Every gamer has that specific kind of title they gravitate toward. For me, it’s a cocktail of action-adventure mixed with RPG elements and an open world. Throw in a great story and I’m hooked—I’ll play your video game for hundreds of hours as I explore every nook and cranny on the screen in front of me. These are the games that make my button-mashing heart sing.
Those games are now fewer and farther between. Covid-19 has delayed many big open-world titles, and while extending a release date to deal with a global pandemic is essential (and infinitely preferable to crunch), it also means the games I prefer aren’t coming out as often as they used to. Rather than getting frustrated, I’ve taken this as an opportunity to expand my horizons and figure out what else works for me as a player. (Platformers and racing games, I’m sorry. I respect you, but we will never be friends.)
All of which led me to Square Enix’s newish Guardians of the Galaxy. I did this with some trepidation. For starters, I was one of the few people to pick up the company’s Marvel’s Avengers, and I can’t say I’d recommend the experience. I feared Guardians might be more of the same. Second, it’s a linear single-player adventure title. One of the things I treasure most in games is deciding what to do next: talk to some NPCs, fight, do some resource collecting? Open-world action-adventure games give you that choice; linear games don’t. I was worried I’d feel hemmed in by the lack of options and quickly lose interest.
Surprisingly, Guardians of the Galaxy was not only enjoyable, but actually refreshing. The advantage of this kind of gaming is that the story is constantly unfolding around you. You aren’t ever moving away from it or having to choose between consuming more of the overarching story or grinding to level up.
Sure, I didn’t have much choice in where I went or what I did. But for once, I wasn’t being forced to explore, nor was I worried I would miss something if I didn’t peek around that next corner. Sometimes I don’t feel like talking to a damn NPC, even if they are a quest-giver; I just want to play. That constant need to explore can be exhausting. With a more linear game, I could just surrender to wherever the developers and writers wanted me to go and release any worries that I was missing all the best parts.
That’s not to say the experience was set in stone. Guardians of the Galaxy does feature dialogue choices, and you can shape the story as you go. The decisions you make directly impact level-by-level gameplay, but not the overarching story. For the most part, the game sets the course—you just provide some input along the way.
And the game itself is a blast. The controls are smooth, the characters are really fun to be around, and the voice acting is pretty hilarious. These are people you want to spend time with as you’re trying to just finish a job and maybe save the galaxy in the process.
I’ll be honest, Guardians of the Galaxy wasn’t the game I wanted to be playing at this moment. But it turns out it was the game I needed.
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