You know the gang: Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax, Rocket, Groot. The space-faring band of heroes is back in Eidos Montreal’s Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and once again, they’re in deep trouble. They’ve crossed the wrong warlord—the monster-collecting Lady Hellbender—and now she wants their heads. So, as per usual, Peter Quill and his ragtag team of weirdos hatch an outrageous plan to save their own skins while preventing an intergalactic war from breaking out.
As comic fans know all too well, the Marvel cosmology offers a deep well of stories, characters, and locations to pull from, and the team at Eidos Montreal delved deep into the Marvel mythos for inspiration.
“From the Nova Corps to Knowhere, from the Blood Brothers to Cosmo, from Lady Hellbender and her Hellraisers to Seknarf Nine, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy delivers big on sci-fi shenanigans,” says Marvel Games creative director Bill Rosemann. Franchise mainstays like the aforementioned Cosmo the Space Dog and Mantis can be spotted in the handful of game trailers released so far.
But a Marvel story is only as good as its villains, and Guardians of the Galaxy has some very interesting big bads. First appearing in Totally Awesome Hulk #1 in 2015, Marguerite Hellbender, known as Lady Hellbender to her subjects (and enemies), is the mace-swinging warrior regent of Seknarf Nine. Her mission in life is to scour the galaxy for rare beasts to add to her ever-growing menagerie of monsters who do her bidding and act as something of a found family. In Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, her monster-whisperer gifts are on full display when she tames a deadly tara-tara in front of the Guardians’ very eyes.
Lady Hellbender is joined by the much more peculiar Grand Unifier Raker, a Cardinal of the Universal Church of Truth, who intends to deliver the Guardians to the Church’s mysterious, almighty Matriarch. And while it’s yet to be seen whether the game will feature other fan-favorites from Guardians stories, like Adam Warlock, Yondu, The Collector, or Galactus, it’s a safe bet that we’ll see a few familiar faces across the game’s planet-hopping campaign.
Deep space is a major shift from the Earth-set locales of recent Marvel titles like Avengers and Spider-Man. According to the game’s senior creative director, Jean-François Degas, Eidos found the cosmic setting to be nothing short of “liberating.”
“It was actually really fun to explore crazy ideas that didn’t have to be explained on a terrestrial scientific level all the time,” Degas explains. “We aimed at developing believable concepts, not necessarily realistic ones. For example, since we travel from location to location, sometimes we end up on weird planets. We wanted the enemies the Guardians encounter to feel just as weird as the planets themselves.”
One of these planets is Seknarf Nine, where the Guardians face enemies called “Jack-o-Gels,” which look like giant, jiggly Jell-O™ cubes on the outside but are actually deadly, sentient spiked balls on the inside. There are also Tara Taras, which are seemingly feeble, rodent-like creatures covered in gurgling orbs that allow them to mimic the forms of more formidable beasts. Unsurprisingly, they’re high on Lady Hellbender’s wishlist.
And then there’s one of the most iconic locations in Guardians history: Knowhere, the planet-sized severed head of a Celestial where travelers from across the universe gather to trade (and rip each other off). It also serves as an enormous science station where the greatest minds in the galaxy can perform secret experiments. It’s definitely the kind of place where the Guardians could find a bit of trouble.
Strange planets and grotesque creatures are essential ingredients in the Guardians formula, but what the game is about, at its core, are the social dynamics between the Guardians themselves. Players play exclusively as Peter Quill, better known as Star-Lord, who must navigate the different interpersonal relationships within the team both on and off the battlefield. It’s a bold design choice to limit player control to Quill when all of the more unique alien team members are right there, but according to Degas, the idea is to allow players to experience what it’s like to be the leader of a dysfunctional family of mercs and misfits.
“When you are a leader, it doesn’t mean that people agree with your direction all the time,” Degas explains. “You have to act as someone who can rally people towards a common goal. We wanted to tap into this while making it fun.”
During the game’s story-driven sections, Peter is presented with choices, and the decisions he makes will please some team members while pissing off others, which will affect how they act on the battlefield. For example, annoy Rocket and he may not want to follow your orders during a big fight. As Star-Lord, players can dart around the battlefield using his rocket boots and fire off his signature blasters and bombs, but more importantly, players must coordinate the team’s attacks. Learning to operate as a team is vital if you want to take down the game’s most challenging enemies, and it’s also one of the main themes of the story.
“Every great Guardians of the Galaxy story boils down to the idea of family,” says Rosemann. “Each member of our motley crew feels that they are the last of their kind, lost amongst the stars. One of our themes is grappling with, and hopefully overcoming, past trauma, which each character will face along this adventure.”
While the game’s characters and story are clearly inspired by the comics and movies that came before, the team at Eidos Montreal set out to make a version of the Guardians that stands on its own.
“Whether it’s the story behind Drax’s tattoos, the detailing on Gamora’s fearsome battle suit, or the original take on why Peter Quill took on the name ‘Star-Lord,’ as you play you’re going to enjoy how authentic and familiar the Guardians feel, but also be surprised by all of the originality that Eidos Montreal delivers,” Rosemann says.
Degas explains that from the very first meeting with Marvel, the goal was to make something that felt authentic yet new. “The key for us was to make these characters look familiar. But our Guardians also have different backstories from what people may know from movies or comics. There is a lot to discover in our game that doesn’t exist anywhere else.”
But one thing fans /will/ recognize right away is the killer soundtrack. Yes, the game has its own “Awesome Mix.” Culture Club, Blondie, Hot Chocolate, and Iron Maiden are just some of the bands on the tracklist.
Guardians of the Galaxy looks to offer brand-new space-capades for MCU fans and gamers alike while preserving the essence of what made these characters so popular in the first place—bad attitudes and a thirst for big adventure.
Just before heading into Lady Hellbender’s Menagerie Gardens for the first time, the Guardians pack Groot into a crate as bait—a rare species of monster she really needs to see—using him to bargain their way into the warlord’s fortress. Their plan isn’t exactly foolproof—but these aren’t just any fools. They’re the Guardians of the Galaxy! And if they fail miserably, well…at least they’ll do it together.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy is out on Oct. 26 for PlayStation and Xbox consoles, Nintendo Switch, and PC.