When we gave Marvel Heroes a 5.6 in our review last June, the game most certainly deserved it. In fact, when I first saw MH at a game convention around six months before launch, I thought it looked terrible. I eventually got a chance to play in the beta and the game was definitely rough, but I could see the potential as it improved towards launch. Still, those improvements weren’t enough, and the game launched a hot mess.
Quickly, Gazillion endeavored to improve on the game and spent no time trying to gloss over its flaws. Instead, the team looked to tap directly into player feedback in guiding the changes needed to be made going forward. The game did improve some over the first few months, but it wasn’t until Gazillion brought on former Blizzard developer Jeff “Doomsaw” Donais that a clear vision had been set and truly appreciable changes began to roll in at a seemingly breakneck pace. Since then, Doomsaw and his team have done an excellent job taking advantage of feedback from the community. The team engages with the players frequently on the forums in discussions to improve individual characters and even the game as a whole.
I’ve been playing the game on and off since launch and as someone working in community I really have to commend Gazillion on having a finger on the pulse of their player community. This has been most apparent in the great deal of care that has been put into the ongoing process of making each and every character balanced and fun to play. This began with a series of character reworks and then a whole new set of level 52 reworks. Initially, characters were designed with a power progression through level 30, but these latest reworks have added additional power progression through level 52 (out of 60). While the reworks have been coming at a pretty solid clip, Gazillion made the decision late last year to halt them temporarily in an effort to balance the damage across all characters to ensure players didn’t have to wait until their favorite character's rework was on deck to begin enjoying them. If you haven’t played since launch, there’s a very good chance that your favorite character is a lot more viable now, if not reworked altogether.
While simultaneously improving elements of the existing game, Gazillion has also added quite a few new characters, features, game modes, and item types since launch. New characters include: Gambit, Emma Frost, Human Torch, Luke Cage, Squirrel Girl, Ghost Rider, and even the game’s first playable villain, Loki. Loki arrived with the introduction of update 2.0, which added a ninth chapter to the game’s story content, tying into the events of Marvel’s latest Thor film, Thor: The Dark World. Naturally, this content takes place in Asgard, and Gazillion has been adding to the Asgard content available every month since its introduction, with plans to add the game’s first raid to Asgard in the near future.
Endgame has improved significantly, too. There are multiple new modes, including: X-Defense (endless survival, with scaling rewards in experience and loot chance), Midtown Manhattan (a large open zone with continually cycling dynamic events and boss fights), and soon to come, the Danger Room. Even the basic story content has been upgraded with new Heroic and Superheroic difficulty modes.
As for items, Gazillion has added Unique items for each character (in addition to character agnostic Uniques), Team Insignias (aura granting items), rings, new and improved Artifacts, Relics (think Badass ranks from Borderlands 2), and most recently, Legendary items. Legendary items gain experience as you do combat with them equipped to your hero, eventually ranking up over five ranks and unlocking additional benefits along the way. Going forward, Gazillion plans to bring back Runewords from Diablo II and add a new StarkTech item type that will grow in strength as players donate items to it.
A 5v5 PvP mode called “Fire & Ice” was also added late last year, but I honestly wouldn’t advise anyone to check Marvel Heroes out at this time for the PvP alone. The mode is in beta at this point and is quite unbalanced. From what I understand, Gazillion is committed to balancing the mode and officially releasing it in the near future, but it’s just not there yet.
One of the major concerns at launch was Gazillion’s approach to monetizing the game. The game wasn’t Pay-to-Win, but gamers balked at the prices Gazillion were charging for new characters and costumes. While it was technically possible to acquire new characters and costumes through simple gameplay, the token system originally used just didn’t feel practical to most players. Since then, character prices have generally been reduced across the board and Gazillion has implemented a new Eternity Splinters currency that can be used to unlock characters, Ultimate Power upgrade tokens, Retcons (respecs), and more.
Eternity Splinters drop at a regular interval as players play the game and it really doesn’t take a whole lot of time to earn enough of them to add a new character to your playable roster. You can even spend a smaller amount of Splinters to purchase a box granting a random hero reward. If RNG is in your favor, you can end up unlocking a 600 Splinter hero for a paltry 175 Splinters. Eternity Splinters give players options instead of forcing them to hope and pray for their favorite character to drop if they don’t have the cash (or aren’t willing to spend it) on unlocking a new character. That said, you may still get a bit of sticker shock with some of the costume prices, but Gazillion has essentially positioned costumes as a primary revenue source and the studio has to make money somehow. In my opinion, it’s a fair trade off for what is almost entirely a cosmetic feature.
Ultimately, Marvel Heroes is a much better game today than it was at launch and it looks like players have been rewarding Gazillion for their efforts to improve it. Marvel Heroes doesn’t feel like a game treading water, consigned to its fate by a disastrous launch. Instead, it’s a game that is growing in a meaningful way all the time, with developers who truly seem to care about providing their players with solid service and a receptive ear to constructive feedback. If you found yourself underwhelmed by the launch product, or stayed away due to what you heard from friends either about the state of the game or its monetization model, I would encourage you to give it another look.
Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB