Guardians of the Galaxy | Dragon Age: Origins, "The Final Onslaught"
Odd squads fighting impossible odds.
GAME REVIEW /// Guardians of the Galaxy
Game summary: After an epic conflict known as the Galactic War swept through the cosmos. Star-Lord recently formed the Guardians of the Galaxy, they've been together for less than a year. (IMDb)
While I have read a lot of Marvel Comics' output in my life, Guardians of the Galaxy was never one of them, with just a couple of copies in the early Nineties being my only encounter with the group - and that was the team set in the far future, not those made famous in James Gunn's MCU movies and based on the more recent incarnation from the comics.
This led to me loving the MCU team as I didn't really know anything about them, especially Star Lord and Groot (I'd read stories involving Rocket, Drax and Gamora elsewhere) and could go in with an open mind and enjoy their adventures for what they were, cementing them as my favourite version of the team as a result. That is, until now.
When I say that the depiction of the Guardians in this game blows the MCU versions away, I'm really not joking - if anything, that's still understatement. The characterisation, dialogue and performances are so far above what's been seen in the movies that they've retroactively been lessened as a result thanks to the incredible work done by Eidos Montreal and the cast here.
It's not even just the Guardians movies that suffer in comparison, but most media involving an ensemble cast - yes, a game has an advantage over a movie by getting to spend a lot more time with the characters, but it's the sheer volume of dialogue that really blows my mind. It's incredible how much interaction there is between the team, all delivered to absolute perfection and completely making sense in context (an achievement in itself considering how bizarre things get in the story!).
Honestly, the Guardians are so well-written and performed that they're enough on their own for me to recommend the game before I even get onto anything else. The standard of writing, performance and development for each of the characters across the course of the game is - for me, at least - a new benchmark against which I will judge all future group-based games.
So what does drag it down if all of that is so perfect? Unfortunately, it's the game part of Guardians of the Galaxy. There are moments when it works brilliantly - most of which are towards the end of the game when you've unlocked all the team's abilities - but it's serviceable at best for the majority of the time, which isn't exactly a criticism as it gets the job done, it just suffers in comparison to how good the rest of the game is.
The gameplay also isn't helped by some poor level design which can make some of the combat encounters frustrating to get through due to having to fight the level as much as the enemies - it's certainly not because the combat itself is very difficult. Some of the fighting is also strangely spaced out and it can occasionally feel like a battle is over after defeating everyone in sight, only to move a little further forward and trigger the next wave of enemies.
It's a shame that the gameplay is so lacking compared to every facet of the game: aside from how excellently the characters are portrayed, the story is also pretty epic in scope while never losing its focus on the team, with some twists and even a couple of heart-wrenching moments I didn't expect a game filled with such an eccentric bunch of characters to provide.
The sound is also great, with a collection of some well-known songs to match the MCU version of Star Lord that can really improve some sections just because of how much you're enjoying the music and the characters. Guardians of the Galaxy is also a gorgeous game to look at and at least the art design is on point even if the levels the visuals are for are structured a little poorly at times.
Guardians of the Galaxy is a truly incredible title in every single way other than when it comes to the gameplay, which is obviously vital when it comes to a game. I would still thoroughly recommend it though, even if you're not a fan of the gameplay, as there are so many accessibility options and adjustments for the difficulty that you can render the entire thing an interactive movie if you really want to - and it would be worth it just to spend some time with one of the best teams in gaming history.
Guardians of the Galaxy absolutely nails group dynamics in a way rarely seen in any media, never mind video games, fully fleshing out the crew to such an incredible extent while giving them all their own journey to go on throughout the epic-scale story. Now, if they'd only just managed to make the gameplay match - some very poor level design and some frustrating mechanics can make some sections a chore to get through.
[8/10 - Very Good]
GAME PLAY /// Dragon Age: Origins, "The Final Onslaught"
And so we reach the end of the main story, as all that remains is to take on the Darkspawn horde and defeat the Archdemon... or is it? At first, the action moves to Redcliffe, as that's where it's believed the enemy will strike first and, when Elissa and her group arrive, there are plenty of Darkspawn there to deal with before heading inside to find out what to do next.
