The Guardians of the Galaxy, Neil Druckmann and the advantages of linearity - editorial

The Guardians of the Galaxy, Neil Druckmann and the advantages of linearity - editorial

The Guardians of the Galaxy

I just finished Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy and the first thing that came naturally to me was writing this editorial. For those who do my job it is always a good sign to run into something that prompts you to put yourself in front of a keyboard, because it means that it offers food for thought.

The first thing you need to know is that I have decided to play to Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy because of the vote assigned to him by the good Riccardo during his review. A 9 is certainly not an evaluation that should be given with a light heart and every now and then, when I have time, I start testing the titles assigned to the editors to see if there is a correspondence between what they have seen and what I see. And this was one of those cases.

The second thing to know is that I made it to Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy after unsuccessfully trying to platinum Death Stranding Director's Cut. I say in vain because, compared to the original version of the game, the maximum trophy is now a little more difficult to obtain. And I refer to that Homo Faber who, among other things, requires you to craft 108 objects this time including the Roadster, obtainable only by winning some races with rank S. With the small problem that the driving sections of Kojima's masterpiece I find them personally atrocious, reminding us if ever there is a need that the Decima Engine was not born for racing games.

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy manages to make even the most surreal moments plausible. Like when talking to Cosmo. These digressions serve to explain why the first few hours of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy were ... annoying: because Peter Quill, Drax, Rocket and Gomora don't shut up for a moment. Luckily there is Groot, who speaks little and whose vocabulary consists of only three words, ranging from the silences of Sam Porter, underlined by the evocative ambient sound effects, to five characters who spend their time bickering in what looks like a spatial re-edition of the comedies of Sandra and Raimondo, it was not easy. "But is it possible that these are never silent?", I found myself thinking several times? "They even quarrel during the fights!", I exclaimed others.

And then the playful structure of the game seemed to me very little: centered on the triad corridor-room-shooting, repeated ad libitum, Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy initially has little to offer, if not the inevitable hunt for the collectible which I personally find more and more cloying (then I collect them all because I'm a poor completist, but that's another matter).

So 9? Um ... 7, at most. "I'm going a little further but I think I have to call Riccardo and have a chat", I immediately thought. Then, however, a little bit that I got used to the background chatter, a little bit that the combat system was proving to be more and more profound, slowly my sessions began to lengthen.

And so from the initial 45/60 minutes (then I got bored), I started to stick to the game more and more. Reading the various codexes was undoubtedly helpful, helping to immerse myself further in the lore of the game, and thus better grasping the nuances of the dialogues that I probably missed before.

Initially mismatched and not very cohesive, the Guardians of the Galaxy will become increasingly close-knit. In terms of gameplay and dialogues. Above all, however, the game began to gain altitude due to the plot and how the dynamics of the group had gradually evolved; a group of shabby heroes who could not stand each other, slowly becoming more and more close-knit and cohesive, tempered by a galactic threat as crazy and unlikely as it is intriguing.

Meanwhile the combat system was always becoming more varied and, by the middle of the game, my personal rating had already risen to 8. Until reaching the conclusion, where Riccardo's 9 became perfectly understandable. So yes, I'll make the phone call anyway but to compliment me and maybe exchange some anecdotes.

Luckily there is the New Game +, because otherwise I would miss not being able to spend more time with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and anyone who is a true gamer will have experienced at least once in their life that feeling of disorientation deriving from finishing a game they loved, finding themselves "thrown out" in real-life after the credits, and yet wanting to return to those worlds, in those atmospheres. Death Stranding, for example, sees me cyclically log in to see how my facilities are and do some maintenance. But single player games, those with a beginning and an end ... they do not: finished the credits, it almost seems that they lead you to the nearest exit.

This is one of the few pawns they pay to open world and their open, suspended endings, where we break away once we feel the time has come to say goodbye. Their greatest advantage is the narrative, and it is here that (belatedly) I refer to the concept expressed in the title, to arrive at which you have patiently waited.

