I’ve had the pleasure of toying around with Marvel Heroes’ closed beta during the past week or so, and what I’ve found is a game that’s both addictive and a little rough around the edges. It’s fun and aggravating, but mostly? Mostly, I just want to keep killing things with Deadpool because that’s what Marvel Heroes is all about. As Dave Brevik’s follow-up to Diablo 2, Marvel Heroes feels a lot like what Diablo 3 could have been if Blizzard had gone the route of the more MMO-like Action RPG. It’s beta, and small balance and tuning issues are to be expected. But the idea of building an army of Marvel’s best and brightest is definitely an idea I’m fond of. I know folks wanted their own heroes in the Marvel Universe, but as an Action MMO, this setup works and I have to say it could keep me playing for a good while if Gazillion can manage to capture the essence of the characters.
The game’s beginning is simple enough, at this early stage. You pick one of a few less popular characters to begin as (Hawkeye, Ms. Marvel, Punisher, being a few) and off you go to help stop an outbreak in the super villain prison known as the Raft. It seems Dr. Doom has been up to his old tricks and has unleashed the prison’s inhabitants. To what end? Well, that’s the story Mr. Bendis’ writing will uncover as you make your way through the game’s chapters and missions. MH actually works a lot like a persistently online Diablo. There are chapters and acts, and using teleporters you can travel between different parts of the game.
In fact, you’ll want to often. As you level one hero, the others stay at whatever level you left them at. So while I started the game as Hawkeye, when I moved over to Deadpool (who I purchased with the cash-shop funds Gazillion gave us to test the beta with) Hawkeye’s leveling got left behind. In order to bring him up to speed, I could simply teleport back to an earlier point of the game’s narrative and play with him there. I could use him where I’m at with Deadpool, and he’d level quickly, but he’d also wind up much more vulnerable.
In terms of skills, you have a main attack on the left mouse and a secondary attack you can equip on the right mouse. You can also have five character-based skills assigned to letters A through G on your keyboard, with H serving as your consumable hotkey. The action is actually quite superb, and if you enjoy a good hack and slash you’re in for a treat here. My main qualms with Marvel Heroes so far is that my heroes don’t feel very “emphatic”. I expected Deadpool to slice and dice, jump and spin, and murder folks with great ease. He can, mind you. But the animations are off, stilted, and kind of bland. If there’s any one area of polish MH could use, it’s in the animations department for some of their heroes. Both Deadpool and Hawkeye (the two heroes I used the most) seemed a little lacking in that department.
That said, I really enjoyed the fact that each hero has his or her own loot, all basically tied to the same tried and true Diablo-esque loot tables we’ve gotten used to. Green is good, blue is better, purple is best. You won’t see the look of Deadpool’s swords and pistols changing, but when he upgrades gear he will get better defenses, better stats, and even better at certain skills. To change the looks of your heroes, you’ll have to collect pieces and parts of different costumes to craft them. I’ve only fooled around with this a little bit, but Gazillion and Marvel have gone out of their way to make sure some of the more obscure fan favorites are there for use, and if you don’t have the patience to craft them all you can spend a few bucks to buy others in the cash shop.
Overall, I would say I’m impressed by Marvel Heroes so far. The combat is fun, and the leveling and tweaking of heroes is addictive. It plays a lot like you’d expect from the man who helped make Diablo a household name in gamers’ abodes. What’s interesting is to see the shared areas that players congregate in, and while it’s a little wonky to see several Wolverines or Spider-Men out and about, if you can get by this and offer it up to the fun and “science” of comic books, you’ll quickly find yourself having a good time with the action. Plus, with several hundred heroes to choose from, one can only imagine that Marvel and Gazillion will be able to make “clones” in public areas far less likely with time. I just hope Rocket Racoon isn’t too popular… he’s going to be my main. Because bazookas, that’s what.
The biggest hurdle for me is if Marvel Heroes can "oomph" up the animations for its more martial combat oriented characters. They feel sorely lacking when compared to the bam-wow-boom of the magical or techno-heroes.
When I was younger, Marvel's Secret Wars was a huge deal in the comic world. It was all the Marvel Heroes going off to fight a war against all the villains. It was the series that changed Spider-Man and led to the beginnings of Venom. The greatest part of Secret Wars was seeing all the Marvel Heroes in one place. For me, that is the core success element to Marvel Heroes Online. As an action RPG you really are building a team of heroes to use instead of a single character. This part of the game makes for awesome fun.
The game is still in early beta and as Bill mentioned there is polish that is still needed. The core combat game play is great fun and fast-paced. Running through the opening battles there are no lack of Hydra agents to take down and also bosses (some minor and major villains) pop up faster than you can imagine. Within the first few fights you are battling Living Laser and even Green Goblin. Both fights offer different challenges to the player and have different game play dynamics in them.
I started as the Punisher and then worked my way into Iron Man. It was impossible not to choose Deadpool as my third choice. After playing as each character for a while I realized that all three are ranged style DPS roles. Everyone has a close up attack, but Deadpool and Punisher? Well they feel very "shooty". Deadpool's up-close combat pales to in comparison to his dual pistols. Iron Man is similar with his pulse blasters. Next time I dig in, I definitely want to try out Hulk or Wolverine who seem to be much more in-your-face style fighters. At NY Comicon Dave Brevik explained that there are styles of play based on the heroes themselves. They want each hero to very much be unique in their skills and combat.
The loot system is pretty fair and drops come quickly off of all the enemies. I was upgrading Punisher fast, but it didn’t seem like I was dependent on loot to do well. If anything, loot seems secondary to the idea of collecting and crafting costumes. But good news all the same, if you play with a group, the drops will be specific to your character which makes it easy. In terms of customization, you have some basic skill trees on each hero, and of course the many costumes for all of them as well. This is where the cash shop model will kick in, but I don’t mind spending some money to get a different look for my heroes (or I could craft it).
Overall, I think Marvel Heroes Online is a fun and fast-paced Action-MMO which will appeal to old and young comic fans. The collectable aspect of building an army of heroes is easily the biggest draw. The game play is solid and I think the group runs on bosses (like Diablo of old) will be the best part. As much as it is an MMO and there are huge boss fights and open areas where everyone converges, I am definitely thinking the best game play will be had with five or six players going into a more private zone and battling villains together.
I will end on this note, and I ask Dave for this every time we talk to him… please put in playable villains and massive PvP zones. Thanks.
What do you think of this Marvel Action MMO? Is Gazillion onto something? Let us know in the comments!