Riordan, the Grey Warden rescued from Howe's dungeon in Denerim says that the capital is actually where the Darkspawn are headed and they need to leave as soon as possible. Arl Eamon declares they will head off the next morning and tells everyone to get some rest, but Riordan says that he needs to speak to Elissa and Alistair before they head to bed.
The trio of Wardens meet and Riordan reveals what Duncan never had the chance to: it must be a Grey Warden that kills the Archdemon, as the taint inside them from the Joining ritual will attract the soul of the creature and destroy it, along with the Grey Warden. If anyone else was to kill it, the spirit of the Old God would simply move to the nearest Darkspawn and be reborn as another Archdemon.
Elissa and Alistair are shaken, but head off to bed with this revelation only for Elissa to find Morrigan waiting with a proposition: convince Alistair to sleep with her and she can use magic to ensure she becomes pregnant with a baby that will have inherited the taint from him and would draw the Old God's soul inside it, but would survive where a Grey Warden would not.
Elissa talks to Alistair, who - already upset with her for making him King of Ferelden - is arguably even less happy about the prospect of fathering a child in a magic ritual with Morrigan. He reluctantly consents to the ritual, but only after ensuring Morrigan will never use the child to try and claim the throne - something she confirms she has no intention of ever doing.
The deed done, the soldiers head off to war, backed by the mages, elves and dwarves recruited by Elissa and the assault on Denerim begins. This is where the fighting really begins, as you retake the city's gates and are then forced to split your group in two, taking your usual group of four to hunt the Archdemon and leaving the rest to defend the gates.
There's not really much more to say as it's pretty much non-stop fighting through multiple locations and countless Darkspawn, including a load of boss-level enemies that were previously reserved for the final encounters in the various locations visited throughout the game. This is also where the difficulty ramps up somewhat, due simply to just how many enemies there are to fight.
You can call in allies from the groups you recruited, but even they couldn't stop everyone but Elissa being knocked out multiple times and having to recover afterwards - and this despite giving everyone the tactic of using healing potions comfortably before they should be knocked out! It's slow going, but it does also make the fighting feel epic when the rank and file Darkspawn fall with a single blow, but means you have to stop attacking the dangerous ones to get rid of them.
It should be noted that Riordan, unaware of Morrigan's offer or Alistair's acceptance of it, had offered to be the one to kill the Archdemon as he was the oldest by far of the three Wardens present. He seizes a chance to try and take down the warped dragon early in the fight, but can only succeed in injuring it and forcing it to land on top of Fort Drakon - where Elissa was previously imprisoned - before falling to his death.
Elissa leads Alistair, Leliana and Wynne through the mass of Darkspawn - Sten leading a very comfortable defence of Denerim's gates in her absence - and they fight their way to the top of the fort and engage the Archdemon. If anything, this is an even bigger difficulty spike than this final battle had already been, with only the two Wardens left standing as Wynne and Leliana are taken out of the fight pretty easily.
But the two Grey Wardens are all that's needed, with Elissa's allies taking care of the Darkspawn that come to the aid of their master. It takes forever thanks to the insane health pool of the Archdemon, but they eventually defeat it, with Elissa striking the final blow in a very cinematic finishing manoeuvre before a cutscene kicks in to show her making absolutely sure it's dead and causing an explosion of light in the process that sends all the Darkspawn in Denerim fleeing.
The battle over, Alistair is officially crowned and vows to do his best, honouring Elissa's wishes for the Howes to pay for what they did to her family, having their lands and titles stripped from them and given to her family, including the return of Highever, which her brother Fergus - found alive and well in the Korcari Wilds back from the beginning of the game - will inherit as his own.
Elissa will be leaving Alistair to look after Ferelden by himself for at least a little while though, heading off to travel with Leliana and getting to enjoy being together when the world isn't under threat. Sten is heading back to the Qunari; Wynne and Shale are heading to Tevinter to see if the latter can be returned to dwarven form, Zevran's heading off to travel too; Oghren is still drinking; and Morrigan has vanished.
Then comes the warning that powerful Darkspawn are still alive and kicking, with plans of their own...