might never get a sequel, really sucks. I’m worried an arrival on Game Pass won’t shift the needle nearly enough.
But we can hope. If you’ve yet to play Guardians of the Galaxy and have an Xbox or PC handy next week when it arrives on Game Pass, do yourself a favour and give it a go.
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