There’s so much to like, yet so much to dislike about Marvel Heroes. On the one hand, playing Diablo 2 with a Marvel skin on top is really awesome, especially considering how much I love both things. It’s awesome running around as Captain America, throwing my shield and watching it ricochet between 7 Hydra members, knocking them all out.
On the other hand, it kind of ruins the moment when I am the same area with 5 other Caps all doing the same thing, with 3 Hawkeyes running around me, and 4 Wolverines off to the side. I’m suddenly not so much taking on the role of the great Captain America as I am playing dress up with a bunch of other people. It’s like the episode of The Big Bang Theory where all four guys dress up as The Flash for Halloween.
All criticisms aside (more on that later), Marvel Heroes is a great deal of fun, and should be any Marvel fan’s dream come true. It plays essentially like a MMO flavored Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, complete with the occasional server glitch and the aforementioned multiple characters problem.
If you are a fan of Diablo 2 then you’ll notice a familiar flavor to the game, especially considering the fact that it was created by Diablo and D2 creator David Brevik. Barring the fact that it is an always-online MMO, Marvel Heroes will seem very familiar to any Diablo fan. This means the familiar 3/4 top down view, left click to move and primary attack, right click for secondary attack, Left Shift to attack without moving, and so on and so forth.
The problem is that Diablo 1, 2, 3, etc. and even competing games like The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing offer tons of depth and customization, whereas Marvel Heroes ends up being very repetitive almost right off the bat. This doesn’t just apply to the numerous clones of the same characters running around, but also to enemy types and loot. Case in point; after probably the 3rd level (out of 8), I stopped upgrading my gear. Why? It certainly wasn’t due to a lack of gear in all the loot, but rather the fact that it all ended up being pretty much the same stuff, and almost none of it was better than the equipment I currently had.
That’s kind of a huge problem; after all, isn’t that what these types of games are all about? The loot? Without good loot, what are you left with?
You’re left with a game that uses the gameplay of dozens of other like games, yet does not offer anything more. Let’s talk about the leveling system, which per character, works about the same as it does with any other RPG. You fight, gain XP, level up, increase your health and Spirit (this game’s version of mana or magic), and spend skill points towards your skill tree. That’s all fine and dandy, but guess what? If you choose to switch to a new character, you will start back on level 1. I found this out when I got to the Morlock underground level with a fairly high level Captain America, and switched over to what turned out to be a level 1 Cyclops. I quickly switched back to Cap.
If the game wasn’t so repetitive, then I could see myself going back for multiple playthroughs with different characters, but honestly, I don’t see myself doing that. I did actually mess around with a few characters when I first started out, and characters within the same class all essentially play the same, just with different skins and animations. Cable might as well be Cyclops, who might as well be Hawkeye. If that’s the case, then there’s no reason for me to go through again, unless I felt the need to try out a different class altogether and beat the game with it. Of course, Marvel fans wil naturally gravitate towards their own personal favorite characters, but beyond that, there isn’t much to differentiate between characters.
The game has a dungeon system that for the most part, works out pretty well, but there is one glaring issue. When you enter a dungeon you are paired up with other players, which is kind of nice considering that I tend to play most MMOs by myself but still would like to join a party every now and then. Also, you often run into some bosses in these dungeons, and having some backup is nice (even if it IS three Wolverines). The issue is this: if you enter a dungeon and the other members of your party are just finishing up on a boss, you basically jump in just in time to collect all the spoils without doing any of the work. Sure it’s nice to jump in and suddenly level up and grab a bunch of new gear and a nice medal, but it makes me feel kind of like a freeloader. That aside, it’s actually a nice way to join a party for brief periods of time and then leave.
Once you reach the endgame (which doesn’t take all that long) you open up PvP and PvE options. The PvP wasn’t something I spent a lot of time with; it still seems to be fairly rough around the edges, and truth be told, I hate playing PvP in a MMO. There’s always that one (or more) guy that overpowers everyone and is just an ass, killing everyone within sight. That’s not fun to me, so I typically avoid it.
PvE involves three Daily Mission terminals that you can find at the homebase/hub locations such as the Avengers Tower, X-Mansion, Helicarrier, etc. You have a green terminal (go back to previous levels with beefed up enemies), red terminals (accessible only via Cosmic Keys obtained in green missions), and purple terminals. In purple missions, you have Group mode which pops you into a team and thrusts you into a lite Horde-mode with a final boss, and survival missions where you are placed into a much larger team in a much larger Horde-mode with checkpoints. Once you lose a member of your team, they are gone for good, giving this game mode a much needed sense of urgency that is missing from the rest of the game.
Graphically the game is about as decent as one would hope for. Being a free-to-play game, I have to assume that Gazillion decided not to max out the graphics and instead offer up something that even a pedestrian rig can handle. Zooming in reveals some nice character models, but don’t expect to be “Crysis 3’d” when you look at the game. Let’s just say my computer probably won’t be breaking a sweat when running this game.
What’s nice about the game is the comic styled cutscenes, though I have to admit, after viewing the intro movie (arguably my favorite part of the game), I was somewhat disappointed that all the cutscenes weren’t like that. The story was entertaining, and honestly was one of the few reasons why I looked forward to coming back to play the game.
So now, we come to pricing. Yes, Marvel Heroes is free. It is actually a lot more generous than a lot of other FTP games I have played, since the entirety of the game can be played with just the free characters.
And therein lies the problem.
You start with Hawkeye, Thing, Daredevil, Scarlet Witch, and Storm. All your character classes are represented here; ranged, tank, melee, ranged caster, and ranged controller. I mentioned earlier that essentially all the classes play the same. So….why would you spend upwards of $20 on a new character? Looking on Amazon right this moment, I can get a used copy of Dishonored for that price. And Marvel Heroes is asking that much for ONE character? And that’s not including however much it costs for new costumes, which are purely aesthetic. On that note, however, there are some nice costumes. I was especially pleased to see the 90s X-men in there, since that is the X-men I grew up with.
Marvel Heroes gives you two choices; spend nothing and play the game with the 5 stock characters and whichever costumes they start with, or spend an insane amount of money for these same things with additional characters. Sure you can obtain new characters via drops, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. I finished the main story and also played quite a bit of PvE, and all I’ve ended up with as far as character drops is one character.
I’ll give Marvel Heroes a numerical score, but understand that this score only represents how I feel about the game for now. As with any always-online game, I’m sure there will be many patches and tweaks to the game, and years down the road, it will probably resemble something that is completely unrecognizable from the game that launched. There’s fun to be had with this game, but there are too many negatives to outweigh the positives. Hopefully future patches and further content can help build this game up to what it deserves to be, because honesty, on a conceptual level, this game is awesome. Now the gameplay itself just needs to catch up.