Marvel Heroes review
Spandex clad men in tights and free to play? Definitely not the Micro Mart summer BBQ
Ever since DC Universe Online made an appearance in 2011, the MMO world has waited patiently for Marvel to unleash its own version of the superhero fight fest. After four years in the making it’s finally here, in all of its Diablo-esque, isometric, free-to-play grandeur. But it’s not without its problems.
Appealing to the comic fan boys and hardcore gamers alike was always going to be a difficult job from the start. However, Marvel and Gazillion Entertainment have done a decent job in recreating a comic book style, look and feel to the storyline and characters, but without it becoming a modernised interactive cartoon. Indeed, as far as storylines go, this is one that’s capable of bringing the true Marvel fan and the recent movie release fans together in a pleasing enough environment.
Free-to-play is the order of the day with the obligatory monetisation element added for good measure, which basically means you get a choice of five free characters to choose from at the start of the game, but to unlock the more alluring characters requires the spending of money. As do the various outfits, extra weapons, goodies and the usual MMO stuff. Buying the other characters and abilities add to the longevity but at a cost that would most certainly make you think twice. Also, it’s worth mentioning here that Marvel Heroes doesn’t have a ‘create your own character’ option – a poor decision despite the vast number of heroes Marvel has at its disposal.
However, the game isn’t pay to win. It’s entirely possible to finish the story with the free character you originally selected, and in truth most of the time spent beyond the main story arc is playable with the free character as well, so it does beg the question as to why you would want to spend money playing as Thor instead of The Thing. Personal taste, and being a fan of the character will no doubt factor in here, but in essence, it’s purely cosmetic.
The online aspect of MH is a strange one, in that yes, there are many other characters playing on the screen at the same time as you, and yes, you do get the occasional team-up event against a well-known villain, but the social aspect of this MMO is oddly distant. There are no apparent groups or leagues; although they are there, you’re kind of left to fudge around in the dark and locate them yourself. If you draw a comparison with other MMO games, then MH feels a little lonely, and more like a single-player game where you happen to come across other players.
Levelling up is easy enough: complete the main mission, along with the sub-missions and beat up the huge mass of enemies, of which there is no limit, that surround you in the sizable, and attractive zones. Once you level up, you’ll get power points to spend on new moves or by simply increasing the strength behind the move – simple enough and the bread and butter of every MMO known to human kind. Loot drops are plenty and offer a constant improvement to the characters attack, defence and so on, but oddly enough they don’t change the appearance of your character.
This is in itself a very strange decision for the developer to take. Granted, it would much prefer you to purchase the gear and in doing so represent the character in the appropriate armour or clothing, but if you consider other MMOs (even DC Universe), a pickup of super-powered pants, for example, would change the appearance of your character. Here, though, he/she stays the same. It may seem like a small gripe, but without this feature there lies a clear distinction between those who have paid and those who still use the free to play. In which case, an argument could be put forward for it being an unfair distinction.
The feeling that you’re given the basics, then left to your own devices is quite overwhelming in Marvel Heroes. The basic first mission and consequent tutorial gets you into the feel of the game (use ‘C’ for the character sheet, ‘P’ to access the Powers sheet), but after that you get the feeling that you’ve been deserted by the developer. The same goes for the crafting system. You’re shown where to go, who to speak to and what to gather in order to craft a medkit, for example, but you’re then left alone. While this perfectly fine for an experienced MMO gamer, it leaves the new comer or less experienced player out in the cold to the point where they won’t even bother looking into the crafting aspect of the game and therefore lose out on one of the best features.
Graphically, the game is splendid. The fixtures and fittings of each zone are well designed and they’re surprisingly large, with the occasional hidden area tucked away in a forgotten corner. Your character moves in a fluid fashion, as do the other NPCs and the dialogue is entertaining too, along with the other various effects. There is a problem, though, in that the game suffers from too much glitz.
By that we mean during those times where an event is in full swing: bodies are everywhere, magic is spewed across the screen in as many colours as you can imagine, along with the ranged and area attacks the multitude of other players are throwing down. It’s a melee in the traditional sense and one where you’ll soon lose yourself among the brace of The Things, Hawkeyes and Scarlet Witches that are on screen at once. Although this is fun, it does become annoying after the umpteenth time you’ve tackled Venom and can’t see where the devil he is, never mind where you are.
Marvel Heroes isn’t a bad game. It’s fun, it scratches the Diablo MMO itch and, with some cash spent, you do get to play as your favourite Marvel character, but its longevity suffers. You’ll soon tire of the same old missions, the gathering of loot and selling what you don’t need and the feeling that you’re not really getting anywhere. However, the game does open up and clobberin’ the enemy is great fun, but beyond the free to play it’s a questionable expense.
• Price: Free to play/packs can cost up to £64.99
• Manufacturer: Gazillion Entertainment
• Website: marvelheroes.com
• Required spec: Windows XP or later, dual core 2GHz processor, Radeon 3870/Nvidia 8800GT+