The new Guardians of the Galaxy game has some curious, BioWare-like light RPG elements

Thank you, Eidos Montreal, for continuing to make action games that have just enough RPG in them for us to still write about them. Such was the case for the Deus Ex reboot titles that development studio oversaw, and so it also is for their new title: Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy.

After the messiness of the Destiny-style Avengers game, some might be wary of another Marvel project from Square Enix - but examining the E3 gameplay demo of Guardians of the Galaxy, I’ve got to say that it has me a lot more excited and curious about the game’s role-playing potential.

GOTG is a third-person action game about the titular team, but rather than playing as all the various team members, you’ll actually only be in direct control of one - Star-Lord, also known as Peter Quill. While this is the same Guardians line-up as featured in the films (Quill, Gamora, Drax, Rocket Racoon, & Groot), this game features its own version of the characters in its own continuity, just like with Marvel’s Avengers. 

In the gameplay demo video, you can glimpse health bars, experience points after encounters, and a general flow to combat that feels rather action RPG-ish - but it’s how the rest of the Guardians crew integrate into the game that really tickles the bit of the brain reserved for identifying RPG mechanics.

Specifically, everything about the way you interact with the other members of the Guardians crew feels very… BioWare? So the others fight alongside you in combat as AI-powered companions, but you can bring up a menu during combat to trigger special moves from each of them.

These special moves are on cooldown, and they allow you to focus down on things like enemy crowd control or focusing in on an already-weakened foe. A stagger mechanic similar to several Final Fantasy titles is also present, where you'll want to pile the attacks onto a staggered enemy in order to make the most of a damage bonus.

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erhaps it’s because I’ve been playing Legendary Edition lately, but to an extent, this flow looks to have a little of Mass Effect in it; AI squadmates with unique abilities that you can tell them to trigger in combat in order to help you out, while you play a defined main hero character with their own unique abilities.

Star-Lord looks fun to play as, making use of his rocket boots, dual pistols, scrappy melee, and of course his portable tape deck throughout combat. And, yes - there’s licensed eighties music blasting through those headphones.The focus on the relationship between the various Guardians and how the player slots into that dynamic while role-playing as Peter Quill isn’t just present in combat, either. GOTG features story-based dialogue choices that alter the course of the story - again echoing BioWare action RPG design.

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In the demo shown to media before the game’s reveal, we see the player deciding between Rocket and Groot for a certain role in an upcoming mission, the deciding vote in a two-versus-two split vote among the rest of the team. The choice you make will have a direct impact on the following mission, as well as dialogue.

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Mid-mission, another choice crops up in the midst of the action - somebody needs to get to the other side of a chasmous gap to unfurl an electronic bridge for the rest of the team. The quickest way, Drax argues, is to simply pick up Rocket and throw him to the other side. As the leader of the team, you can encourage him or tell him not to do it. In the demo, Drax does indeed hurl Rocket over the gap, and in the top-left of the screen an immediate reaction is noted: “Rocket is furious you let Drax throw him.” This might have repercussions later.

Some of these choices will simply lead to cute unique dialogue, as the familial bickering between the Guardians is key to the mood of the game. But Eidos Montreal representatives were also keen to point out that some choices might not have immediate consequences but instead ripple out and come back to you later. The game might branch significantly - though developers were also quick to point out that ultimately the story will taper back to one specific finale no matter the choices you make on the way - sort of an inverse hourglass structure, to allow for a highly specific and cinematic climax.

Regardless of how deep the choice is, it’s pretty clear to me that there’s going to be a lot for fans of RPGs to love in Guardians of the Galaxy; certainly more than some games that profess to be RPGs. I went into the hands-on expecting to see some sort of co-operative action game and got quite the opposite - and I’m absolutely thrilled. I’m looking forward to looking at its role-playing style mechanics in a more in-depth fashion in the future. 
 

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