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Michael Bitton: Does Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 Fill the Marvel Heroes Void?

By Michael Bitton on July 25, 2019 | Columns | Comments

Does Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 Fill the Marvel Heroes Void?

As a huge Marvel nerd, the X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance games are some of my favorite games ever. They were excellent co-op games, each with a huge roster of characters to play, RPG mechanics, and beat-em-up action. Unfortunately, the second Ultimate Alliance game wasn’t so hot and it didn’t look like another entry in the series would be coming anytime soon.

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Enter Marvel Heroes by Gazillion Entertainment. Truthfully, I was never a huge ARPG fan. I didn’t care for Diablo or Diablo II when they were released, even as I watched my friends sink hours upon hours into the games. It just wasn’t for me. The XML and MUA games did feature ARPG elements, but they could be enjoyed much more casually for their Marvel flavor and  beat-em-up style combat. I remember looking at Marvel Heroes and thinking about how underwhelming it looked compared to Marvel Ultimate Alliance. You just used powers! There weren’t any light or heavy attacks, grabs, or combos.

Itching for a new game to fill the Ultimate Alliance void, I decided to give Marvel Heroes a shot back in 2013 and even though I continued to miss the Ultimate Alliance style combat throughout the years, I ended up enjoying the game immensely. The roster grew over time, there were tons of different costumes and voice lines, the powers were varied and fun and you could put together builds. I even developed a taste for chasing ARPG loot and I now consider myself a fan of the genre overall.

Sadly, Marvel Heroes was shut down in late 2017 and now I had two Marvel voids to fill. I’d been looking forward to hearing about Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers Project for some time, as the rumors made it sound like some sort of Marvel Destiny type game and that would be something that would potentially scratch both itches. I’d get the loot hunting of an ARPG with likely some more action-style combat mechanics. Great! With the Russo brothers set to attend 2018’s The Game Awards, I expected this would be where we finally learned more about what Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics had in store.

Nope. Nothing.

Instead, we got something I wasn’t expecting at all: the announcement of a new Marvel Ultimate Alliance game! I honestly couldn’t believe it. However, as a Nintendo Switch exclusive, it was a bittersweet announcement for me, since I much prefer to game on PC. I did own a Switch, though, so I was still incredibly excited.

Now that the game has been out for a couple of days, I’m not so sure. It’s a great looking game (even if the frame rate isn’t so hot). Team Ninja did an excellent job bringing an amazing roster to life on screen. Unfortunately, I feel like the gameplay is a bit of a regression, even for its admittedly simple predecessors. There are light and heavy attacks, but no combos. You can’t grab and throw enemies. The game’s camera is incredibly frustrating. Characters only have four abilities instead of eight you can switch between, though it appears the trade-off is a much larger roster. And, at least for me, I miss the flavorful voice interactions between characters. Talking to Venom as Spider-Man is no different than talking to him as Ms. Marvel.

Worst of all? I’m beginning to realize the irony of the fact MUA3 is making me miss Marvel Heroes. The game meant to fill the void left by the lack of Marvel Ultimate Alliance games is now supposed to fill the void I’m feeling over the shut down of Marvel Heroes and it’s just not up to the task.

MUA3 is decently fun when the camera isn’t driving me crazy, but the regression in mechanics and the light ARPG mechanics leave me wanting. The latter issue isn’t necessarily the game’s fault. Had I never played Marvel Heroes, I don’t know that I’d care about chasing loot so much, but now that I’ve done so for years, I was hoping for a bit more meat in the game’s item hunt.

Sure, ISO-8 is a thing, but at least so far, they haven't offered up any interesting effects. Even the original Marvel Ultimate Alliance had flavorful equipment to collect. Items such as Dark Elf Armor would stun enemies who attacked you while you were blocking, Armor of Galactus converted a portion of damage to energy, Wrecker’s Crowbar gave you a chance to reflect projectiles, and so on.

Thankfully, MUA3 appears to be selling like hotcakes, so perhaps we’ll see the series continue from here. If so, I do hope that Nintendo and Team Ninja will consider bringing back some of what the original games did well and offer some meatier progression for us ARPG fans out there.

What’s your take on Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below!

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.