A surprisingly fun romp through carnage and chaos with your favorite Marvel Heroes.
The thing about repetition is, in the proper environment, it can be a highly addictive experience, perhaps even a bit ‘zen’. I felt this way while playing the Torchlight series, I felt it with Diablo 3 and, ashamed as I am to admit this, I feel it about Dynasty Warriors. None of them, however, compare to the addiction I felt for Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, an experience I foresee usurped by Gazillion’s upcoming MMO, Marvel Heroes.
While repetition is often touted, sometimes even by me, as a negative element in gameplay, the unfortunate truth is it takes more time to develop content than it takes a player to devour it, an unavoidable consequence of loving something too much to put it down. What turns repetition into addiction however, is not merely the act, but the approach; here is where I feel a game like Marvel Heroes will excel.
Here, I’m driven not by one character, but a roster of iconic heroes fighting toward the same goal. I initially feared that, with such a huge roster of choices, many of the heroes would prove interchangeable. However, I felt each hero not only played differently, but also stayed unique and true to their character.
Hulk smashed and bashed, plowing and tearing through the environment. Storm went full-out Goddess, leaping into the air and summoning thunderstorms. Scarlet Witch even had a bit of a ‘House of M’ moment with a gigantic globe of whirling power reminiscent of a loss of control, ironic considering her play-style revolves around control. Each character has a strength that creates a parallel to familiar RPG archetypes, blended with the personality and lore established in the Marvel Universe. Further, the ability to mix and match powers between (so far) 3 distinct trees per character allows for customization familiar to Diablo/Torchlight 2 fans, ensuring players have the potential to remain distinct despite sharing that character with those around them.
I wanted to go through the content again with each new character, to build them up and make them stronger, get them new equipment and see how they fare against past scenarios. Their unique natures create new experiences, new ways to approach an enemy, sometimes proving far more effective at a particular boss and other times requiring far more planning and tactical maneuver. In fact, my criticism here is that I didn’t see a way to replay certain bosses and missions that happen via storyline rather than the bosses in the open world. Fortunately, I’ve since learned that a kind of “story replay mode” is indeed going to be added, a concern quashed by Stephen ‘Rockjaw’ Reid himself.
Admittedly, I gush a bit. I’ve been waiting for another installment of the Ultimate Alliance series and, now that I have an MMO version, I’m a tad excited. That said, the game isn’t perfect. No game ever is, but there are some things I would love to see worked on. Just the same, it’s still a fairly early beta, and it’s difficult to comment on things that way very well either change, or prove mere placeholders for actual, planned content.
To that end, while I’d be doing a disservice to remain silent, I’ll avoid specifics. The environments for one, while beautiful, could use more character. For what it’s worth, the world comes to life in the middle of battle. For instance, while fighting as Storm, I blasted enemies edging too close with wind, which pushed them away and smashed against cars, causing explosions, screen shakes and ricochet. It was chaos; glorious, beautiful and sadly brief chaos. What I want to see however, is a world with that much personality on a consistent basis, not merely that few-second battle every dozen steps or so. There should be people in the streets, even if I can’t talk to them, running from me or the bad guys; old ladies gossiping and screaming at me out of the windows for making too much noise. Stan Lee chillin’ on a roof in a Yoda robe. Whatever.
The controls also need a bit of work. While the lack of WASD is a difficult pill for some to swallow, I’ve played far too much Torchlight and Diablo 3 to mind. What I do notice however, is that there is currently a lack of smooth transitions in the controls and movement. For instance, I generally move in point and click games via click and drag. Easier on my fingers. In most games of this genre, when you let go of your mouse, the character continues moving toward the spot your mouse last interacted with. This allows you to quickly click elsewhere while your character is still moving, or even prepare your fingers for an upcoming battle.
This may be a personal idiosyncrasy, but I do feel the inclusion of this feature genre-wide suggests it’s mainstream enough to be considered for Marvel Heroes. I got used to the movement the longer I played, but occasionally the lack of smoother transition between movement and fighting had me raging at the screen. I suspect however, that much of this will be cleaned up the further into the betas we go, as animations and movement are inevitably tweaked and optimized.
On that note, outside of instances, Boss battles are boss. As in, no joke. I ran into Venom and stupidly thought, “Pfft, I can take him,” only to be sucked in, chewed up and spit out in some brutal tentacle hell. The challenge itself is not a bad thing, but where this portion of the content goes wrong is in assuming that everyone, if anyone at all, will be interested in participating. I could not for the life of me get people to help me take down these bosses. Everyone around me was instead running through missions or killing easier monsters, grinding levels for prettier powers. Bosses that take some amount of effort? Couldn’t be bothered, evidently.
This is not a game issue necessarily, but a symptom of a generation of gamers with changing desires and goals; it’s simply more fun to play other content than it is to wait around for a party, for a battle that may last all of 5-10 minutes. It’s a shame however, because it’s from these bosses you’re likely to get the best loot, including additional heroes and costumes. Those who want to fight them can’t, because they’re surrounded by people who won’t. I’m hoping some kind of level-scaling mechanic is considered for these bosses, that way they are viable content both for solo players and large groups. Bosses, like other enemies, are continued ventures in refinement, so there may be some hope yet.
There lies the bulk of my criticism for a game I’m otherwise enjoying. I look forward to those hours the servers open up, to run around blowing the world away with phenomenal cosmic power alongside friends and strangers alike. I may be dating myself a bit here, but I’m reminded of the many hours and coins I spent in the X-Men arcade game, playing through with every character multiple times. Now, if we could just get a little Dazzler lovin’, the game would be complete.