Growing up I was a huge fan of the X-Men Legends, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance games. There was nothing like donning the cape and cowl of my favorite heroes and whooping some bad guy butt all over the city. The best part of those games was being able to play with my closest friends and cousins for entire weekend marathon sessions. I am happy to say that Marvel Heroes, created by David Brevik of Diablo I and Diablo II fame, has rekindled my love of the action RPG.
Marvel Heroes is a free to play action MMOPRG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) starring a plethora or iconic heroes. Right off the bat we get to choose our first hero. I chose The Thing…mostly because I thought he would be picked the least. I’m a nice guy like that. I also knew that through in-game events and spending some hard earned G’s I could get access to more heroes later on. The Thing is a straight up Tank. For those of you who don’t know what those are: he’s a damage taker. He jumps in the middle of a group of enemies and soaks up all the damage while he and his teammates deal damage of their own. Players of other MMOs and ARPGs know the formula well.
The game opens up with a beautifully crafted moving comic strip setting the story. Hydra has broken into a prison and started springing super villains free. Heroes unite to put an end to the madness. The cut scenes are all gorgeous to look at and the voice acting is superb. I knew after 2 minutes I was in for a treat.
The game plays like you expect a game made by the visionary behind the first Diablo games. You use the left mouse button to move and use a basic attack, and your other attacks and item uses are mapped to key buttons. I mapped my powers to the number row at the top, because that is what I am used to. After a few minutes of clobberin’ time, I leveled up, and was already faced with character building decisions.
Each character has three skill trees to work on. A tank character like thing has an attack tree, a defensive minded tree, and a health tree. Choosing which tree to level is a fun decision to make. Do I want my version of The Thing to be incredible durable while sacrificing some hittin’ power? Or do I want him to be clobberin’ punks left and right with the risk of taking fewer hits than a tank should?
Using some of the funds afforded to me for this review I decided to buy a few other characters to give the other “classes” a try. You can also buy alternate costumes and items that boost XP or other stats for a period of time. For my first purchase I chose my personal favorite; Deadpool. You just gotta love Deadpool. Every other thing he is in, he constantly breaks the fourth wall and makes you laugh. At one point he yells “Hey! Didn’t I play you in Marvel vs Capcom?!….YOU SUCKED!” He always was good for a laugh…and yes…I sucked. How did that bastard know? Anyway, Deadpool plays quite differently than Thing. While he has faster attacks, they also cause bleeding damage. His secondary attack is a ranged attack using his pistols. It’s sort of a best of both worlds scenario. I can get all up in the baddies’ faces, or I can pick them off one-by-one. Oh and picking all these numbskulls off has its rewards…oh yes…it does.
Those rewards are called loot! It is what every RPG gamer loves. Just the word written on a page sends chills down my spine. I want to stop writing this review and jump in and soak some of the sweet sweet loot right now…but I won’t…things need to be written. The loot system is what you would come to expect from a game like this: many versions of the same weapon, but with augmentations and state bonuses. There are varying degrees of item rarity just like other ARPGs before it. It is a system that works, so why mess with it too much?
Speaking of messing with stuff, there is a pretty nifty crafting system. Throughout your session you will find essences and the like. You can use these to build various costume augmentations and health packs. It is a pretty cool system, but adding these essences to the loot system means your inventory will fill up pretty quickly. One way they managed to balance this out a bit is by allowing players to freely switch between heroes they have unlocked at any given moment, as long as they are not currently engaged in combat. This means that when you are playing as Captain America and you see some sweet loot for Spider-Man, you can switch to him and equip it. This frees that space up for more sweet loot.
One of the coolest things about this game is the frequency in which you fight epic battles with super villains. Most games like this will throw you some B-rate villains in the beginning, but not Marvel Heroes. Within my first 4 hours of game play I fought Green Goblin, Doctor Octopus, Living Laser, and Shocker. Okay maybe those last two are B-rate, but still! Those are some pretty cool enemies to take down just a few hours into the game. There are also instanced bosses scattered throughout the public areas. While travelling to an objective I came across Rhino battling a good half dozen fellow heroes. After we took him down we all got pretty sweet loot. The same thing happened just a half hour later in a different area; this time with Venom. The boss battles are intense and really a lot of fun. There is a considerable lag when there are more than a dozen or so heroes taking a boss on, but again, these slowdowns are expected in many MMOs. I expect Bazillion to hammer those kinks out in due time.
There is just so much to love about this game, but it is not without its flaws. While the voice acting and music is phenomenal, the sound effects can leave something to be desired. Some sounds are missing when in the heat of battle. In the middle of a battle with Shocker, I threw a barrel at him that exploded, but didn’t make a sound. It is a small issue that I am sure will be fixed in time. Another issue I had was seeing 12 different Captain Americas running around. I know it is an MMO, but there was something about seeing so many duplicates running around that just took me out of the experience ever so slightly.
Another small issue I had was how missions are tracked. Most of the time, like many MMOs before it, Marvel Heroes has you stacking multiple missions for the region you are in. The upside to this is that you can complete many missions for good XP while just going through the main quest. The bad part is that the side quests become more like background quests. Half the time I don’t even know I completed a task until I get hit with a big chunk of XP. It isn’t that objective are not clear, they are just too generic to really care about.
Speaking of other players, there are quite a few playing this game. For the most part, you can do most things by yourself. There are “dungeons” that put you into a team with a few others, which is cool, and the best part is that there is no item stealing. Every player gets their own loot and their own XP. There…you can exhale now.
Marvel Heroes is an incredible gaming experience. It is the addictive game play of Diablo mixed with the enthralling Marvel universe. Marvel Heroes offers deep character skill customization, and offers addictive combat. As a free to play game, you would be an absolute fool not to play this game.
Fun Factor: When you combine Diabo-esq game play with the massive Marvel universe you get a super fun experience. I had a smile on my face the entire time.
Length: While the game’s campaign isn’t incredibly long, trying out different characters and farming sweet loot is going to keep you engaged for a very long time. I was looking for something to fill the void that Diablo III left…now I found it.
Difficulty: Look, games like this are mindless in many ways. The boss fights are a bit tough, but you are a super hero. Regular mobs shouldn’t be too hard. Enemies do get a bit harder as you progress, but the good mix of powers makes it not much of a challenge.
On The Negative Side: Some audio hiccups and slowdown. Also – some side missions get lost in the shuffle.
Bang for your Buck: The core game, and everything it offers, is free. You can buy more heroes, but you can play the game in its entirety for free. I’d say its worth the “investment”. But I do thing these guys at Bazillion deserve some cash flow for this awesome game.
Post contributed by Associate Writer Stephen Fontana.