Marvel Heroes marries Destiny 2.
I miss Marvel Heroes. I’ve played a lot of games over the years and I’ve seen plenty of MMOs shut down and online games go away and development studios go bankrupt, but holy hell do I miss Marvel Heroes more than anything. It might not have been the most intelligent game and it had a lot of problems in its day, and it never was as successful as it needed to be, but damn do I miss that game. I couldn’t even properly describe why I miss it so much, but oh my lord do I miss that game.
Marvel Avengers reminds me a lot of Marvel Heroes and I think that’s why I’ve been enjoying my time with the beta even though there’s nothing in the game that I would particularly specify as blowing me away. At the very least my experience is apparently far more positive than my fellow gaming impressionists like YongYea.
After playing two weekends worth of the beta and losing both my power and air conditioning after the combined voltage of my PS4 Pro, window AC unit, and smart oven blew out the fuse box, I’m finally ready to give my impressions on the beta of Marvel Avengers. I had fun, although I will admit that I quit early after finishing half of the missions available as well as the three HARM scenarios to get the Fortnite items because I just don’t want to do them again when the game launches.
The Marvel Avengers beta impressed me most with the heroes that are available. The first campaign mission has you cycling between heroes and you get an idea on how they fight rather differently from one another. Hulk is a tank, Thor is like a guardian, while Iron Man is on the DPS, and Black Widow/Ms. Marvel are more mobility characters. It feels less like playing an RPG with each character filling a role as it does being in a shared universe that the characters just happen to occupy.
Let’s compare the melee characters for example. Hulk is slow, can take a lot of punishment, and has more sweeping area attacks. He also has a slow ranged attack that can throw debris. Thor has his hammer of course and is more mobile than Hulk and can throw his hammer as well as pull it back to do extra damage. Captain America is similar to Thor but his shield works in completely different ways than Thor’s hammer.
All characters have two minor moves that recharge over time as well as an ultimate and they are pretty darn cool. Ms. Marvel embiggens, Iron Man pulls out the Hulk Buster, Hulk smashes, you get the picture. It’s very Destiny-ish in that regard. Every character has their own levels as well as a progression piece that unlocks new stuff like faceplates and emotes and costumes. It’s kinda like a battle pass but not really. The leveling unlocks new skills and abilities which means you’ll probably main one or two characters just to keep their combos memorized.
Let’s talk about story which at least in the beginning is trash but not completely. Crystal Dynamics decided to go for the whole “building from the ashes” style of story telling, where the Avengers allow a terrible tragedy to happen that totally kills Captain America and are forcibly disbanded by the government as a result. It picks up years later where Ms. Marvel aka Kamala Khan finds Bruce Banner and decides it’s time to reform the Avengers and figure out where everyone is hiding out.
I’m not a fan of this comic book story trope, and Marvel Avengers kind of ruins its own surprise through marketing. Yea, we know Cap ain’t dead because he has a lot of skins for sale and for promotion. Marvel Avengers has problems with marketing and greed overshadowing any pretense that Square cares about the game’s story. Yea they want you to think Captain America is dead, but check out all these cosmetic costumes. WINK.
It goes without saying that the game looks gorgeous. The characters were off-putting when they showed up but the engine makes this game look so beautiful. I played on a PS4 Pro on a 4K television and it looks sexy.
The core gameplay reminds me a lot of Marvel Heroes if you modded the game to be a more tightly controlled brawler. Marvel Heroes was like Marvel Diablo which makes sense because David Brevik made it. Marvel Avengers feels like if you stripped out the point and click controls and replaced it with controls from Batman Arkham Asylum but with less emphasis on parrying. You get your light attacks, hard attacks, counters, etc.
But the reason I bring up Marvel Heroes so much is that Marvel Avengers has that same core gameplay loop of a Diablo-esque game. The goal is to go into a room, kill the enemies that are in it, and get experience and gear. You use that gear to raise your power level so you can take on bigger enemies and get better gear. The whole time I played this game I was thinking that someone at Crystal Dynamics was a big fan of Marvel Heroes. Avengers is in my opinion a spiritual sequel to Marvel Heroes, it is what that game would have been had it been made in 2020. A conscious decision or not.
And I think that’s where the game is going to lose a lot of people. Marvel Heroes was not a runaway success and a lot of that is attributed to its mindless gameplay loop. Personally I loved that, I spent over $500 in microtransactions during the four or five years that Marvel Heroes was a thing. I will probably spend a stupid amount of money on customizing my characters in Marvel Avengers. If you like that Diablo-style ARPG loop I would recommend at least taking a look at the open beta next weekend.
Also I love Kamala Khan as a character and Sandra Saad who voices her in the game does a great job at portraying this teenage nerd fawning over the Avengers characters. Having you play as Kamala makes sense in the early missions because you couldn’t find a better hype man than Ms. Marvel. It brings me joyous memories of Marvel Heroes where Erica Luttrell similarly did a wonderful job.
They also got her schnoz down, and I can say that because I inherited a similar honker.
Thankfully Marvel Avengers does have some bits to shake things up. You have areas that become territory control objectives and boss battles and all of that. It’s presented like you’re playing an MCU movie. There appears to be an emphasis on building gear sets that will probably have more prominence in the full game where different areas have different focuses on elements and you can find and build gear sets with bonuses/defenses against that element. I was not a fan of the quicktime events in the prologue mission but they are very rare after that.
I know I’m harping on this point a lot but Marvel Avengers feels a lot like the home I lost when Marvel Heroes shut down. It doesn’t have the same snappiness and it obviously won’t have the ridiculous roster of characters that were in Marvel Heroes by the end of its life. It does look like a lot more heroes are on the way. So far we have confirmed Ant Man, Black Widow, Cap, Hawkeye, Hulk, Iron Man, Ms. Marvel, Spider Man, and Thor. I’m really hoping that Crystal Dynamics can commit to the whole living story thing because Marvel Avengers could truly become the next Marvel Heroes.
If you believe the data mining that’s been going on with the Steam version that list will also include Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, Falcon, Mar-Vell, Mockingbird, Quake, Scarlet Witch, She-Hulk, Vision, Wasp, and Winter Soldier.
And I will say I completely understand anyone who doesn’t want to touch this game with a ten foot pole. If Crystal Dynamics has shown us anything it’s that they will shamelessly partner with anyone for this game, be it Virgin Mobile or Verizon. The Spider Man exclusivity is dirty as hell. Look forward to the MMO Fallout exclusive costume set for people who subscribe to my upcoming mail order turkey jerky business. Who doesn’t want to run around in a Hulk spray painted with “This jerk likes turk” on his back?
Please don’t sue me Disney.