Between plot, dialogue and codex, at the end of the game you can say you know very well the joys and sorrows of each of the protagonists of Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. Including Gomora. Because while I love the open world genre and there isn't an Assassin's Creed that doesn't see me patiently clearing the map of any collectibles, when I look back on my most dazzling experiences of the last few years, these are all single-player. On the corridor-room-shooting triad, for example, The Last of Us is built which, as far as I'm concerned, is the best thing I've ever played. Ever.

But is it for the play system? Absolutely not, and keep in mind that in the first TLOU there was also the problem of Ellie being "invisible" to enemies. Yet the story told was of rare beauty, some moments I still remember them today and I will remember them forever (Sam's death, the fight between Ellie and David, the giraffes and above all the ending: "swear to me that everything you have told is true "." I swear "). But sometimes I found myself wondering: what if the game was open world? Would it have been equally good? I replied that no, it would not have been the same.

The reason is obvious: with their non-linearity, open worlds cannot tell a story as well as linear ones. Everyone has personal experiences, resulting from the order in which the map is approached. And above all, between a turning point in the plot and another, they inevitably force us to carry out secondary missions, participate in collateral activities, deliver objects, collect resources, fight and a thousand other things that water down the narrative sector. I have wonderful memories of Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Valhalla, but when I think back to the stories told it all seems dilated, diluted.

Red Dead Redemption II is a splendid, mature, monumental game. It left me with many memories but I can't say I enjoyed it. Not that that was his goal, I think. And what about Red Dead Redemption 2? A wonderful plot, a change of pace in the middle of the game simply brilliant and a protagonist, Arthur Morgan, who enters the Olympus of the best ever seen in a video game. But even here, between one narrative junction and the next, there was too much stuff, and for three years now I have reinstalled it every now and then, I play with it for an hour and then leave it there because I don't want to face dozens and dozens of hours only to get to those points that have remained etched in my memory and that I would like to relive (then, let's be clear, there is also a certain The Witcher 3, an open world with a stellar narrative sector, but let's talk about the classic exception that confirms the rule and that, given Cyberpunk 2077, CD Projekt itself will probably no longer be able to replicate).

Other titles released in recent years that I particularly loved? The latest God of War, for example, and Persona 5, another game from which I no longer wanted to leave and that in my personal ranking I put immediately behind The Last of Us. Compared to Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy or The Last of Us they have a more open structure but they cannot be defined as open world and, perhaps, represent the best of both worlds. That is, they guarantee the player that feeling of freedom that does not make him feel in a corridor, but they also do not make him stray too far from the sown, eliminating any playful, narrative and therefore content dispersion.

And it is for this reason that even having spent years of my life on MMOs, while playing Destiny (intermittently) since day one, still enjoying any Rockstar game, having finished any Assassin's Creed (except Unity, because there is a limit to everything), having enjoyed Zelda: Breath of the Wild and not missing any Yakuza in all its forms, my most vivid memories are essentially related to single player games.

The detractors of the first The Last of Us wanted a less linear progression. Neil Druckmann satisfied them but just the bare minimum. I think it is no coincidence that that crafty Neil Druckmann in The Last of Us 2 has met the criticism of excessive linearity raised in the first episode, but only widening some corridors (I'm sure you will understand the paraphrase) without trespassing into the open world. And I think it's for this reason that, pardon the heresy, the fact that Elden Ring and Halo Infinite are open world leaves me lukewarm.

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While I understand the break with the past that will represent the next game of Hidetaka Miyazaki, I have tried everything in Dark Souls except one sense of constriction in my explorations. And as for the next Halo, I'll be curious to see if the narrative structure will be able to keep its strength intact or if there will not be that dilution of the plot I mentioned earlier; and even if the risk of repetition that I see around the corner will be avoided.

In short, modernity is fine but let's think for a moment about Square Enix, which in recent months has produced a game in step with the times like Marvel's Avengers, and old school like Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy. And let's reflect on the abysmal difference between the two. That the future wants us now projected towards open world, sandbox, persistent online, multiplayer, online pass, microtransactions, metaverses and any other devilry capable of cyclically sucking money from our wallets, is now inevitable.

But have pity on this seasoned gamer who would sometimes be satisfied with just a game with good gameplay, that lasts the right amount and, above all, that tells a good story. Just like Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.

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