Marvel Heroes launched last year in a decidedly less than superheroic state. The game shared many qualities found in the various ARPGs that have come onto the scene since Gazillion CEO David Brevik essentially created the point-and-click ARPG genre with Diablo in 1996. What really set the game apart from its peers was its unique blend of MMO and ARPG elements. Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough. Gazillion Entertainment, the developer of Marvel Heroes, did a decent job blending these elements in the game’s initial release last year, but it was the rest of the game that simply came out undercooked.
Frankly, Marvel Heroes wasn’t a great game when we first reviewed it, but like all MMOs, Marvel Heroes is a living product and Gazillion has seemingly been burning the candle at both ends over the past year to make Marvel Heroes the game everyone hoped it would be. Did they succeed? Read on for our re-review to find out!
AESTHETICS - 8
Marvel Heroes likely won’t win any awards for having the highest fidelity graphics one can find on the market in 2014, but the developers have more than made up for the somewhat dated look with an intense attention to detail. Characters in Marvel Heroes really come to life with an impressive array of power animations and visual effects. You’ll also find little details like the fact Johnny Storm’s passive flame effect changes in intensity depending on how much Spirit (mana) he has left.
Not only do the characters look great, but most sound the part, too. Spiderman’s always cracking wise, Torch is as cocky as you would imagine, and Sue Storm is right there to scold Johnny just as she always has. That last bit really sells the experience of playing a game set in the Marvel universe, too. The characters all interact with each other and even with the game’s various major villains. Hearing these can get a little grating at times depending on the character, but discovering all the little interactions is a delight more often than not.
The environments and enemies in Marvel Heroes are similarly detailed, but the flip side is that there is a dearth of both. You’ll be fighting mostly the same enemies and bosses, even in different forms of content, and while there is some variety in the game’s environments, it wouldn’t hurt to have some more available.
GAMEPLAY – 8.5
If there’s one area that Marvel Heroes has improved on in leaps and bounds over the past year it’s in its gameplay. Ever since Gazillion picked up Jeff ‘Doomsaw’ Donais last summer, the team has had a renewed focus on really tightening up and improving the game; and it shows. I could sit here and get into all the little details, but the basic problems with Marvel Heroes’ gameplay at launch were in the game’s various playable heroes’ kits and in the game’s item hunt. Fortunately, Gazillion has improved both areas. For one, the team has gone through the game’s constantly growing roster and has almost fully reworked the characters that needed it, by adding new powers to their kits, among other things. The vast majority of these reviews have resulted in significant improvements for characters, making them much more fun to play and giving players additional options in terms of builds. Gazillion has also revamped a number of the game’s behind-the-scenes systems like defense, damage, and other tidbits to make the simple act of playing more fun. If you haven’t played since before these changes went in or you just haven’t played the game at all, it may be harder to notice, but the game is a good deal less spiky in terms of damage and characters across the roster are more consistent both in terms of the amount of damage they can take and dish out.
There are tons of new items and item types to hunt as well: Legendary items allow you to select from a variety of items with a linear progression of effects that are unlocked as you earn experience with the item equipped. Team Insignias offer players an item slot with team utility. Runewords are a throwback to Diablo II and allow you to further customize your character in interesting ways, and so on. Using Runewords as an example, the River of the Soul Runeword enables many characters to run builds without basic attacks due to its powerful spirit management effect. It’s a simple effect with significant impact.
On the content side, Marvel Heroes has added multiple new difficulty modes for the game’s story, new Terminals (formalized boss runs), a patrol zone for players to run to their hearts content, endless survival in X-Defense, and more recently, Raids. There’s a lot to do in Marvel Heroes, even at level cap, and even I haven’t done it all. Raids are the one area I haven’t been able to tackle just yet, but from what I understand, they offer players a truly difficult form of content to run once they’ve geared their characters properly, and Gazillion promises even better item rewards coming from this system.
Like any ARPG, progression comes primarily from the item hunt, but Marvel Heroes goes a step further with a new alternate advancement system called the Omega System. This is an account wide system that is a mix of EverQuest Alternate Advancement and Diablo III Paragon levels. Simply put, you earn experience towards the Omega System whenever you earn any sort of experience and you don’t need to be playing a level capped character to do it. Whenever you ‘level up’ your Omega experience bar you earn an Omega point and these points can be spent in the Omega system to unlock a variety of powerful effects for your character. Points earned are available to all characters just like Diablo III’s Paragon system, which is a definite plus.
The one caveat is that the Omega system feels almost needlessly complicated in the options available. There are just so many possibilities and combined with the time to earn points, the costs of certain nodes, and a UI that is a bit lacking in terms of providing adequate information, it can all be a bit overwhelming. It’s nice to be constantly working towards progression for my characters, but Gazillion could do more to clean up the system and make options easier to understand and plan for.