By Jason Parker (Ragachak)
Doom Does As He Pleases!
Ever since I was wee little, I have been a humongous fan of comics, Marvel in particular. X-Men, X-Factor, West Coast Avengers, Spider-Man and a variety of others filled my collection. They still do, for the most part. I participated in the closed beta for Marvel Heroes, and while I loved the concept, there was just something missing, other than more heroes. The game just felt empty, despite the host of people that also participated. As the game opened, while there were things to do, and lots of people were always logged in running groups and beating up bad guys; I still intensely disliked seeing the same heroes in packs. Nothing is as jarring as seeing six Spider-Men flying across my screen.
When I first heard about the title, I was flying high off of Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and was hoping to see a game similar to it. The gameplay does feel similar as does the look, but I admit, I’m still a little unhappy seeing so many of the same character in each screen, but that is okay. That does not detract from how enjoyable the game is from then. When the game began, there were only a handful of “starting” heroes that you could pick from: Daredevil, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch (my starter), Storm, and Thing. This roster of starting characters has grown since, to the chagrin of some, but not to me. Even though my initial starting list was smaller, the folks at Gazillion obviously recognized that as time progressed, the larger pool of starting characters would draw more people to try their work.
A year has passed, and many changes have come to Marvel Heroes, now labeled Marvel Heroes 2015. In addition to the above characters, the following have been added to the starting roster: Captain America, Punisher, Black Panther, Colossus, Black Widow, Human Torch, and Luke Cage. One of the most important things to consider about this game is “Has it stood the test of time?” Has it improved as an MMO, or only gotten worse as the year has gone on?
I would like to say the game has gotten leaps and bounds better than it was at the start. When the game began, I lost interest very fast. With the ability to acquire heroes primarily requiring money, I was not certain that I was willing to spend my funds on it, as I already had an MMO or two I was putting money into. Shards of Eternity, the currency for purchasing characters, drop at a decent rate in game. I will grant it requires a decent amount of farming, but if you are only purchasing one hero or so with money, they are not terribly expensive. I look at it akin to a subscription, if I only bought one a month, it would not bad. If one is enjoying a game, it is not so bad to spend a little money on it, especially if it is free.
One of the pleasant things about this game is it is not class-based. Each superhero is its own “class.” Each character has three sets of talent trees that they have access to, in addition to a “Super” power that has its own timer or cooldown, depending on the character. The Hulk and Thing, for example, are very tanky, whereas Cyclops, the Punisher, and Doctor Strange are ranged nuker/dps. Wolverine, Spider-Man, Black Panther, and Luke Cage are more brawlers, up-close melee dps. There is something for any type of player. Gazillion is always working on new content, so expect even more heroes to show up as the game progresses. The original release of the game was uninspiring to say the least, and Gazillion listened to their critics, cracking down and working hard to produce something fantastic.
Introduction into Saving the Day:
The story is not for everyone, I suppose; but there are more comic fans than ever before, thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the movies that gross millions of dollars and introduce people to comics in a venue that has never been as successful as now. In Marvel Heroes, the primary story consists of Dr. Doom, the Latverian Scientist acquiring an artifact of limitless power, the Cosmic Cube. The brunt of the story is your hero performing good deeds, and pummeling bad guys while keeping on the trail of the evildoers that are working to enslave or destroy humanity. Your hero choice has no bearing on the main story, and the cut scenes with their voice acting really feel like a comic with fantastic sounds and music to go with them. The story is set in chapters, with instances and large maps to explore. As your character progresses and gains experience, it increases in level, where you can spend skill points and pick up new equipment like most MMOs.
Your hero trudges through abandoned subways, clubs, Dr. Doom’s castle, and can even cross the Bifrost bridge and head to the land of Odin, Loki and Thor: Asgard. Like any solid MMO, there are more things to do than simply plunge headfirst into the story. Most of the game takes place through Avengers Tower, formerly Stark Tower, home of Iron Man/Tony Stark. From there you are transported to the various locales that you will explore. At the release of the game, there were only a few things activities available: two terminals, which are essentially challenges that players can try, and the normal story mode. However, now there are a whopping nine game modes! They now include X-Defense (Defending the Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters), S.H.I.E.L.D. Holo-Sim (Endless Dungeon), Midtown (save citizens and punish super villains), One-Shots (Single shot missions), and Heroic/Superheroic Story (increased challenge in the normal story).
There is always something to do and see in the world of Marvel Heroes. You can join a guild or supergroup and run raids and dungeons similar to bigger MMOs like World of Warcraft. You can now pick up one of a few super-hero teamups, an NPC that joins you on your journey and helps you in fights, which includes the likes of Spider-Man, Magik, Falcon, and Firestar. Marvel Heroes 2015 is essentially an all-new game. To celebrate, there was a free-gift handout to all players. By a certain point, if players have a character at level 30, they could receive a host of free gifts, such as costumes, characters, bonuses, items to increase xp/rare drops/et cetera. There are always events and special things happening in game; holidays always have a cool or interesting event to go along with them to draw players in, and occasionally the devs offer free gifts to the players as a thank you for simply being around. So much has improved and changed in the game that it would take more than this simple article to go into. Instead of eight equipment slots, there are now nineteen! Slots for a ring, a legendary slot, insignia, Team-Up items, relics of various mythical factions and more. My Cyclops is decked in uniques and legendaries, which increase skills and stats in a host of ways.
