|Dev: Gazillion Entertainment|
|Pub: Gazillion Entertainment / Marvel|
|Release: June 4, 2013|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Cartoon Violence|
by Angelo M. D’Argenio
Marvel Heroes, originally titled Marvel Universe, is the brand-new online RPG from Gazillian Entertainment that lets you control some of the most iconic Marvel superheroes of all time. While it is branded as an MMO, it feels a lot more like a classic Diablo style top-down RPG with a full single-player campaign that is enhanced when others come along for the ride. It’s also completely free to download and play, making most of its money off microtransactions. It’s a solid game that is a little rough around the edges that will likely be enjoyed unconditionally by Marvel fans, but everyone else’s enjoyment will likely hinge on whether or not they can put up with the game constantly attempting to get you to spend money.
The story of Marvel Heroes is a basic crossover comic book setup. Hydra is at it again, attacking the maximum-security supervillain prison, The Raft. As a result, all of the Marvel Universe’s greatest villains, from Venom to Juggernaut to… Living Laser? Who the heck is that? Anyway, they all escape and start running amok causing wanton destruction because, you know, that’s what supervillains do. It’s up to you as one of the Marvel Universes greatest heroes to capture all the villains and get to the bottom of Doom’s insidious plot.
Before the game begins, you are asked to select a Marvel Hero to play as, and, admittedly, you kind of get the B list. You won’t see Spider-Man or Iron Man or even cool obscure heroes like Dr. Strange here. Instead, you’ll have heroes like Hawkeye, Scarlett Witch, Daredevil, and The Thing to choose from. They aren’t complete unknowns, but they also aren’t the heroes that constantly appear in the game’s splash screens and advertisements like The Hulk, Captain America, and Wolverine. You can play as multiple heroes during the game, but to do so, you will have to crack open the old wallet. You can also unlock heroes through playing the game, but this happens rarely and it will be a while before you end up with the hero you actually want.
Heroes are divided into classes and ranges. Melee characters like to get up close and personal while ranged characters like to kite the enemy and stay in back. Tanks are better at taking damage while Brawlers are better at dealing damage, while controllers focus on interesting abilities that inflict status effects and blasters work on dealing lots of damage over AOE.
One of the game’s high points is its variety in hero design. While basic abilities like attacks and shots are shared between characters, a couple levels in any power will immediately differentiate them. Each character has three skill trees, each with multiple skills (both active and passive) that provide bonuses to other skills in the tree. So no two players will end up playing the same build, even if they choose the same hero. The game is also very generous with dropping a variety of interesting gear that adds extra effects to your abilities such as status effects, explosions, or extra attacks.
While it’s nice to tinker around with your equipment in order to develop the perfect set of hero abilities, this system also falls prey to microtransactions. Not only can you flat out buy items with real money which essentially lets you pay for power, equipping certain items “locks” them to a character. So, for example, an enemy might drop a bodysuit with amazingly good stats that can be equipped on any variety of heroes. While you might want to transfer this between characters as you use it, you can’t. Once you equip it to a hero, it can only be equipped to that hero from then on.
One part of Marvel Heroes’ gameplay that is very fun is the spirit system for using superhero powers. Essentially, your “MP” in this game regenerates incredibly fast, allowing you to almost always have access to your super powers. The only time you will be left without spirit is when you are mobbed by a group of enemies and use them all at once, but even then, a short breather will restore your spirit to full in no time. It really helps to make you feel like an awesome superhero who can use his powers at will, instead of conserving them for bosses only.
The controls in Marvel Heroes unfortunately leave something to be desired. It’s a point-and-click, top-down, isometric game, which means dodging enemy attacks is done by clicking away from the enemy. The normal keys for movement, WASD, are instead used as shortcuts for character powers, which is incredibly frustrating for anyone who is used to directly controlling their character. In fact, even ranged characters eventually get too frustrating to use with the point and click interface, and you’ll often find yourself just standing in place, blasting at the enemy as he takes chunks out of your health.
There are more than a few issues with the game’s online features. First of all, the game suffers some impressive lag at times, which can really screw up gameplay (especially if you are playing a ranged character). Attacks take a while to register, movement is slow and delayed, and enemy health bars take a while to update, making it hard to effectively manage a strategic fight.
Another problem is that anyone who is playing the same hero looks exactly the same. The only customization option you have is the ability to dress your hero up in different costumes. Unfortunately, these costumes aren’t available from the start. They have to be purchase with, you guessed it, microtransactions. Be prepared to see a lot of the same heroes swarming over the same missions in the same areas when you play online.