The Ninjabot

Hands-On at PAX: Marvel Heroes

Posted on March 24, 2013 at 10:53 am by Tyler Waterman

There aren’t many games I’ve been more excited about from announcement to near release than Marvel Heroes, the upcoming action-mmo coming from Gazillion Entertainment. While many were disappointed that this wasn’t a game along the lines of DC Universe Online, allowing players to take control of Marvel characters rather than DCUO’s created heroes, I loved the idea. I spent countless hours playing dozens of my favorite characters in the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance games, and Gazillion’s promise of delivering the same experience with an even larger roster immediately sold me on the idea.

This weekend I got to play the game at the Marvel Heroes booth at PAXEast, and if I was excited before, I’m now counting the seconds until I get my hands on this game.

paxMH1

Like these folks, this was how I spent WAY too much of my time on the PAX East floor.

I’m going to start this by making the comparison that likely every single person will make when it comes to this game: yes, this game plays just like Diablo. If you’re familiar with top-down, point-and-click action RPGs, you’re already familiar with playing Marvel Heroes. Of course, adhering to a tried and tested formula has its pros and cons. You know right away that players are extremely likely to be familiar with the mechanics of your title, and that the learning curve isn’t going to be very steep. On the flip side, you inherit all the preconceived notions that come with that comparison, and have to take extra steps to prevent your game from crossing the line between “this game is also an isometric action RPG” and “this is a Diablo clone.”

Fortunately, what I took away from my time in Marvel Heroes was that it succeeded in doing exactly that; it provided me the polished action-RPG experience I wanted, but was different enough from the Diablo formula that I didn’t feel like I was just playing a skinned mod of Blizzard’s demon-slaying extravaganza. The controls were tight and exceptionally responsive, never leaving me feeling like I was excessively clicking and having nothing to show for it. The graphics were fantastic, and fighting always felt balanced. There were many times where I was overrun with large mobs, or surprised by unique boss characters, but never did I feel like I didn’t have the powers needed or tactical options necessary to hold my own and win the day.

Loot drops were frequent and interesting, like any good action-RPG, but what I was most surprised to see was how well this gear was aimed at the character I was playing. The demo at PAX gave you the choice of using five different characters, and different stations offered different choices. At my station I immediately chose Cyclops, but also saw lots of others playing as Thor, Hulk, Wolverine, Iron Man; trust me, whoever your favorite character is, chances are they’re represented in this game. Going back to the loot, the vast majority of the drops I got were specifically for me. I did get a few Thor-style helmets or Wolverine-style costumes that I could sell, but for the most part all my drops were new visors or costume parts that were clearly designed for my choice of character. Considering the annoyance in many games of this type where you constantly feel like you’re grinding just to get things you can’t use, I was particularly pleased to see that had been planned for.

Speaking of loot, I got one drop in particular that positively quadrupled my excitement for this game. I firmly believe that the best part of superhero games are unlockable costumes. Costumes are one of the best parts of comics, and when you’re given a massive roster of characters that all have several iterations of their outfit, you want to be able to play as your favorites. In fact, this was one of the most common complaints about Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2 over its predecessor: the reduction from three alternate costumes per character to one was a real blow to the gameplay. Clearly, Marvel Heroes isn’t going to suffer from this problem, as each character has several costumes, but even better, they seem to drop at random. When my Cyclops blasted an enemy to bits and out popped his Phoenix Five costume, it took all of my self-control not to cheer out loud and start awkwardly high-fiving the people around me.

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Please, oh gaming gods, let me unlock this in my own copy of the game just as fast!

The only aspect of this game I can’t speak to is the online component. Marvel Heroes is branded as an MMO, but make no mistake, this game is nothing like the classic MMO offering, such as World of Warcraft. What I played at PAX genuinely felt like a single player experience. My mission sent me to the Savage Land to defeat Sauron, and when I started playing  I did see other players running around with me, but the bulk of my time was spent in an instanced cave where it was me against several mobs until I found my target. I’m sure I could have found a more cooperative online experience in a normal playing environment, but when everyone playing is just popping in and popping out, it wasn’t the ideal place to try it. To be clear, none of these are complaints; in fact, I find this to be a benefit of the game. Clearly the mechanics for multiplayer are there (and it was particularly awesome to see Thor or Hulk come from nowhere to save me from a mob), but knowing this game is also accessible to folks who want a more single-player experience means no fan will be isolated when it comes to this game.

Marvel Heroes seems exceptionally close to being the action-RPG that has something for everyone. Want to play with your friends? You can, or you can go it alone. Want a massive roster of heroes to choose from? You have that in spades, with multiple costumes for each and surely more characters to come down the road. You want the loot, leveling and grinding you expect from an action-RPG? That’s all here too, with a refreshing superhero twist and loot that is actually loot you want. Rarely does a game like this live up to the often-unfair expectations a fan like myself places on it; however, it looks like Marvel Heroes is going to meet all our expectations, and on June 4th of this year, we finally get to find out!

Want more info? Check out the Marvel Heroes site, or follow them on twitter at @MMMSociety. You can follow Tyler on twitter at @BatmanIncVP.

 

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