Clunky Like a Crossover:
Marvel has a habit of making very hard to follow, clunky cross-over stories that require a lot of extra reading and attention. This is a way to make money, and to tell a story over a broad expanse of comic titles. This feels like what is going on in Marvel Heroes 2015. There are a ton of new things and additions to Marvel Heroes and it can become overwhelming quickly. More often than not, I had more loot than I knew what to do with, most of it being pretty worthless once I found some legendary/uniques. There were times when there was simply no way to hold all of the stuff I had attained, and most of it I would never use again. And the things I might use for other characters that I own, I might not have space for in my bank. In a way, I feel this is a trap to spend real money to purchase banks slots, but realistically, I do not think this is the case. While I appreciate that there is a ton of new stuff in the game, I feel that perhaps it could be a bit too overwhelming for someone just trying to enjoy a super-hero game. Blessings, Runewords, Enchantments, Legendary Quests, Cosmic Terminal, Asgard and Bovenheim, and even more than this!
Of course, there are items that can be purchased for those of you who want a different look, such as new costumes for your heroes. You do not have to buy them, but there are far more than there ever were before. At the start, there were, at most, two different styles per character. Now the average is nine! There are some truly fantastic ones: throwbacks to movies; old storylines and teams, such as “Joe Fixit”; a version of the Incredible Hulk; Symbiote Spider Man, the black suit that became Venom; and Freedom Foundation Thing. There are so many new systems and additions that I find myself unsure of what to do or where to go when I log in sometimes. Here is just a taste of some of the new systems and additions one can look forward to in Marvel Heroes 2015:
Relics: There are a host of relics of differing factions in the Marvel Universe. They take up a slot on your character such as your helmet, chest, boots, et cetera. What makes these interesting is despite their uncommon drop, they stack up to 999 in that slot of the same type. Each relic offers a particular type of stat boost, like +1 health, and another stat such as crit damage, movement speed, thorns (deals damage when hit), and an assortment of other stat boosts. It might take some time to farm or trade them up to a decent amount, but the dedication can be very rewarding.
Cosmic Terminal: The terminal missions at level 60 have a “Cosmic” version. All of the enemies are level 63 and all of the loot you find is level 60. The chances of the equipment being of the cosmic variety are higher, and cosmic-level medallions drop more frequently off of the Supervillains you fight. However, cube shards (dropped from daily green/red missions, once a day, traded for fortune cards) are not dropped here. These Cosmic terminals will be more important in an event later this year.
Synergy System: Each character has a particular benefit that they can apply to all of the other characters on your account, at level 30 and level 50. For example, Cyclops has one of the potentially most useful, with his level 50 boost, 10% additional experience points. His son, Cable offers a total of 2% critical chance at level 50, which is nothing to sneeze at.
Dedicated fans can always find something to do in Marvel Heroes. There are more options and things to try than many MMOS that require a payment subscription. Sure, there are items worth purchasing; you might not want to grind out Jean Grey, and might choose to purchase her, and use her to unlock other characters the old fashioned way. You might decide you want Colossus’ Juggernaut costume, because it’s very easy on the eyes, or one of Emma Frost’s. But you do not have to, by any means. There is nothing that has to be purchased for someone to enjoy this game, but it might make it a little bit faster to find the hero that is right for you. Everyone is good, but of course, some are just better at their job than others. I found the fastest hero for me to level was Cyclops, not just because he’s one of my favorites. His “Optic Ricochet” is fantastic for clearing a ton of enemies at one time, and I developed a build that let me enjoy that and his passive bonus exp boost.
To Be Continued: 4/5
I have to re-emphasize, looking at the game with fresh eyes from now and looking back at the Beta/Opening, it feels like an all-new game. I can see where Gazillion is trying very hard to create a product that really reflects the Marvel Brand. There are little snippets of dialogue between characters that are close to each other that make me chuckle; doing battle with the Sinister Six downtown is always a blast. I could be entertained running around destroying Sentinels, and defeating the Brood. As a comic book fan, I must say it is worth at least a try. I will say the story ends on a kind of weird note, but I do believe it is being written or developed to continue onwards. While it is a very bulky product with the new additions to the game, I do not necessarily feel like this is a bad thing. Marvel Heroes is easily the premiere Action MMO on the market, and out of the free-to-play I would put it on top without a second thought.
While the mostly overhead view can make the characters look small, you can zoom in and really see the details that the developers put into their character design. The cutscenes feel like I’m watching an animated comic, and there are tons of little things that really make me feel like Gazillion are either fans of Marvel, or hired people who are. Every character looks unique, and the backdrops of famous locales in the Marvel Universe are very true to their original design.
There is not a lot to say about the controls. They are pretty standard ARPG controls. I will admit that sometimes movement when there are a lot of enemies and allies on screen can be difficult, and clicking on the screen will not always move your character. There are times when it will just stand there, or attack something you did not intend to strike at. Otherwise the controls are very solid, though I would love to see controller support, to feel more like Marvel Ultimate Alliance.
While I love that there are more features than ever before in Marvel Heroes 2015, there are perhaps too many. I feel like they overdid the features and it really can bog down an otherwise enjoyable game. The gameplay itself is great, though, and everything is crisp and enjoyable, the story is fun and the action is nonstop. I cannot think of a time where I had nothing to do in game.
The sounds and sensations of the Marvel Universe are great. The characters all sound more or less what I thought they would/should, and every important character has a voice actor. Spider-Man sounds suitably snarky and humorous, Captain America’s voice drips of stoicism and duty. The clanking of Sentinel’s humongous bodies landing on concrete to the cackling laughter of the Green Goblin, it all feels genuine and sincere. I could really just wander areas to listen to character interaction, and have in fact, found myself doing so with a variety of heroes.
OnRPG and Gazillion have partnered to offer a giveaway of Random Hero Boxes for Marvel Heroes! Check our giveaway page for more details.