Out of all of Marvel’s many characters, my top five consists of: Angel, Psylocke, Spider-Man, Torch, and Hawkeye. All but Angel are now playable in Marvel Heroes, with the most recent addition being everyone’s favorite psychic ninja, Psylocke.
As you might imagine, I’ve been eagerly anticipating Psylocke’s release since Marvel Heroes’ launch last June, and now that she’s finally here, I wanted to take this week’s column to share my first impressions. First off, the character looks awesome. Gazillion’s ‘TheDink’ did an excellent job on the character, which is no surprise given the excellent work she’s done on the game thus far, with characters like Shuri and Nightcrawler standing out in particular. I’m not a huge fan of Psylocke’s newest X-Force outfit, but that’s more of an issue with Marvel than anything having to do with Gazillion’s interpretation of the character. Hopefully Psylocke as Death is in the running as an enhanced costume down the line.
Aside from Psylocke’s model, her animations are mostly top notch. The team at Gazillion clearly took inspiration from a number of Betsy’s previous appearances in videogames, most notably the Marvel vs. Capcom series, with moves like Psi-Thrust being instantly recognizable. My favorite ability, Falling Lotus Strike, never gets old to watch. It’s great seeing Psylocke spin through the air in a flurry of metal and sparks. However, less impressive is Katana Typhoon. There isn’t much of an animation to speak of; if you so much as blink you’ll miss it. It’s unfortunate too, because the ability is potentially one of Psylocke’s most damaging moves (when it works properly).
Finally, in terms of aesthetics, I’m finding Psylocke’s voice acting to be incredibly inconsistent, which is a huge disappointment as I plan on spending a ton of time on the character. The voice actress used appears to drop in and out of her accent with certain lines and sometimes her accent sounds different altogether. Similarly, her lines are a mixed bag, but not terrible. I personally can’t stand the “Keep Calm” meme and so whenever I hear her reference it I can’t help but cringe.
As far as gameplay goes, I can see Psylocke being a ton of fun, but she feels somewhat undercooked right out of the gate. I see the vision for her character in her kit, but I’m not convinced it’s fully realized just yet. Her Psionic Constructs tree, in particular, had me most apprehensive before I got my hands on her. Gazillion hasn’t had such a great record when it comes to characters with special resources (see: Gambit), and unfortunately, Psylocke seems like the latest casualty.
It’s not a fundamentally flawed system, it’s just somewhat clunky and restrictive to use. Abilities in Psylocke’s Psionic Constructs tree don’t use mana; instead, they consume her special resource. The costs just feel too restrictive at the moment. It also feels like using abilities in other trees are the best ways to actually charge up this resource, despite the fact that Gazillion gave her a basic attack that explicitly builds bonus Psi Energy. Number tweaks could easily solve this, so it’s not a huge deal, but it definitely impacts her fun factor at the moment.
On the plus side, Psylocke isn’t a character for players who just want to press one or two buttons. The character is constantly mobile, dashing in and out of combat, and optimally, making use of the various tools in her kit to deal damage and keep her foes at bay. She’s also got fairly solid defenses for an ‘assassin’ style character. Betsy’s not a total paper tiger like you’d find in characters like Nightcrawler, but she can’t just facetank things, either.
The community has raised a number of seemingly glaring omissions with Psylocke that I also agree with; chief among them being Gazillion’s woeful underuse of Psylocke’s iconic telekinetic katana. Betsy’s got exactly one move that uses her telekinetic katana and it isn’t even a melee move. I’ve seen suggestions along the lines of giving her a toggle that lets her charge up her various katana moves with telekinetic energy and I think this would be a great fit. Personally, I’d love to see it as a click buff in her Psionic Constructs tree, perhaps replacing the Psionic Bow. I know, I know. It looks cool and all, but let’s be honest, no one uses those charge up snipe attacks in Marvel Heroes. This is likely to be true with Betsy as well, especially with the prohibitive Psi Energy cost associated with it. Why not replace it with something useful and flavorful?
Ultimately, I’m still enjoying my time playing Psylocke so far, but I feel she’s got some way to go before she’s smoothed out and her potential is fully realized as a character in Marvel Heroes. Gambit is a great example of a somewhat clunky character that Gazillion eventually got right over time. Hopefully Psylocke is also worthy of the challenge for Gazillion. I get the vision, but the execution so far leaves me a bit wanting.
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