I'll admit to being a skeptic about Gazillion's Marvel Heroes when I first heard the notion that it was going to only allow players to play as existing Marvel Heroes and not create their own super-powered people in tights. Part of the fun, a big part, of City of Heroes and Champions Online is that you're creating you're own hero or villain. As fun as it is to play as Wolverine, I still want to show my creative side and make my own story up. But after talking with David Brevik, Marvel Heroes' Lead Designer and the father of Diablo, I am inclined to believe Gazillion is onto something. And after playing it? It feels more like what Diablo 3 could have been than what we were offered. I'm not saying D3 isn't fun, but rather that Marvel Heroes feels more like the next evolutionary step of the revered Action RPG.
Let’s get this part out of the way, as it may be a deal breaker for many: you will play only as one of the Marvel canon heroes, and you won’t be making your own character. If you can get past this and think of MH as more of an online persistent version of Marvel Ultimate Alliance, you’ll be on the right track. And if you can get over this fact you’ll find a game that’s looking like it’s really worth playing.
Just because you have to roll with one of Marvel’s heroes doesn’t mean you don’t get to customize him or her. You’ll slot their skills, pick their abilities, and tweak their gear and even the costume they’re sporting. Littered throughout the game many of Marvel’s historic and obscure costumes for its characters will drop as loot. You can be classic yellow, black, and blue Wolvie, or jeans and tank-top with cigar Wolvie, and so on. You’ll get gear to amplify your stats like any other ARPG, and as you level you’ll gain new skills and pick which ones your version of that hero will use.
The main “weird” part of MH? I can get past using an established Hero when I think of Marvel Heroes as David’s own version of Diablo 3, but what will probably still bug me forever is that in the shared public spaces (open world zones) you can and will see multiple versions of Wolverine, Cyclops, Human Torch, Iron Man and so on. Luckily the team is putting in a slew of heroes at launch with more to come on a steady stream, but you can only imagine how many Wolverines will be running around in a F2P game like this. You’ll find me as Rocket Raccoon thanks very much. Though with my luck, the furries will love him.
The gameplay itself is exemplary. Even with just myself running around, it was smooth, fluid, and easy to pick up. You have a hotbar with skills and items equipped, plus the left and right mouse have two attacks (a basic and a special) as well. From the characters available on the show floor I did give into baser instincts and choose Logan, and I wasn’t disappointed. His self-heals, leaping attacks, and PBAoE attacks were brutal. David showed me one of the shared “town” areas, Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, as well as Hell’s Kitchen and a few other areas as I sped through one of the game’s lengthy story missions. With a script written by famed comic writer Brian Michael Bendis, you can expect a decent narrative peppered by motion comics not unlike what we’ve seen in DCUO.
All in all, my brief time with Marvel Heroes left me wanting lots more. David’s original designs for D3 are all over it in the shared spaces, MMO conventions, and story-driven experience. It plays remarkably well, I can imagine it’ll be a hoot with friends, and with a big (but divided into instanced zones) world that you share with thousands of others, I see a lot more longevity to this game than I once anticipated. New heroes added every so often, PVP still to be revealed, the possibility of “Marvel Villains” down the line (a guy can hope), and an ever-changing and weaving story all give me ample reason to be watching this one. It may not be what people expected, but if you give it a chance you might find it really damned fun. I know I did.
Beta begins on October 1st, and we’ll do our best to secure some keys for you all. Just don’t play Wolverine… please. Pick anyone else. Even my precious Rocket Raccoon.