Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is full of hard decisions

Spoiled for choice

The cast of Square Enix's Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy game

I'm standing in an abandoned, intergalactic police station. I'm playing as Star-Lord, and I'm here with the rest of the Guardians of the Galaxy to pay off a Nova Corps fine for trespassing. With no officers in sight, we wander around the station looking for someone who can help us square away the debt. Eventually, I hear a faint, eerie chatter crackling from a discarded police helmet. Something is definitely wrong here.

I pop the helmet on, eavesdropping on a conversation between two Nova Corps officers. This opens up two options: awkwardly cut in by asking them where I can pay the fine, or gently put the helmet down and tootle off. This is Guardians of the Galaxy, though, so I decide to roleplay my inner roguish space captain by announcing my presence and dragging my team into trouble.

The goons arrive almost immediately, appearing under some kind of glowing aura and mumbling about “submitting” to something or other. Yep, I probably should have just walked away. Had I put the helmet down, I could've avoided the violence for a while to continue skulking around the building and piecing together what happened instead. The destination is the same – you've got to fight some bad guys – but by gathering a little more information you can get the drop on them later while they're fighting among themselves. Getting to shape the journey to accommodate the adventure you have in mind is Guardians of the Galaxy's most exciting feature. Oh, and you can pre-order it here if your mind's already made up.

You can see the ripple of the smaller decisions you make throughout the game, too. The earlier stages of the Nova Corps level involve wandering around the empty, roughed-up space station trying to figure out what’s going on as your team bicker and banter with each other. If you find the prison cells, you’ll get the opportunity to free someone, which affects the way the rest of the level unfolds.

Nova Corp officers in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

Even innocuous conversations with your team can have a more subtle impact. Exploring the base can spark secret conversations with Gamora or Rocket. The former suggests you look around for survivors, while Rocket senses that something’s wrong and all but pleads with Star-Lord to just leave. Taken in isolation, these changes are minor, but they combine to make two very different experiences of the same level. That’s great for replayability, but more importantly – to me, at least – it also accommodates the group dynamic I want to forge.

Guardians of the Galaxy has always weaved goofball humour together with moments of intimacy and vulnerability among this team of outcasts, and that’s absolutely the case in Eidos-Montréal’s adaptation. Early on, a video call with a Nova Corps officer is cut short when a space llama chews a cable it shouldn’t have. Rather than calmly piecing together a solution, the team is thrown into disarray. You can wander around the ship, basking in the heated squabbling of your fellow guardians, or break into one-on-one conversations.

Learning more about each guardian isn’t always a case of approaching them with a Mass Effect-style interrogation, as you’ll prompt a lot of conversations by exploring and interacting with trinkets around the world.

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I learn more about Rocket’s past by going into his room and picking up some contraption from a shelf, which sends the rodent barrelling in, an accusatory finger pointed up at my chin. I learn that Gamora likes to collect dolls because I stumble in on her browsing through a website in the cockpit, and Star-Lord expresses his desire to understand Groot after stumbling on a translation device. I also learn that Drax is as literal as ever when he scolds me for wasting money while we have a fine to pay. I had offered him a penny for his thoughts.

Investigating a Nova Corp uniform in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

Most of the preview takes place before the main story really kicks into gear, so it’s hard to say much about its pacing or substance, but the tone is spot on. Having the flexibility to steer the story a little is a lovely touch too, even if Eidos-Montréal has a clear destination in mind.

The combat is as chaotic as the group itself. You only play as Star-Lord but the rest of the team are by your side, so you can direct them while you fight. Gamora does the most flesh damage, Drax can stagger practically any foe, Groot is good for crowd control, and Rocket zips around dishing out area-of-effect damage from afar. Not only do you have to shoot and brawl yourself, but you have to call the shots, too, and playing to your team’s strengths is vital.

You also have the option to call a team huddle after you’ve filled a special gauge. This prompts Star-Lord to try and string together the lyrics of ’80s songs into a motivational speech. You have to pick one of two speech options in response to what the team tells you, tasking you with reading the mood of the situation. If you pick correctly, everyone gets a power up. Pick wrong and only Star-Lord benefits.

Battling Nova Corp as Star-Lord in Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy

There are also plenty of situations that’ll test your thinking on the fly. If one guardian goes down, you can either pick them up or cross your fingers that a teammate will. It adds an extra layer of tension and decision-making to battles, although there were some technical issues during my playthrough that made the experience laggy and more fraught than it should have been.

There are puzzles, too, which you’ll need to solve by delegating specific tasks to whichever guardian is best equipped to handle them. At one point, I send Rocket through a vent to hack a terminal so we can open a door.

There’s plenty we’ve yet to see from Guardians of the Galaxy, but this early look has inspired confidence. The team dynamic is energetic and silly, making the guardians a genuinely fun bunch to hang around with, while having the option to steer both the course of the adventure and its tone – even if only a little – has me excited to see what twists await in the full game.

The Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy release date is set for late October, and you can pre-order it here.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy Microsoft $59.99 Pre-order Network N earns commission from qualifying purchases via Microsoft and other programs.