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Gazillion's Massive Plans May Be Worth The Wait

Michael Bitton Posted:
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Face it, 2016 hasn’t necessarily been a kind year to Marvel Heroes. The year’s first few months had the game’s dev team tied up pushing out movie tie-in content for Captain America: Civil War and things have been pretty dry since then. As it would turn out, this dry spell was a bit of a gambit on Gazillions part: risk players being bored in the short term in order to execute on some massive plans that would deal with some Marvel Heroes’ most significant long term issues.

Will it pay off? It’s too early to say, but last week we learned more about the first part of Gazillion’s plans for the game and I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’m pretty damn excited.

Marvel Heroes has been struggling with keeping its roster viable and interesting since the game first launched. We’ve seen the team execute a number of different plans to deal with these issues over the years, and yet heroes often fall behind as new items, content, and changes are introduced to the game. This fall, Gazillion will be hitting a reset button of sorts by implementing the game’s biggest system update ever.

This single update will deal with every single hero on the roster, giving each character a QoL (quality of life) pass all in a single game update. And while that’s exciting in and of itself, it’s not the most significant of changes coming with the patch. Gazillion will also be making significant changes to the game’s progression and gameplay. For one, power points are going away (with the exception of Ultimate Powers). Powers will now operate at maximum potential for your level without the need to allocate any points. This also impacts the game’s itemization heavily, since players tend to prioritize gear that allows them to hit maximum ranks on the most impactful powers of their builds. We don’t have the full skinny on itemization changes just yet (that’s coming in Gaz’s next dev blog), but I’m certainly expecting some significant boat rocking with whatever Gaz has in store here.

Heroes normally have three power trees, with two trees typically fitting one play style or another, while the third houses some significant utility spells or passives. In the update, all powers will fit into the first two trees, but the third tree will now feature five sets of talents for players to select from to customize their hero’s build as they desire.  Think of them like the specializations we’ve seen Gaz add to many of the more recent hero designs or updates. These talents can modify or even replace a power, alter the hero’s mechanics, or simply add some passive bonuses.

Passives will be changing, too. We’ve already seen Gaz move towards consolidating passive effects into a smaller set of powers to dump points into over the years, but with the coming update, all heroes will now feature one defensive and one offensive passive. These passives are being called traits by Gaz and they will highlight the character’s power set and give you a clear idea of what sorts of items you’ll want to hunt. Part of the way Gaz will be accomplishing the latter is by assigning two attributes to each hero through these traits and having damage for that hero scale off of those attributes. That’s right, we’re not all going to be stacking Fighting anymore. Gaz will also be adjusting attributes across the board to make them all useful.  Some characters may also feature a third trait to highlight some individual mechanics they may have, though this trait will not feature any additional stats.

As part of the reveal, Gaz used Human Torch’s update to highlight the upcoming changes.   For example, Torch’s offensive trait will push you towards itemizing for the Energy and Speed attributes in order to pump up his damage. Torch also features a new mechanic called “Heat”, which is complex enough to warrant the aforementioned mechanic trait being added to his power tree. 

We were also shown an example of the new talents’ capability to replace powers in a kit outright. If selected, the example talent will replace Torch’s key damage layer power, Scorching Wall, with a new power called Flame Wave. As you might expect, this power casts out a huge wave of flame in an area, which is completely different from the static wall players have to place down with Scorching Wall.

The Human Torch has been one of my favorite Marvel characters since I was a kid, but I refused to play him in Marvel Heroes specifically because I hated placing down that damned wall. So, I’ve gotta give Gaz a huge kudos here for offering players an alternative option here; I’m really excited to see how these sorts of changes impact the variety of play styles for other heroes in the game.

Finally, one of the most significant changes coming to powers in this update was the announcement that players will be hard limited to eight active powers (a single hotbar’s worth). Gaz has been designing characters with the goal of not requiring players to slot powers onto separate hotbars for some time now, though inevitably many characters still need to slot additional powers onto a second bar (or more, in Dr. Strange’s case). The patch will address this issue in one fell swoop by removing additional hotbars entirely while also dealing with the issues necessitating their use by many characters in the first place.  

One way Gaz will be rectifying the need for additional hotbar space is to move the cleanse effect into movement powers. Currently, one of the most common reasons players use a second hotbar at all is to fit in their cleanse power, but with the cleanse effect baked into your movement power, that will save you some space. This change also impacts the use of powers granted by items. For example, you won’t be able to slot a Ziggurat of Kargul to give yourself a teleport ability if your hero doesn’t feature one in their kit.

It was explained that this change was necessary, since the development team has been struggling with ways to keep rotations down to the one hotbar goal through the use of things like shared cooldowns, damage layer limitations, antirequisite powers, and specializations. Now, with players being hard limited to eight powers, none of this will be necessary. This means you can mix and match any active powers you want, though you’ll obviously want to select talents that support whatever goals you have in mind for your particular loadout.

This isn’t exactly scientific, but I feel the community has mostly responded with excitement to the upcoming changes, though there are understandably some that are apprehensive, fearful, or even upset (Dr. Strange players?). Having read through everything, I can understand where Gaz is coming from with all of this and as long as they can execute on this properly, it should have a massively positive impact on the game’s health as a whole. Reworking all the heroes in one shot and streamlining the game so that the management of its continually burgeoning roster is a more practical endeavor for its designers is a better approach than trying to play whack-a-mole with issues plaguing heroes that fall behind over time.

As I noted earlier, it’s also damn exciting.  With all the major changes coming up, there will be new items to chase and likely completely new ways to experience the game’s huge slate of heroes. It’s not quite an injection of new content per se, but the sheer volume of changes could make the game’s existing content feel fresh enough for a while longer. Personally, I can’t wait to dust off some of my abandoned favorites, such as Magneto and Psylocke. And this is all without touching on some of the other potentially exciting stuff coming with this update, such as the Omega system update and personal difficulty slider (Diablo 3 Torment system?).

What are your thoughts on the announced changes? Share ‘em with us in the comments below!


Michael Bitton

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