In 2015 it’s pretty hard to avoid spoilers for TV shows and movies. I try my best, but it’s often futile. Some inconsiderate jerk always manages to let slip or casually discuss major plot points out in the open. I wasn’t about to let someone ruin Star Wars: The Force Awakens for me, though. Aside from work, I pretty much disconnected from all things online last week. People are pretty creative with spoilers and I wasn’t about to take any chances.
So, what’s a guy to do when bored out of his mind for a couple of days? As it would turn out, Disney recently soft-launched the sequel to the Facebook/Mobile Marvel turn-based RPG, Marvel: Avengers Alliance in Australia, Sweden, and Denmark. I was also obsessed with the original game, but it was wildly Pay-to-Win, so I had to force myself to stop playing it. The sequel, Avengers Alliance 2, is only on mobile and sports a snazzy new 3D aesthetic, so curiosity lead me to figure out a way to play it and I can honestly say I’m already equally obsessed with the damn thing.
For those unfamiliar with the original title, Marvel: Avengers Alliance let you collect your favorite Marvel characters, assemble them into a team with your own customizable SHIELD Agent, and participate in turn-based battles spanning across a multitude of story-based chapters and special operations (events). The game also featured sort-of-PvP, where you did battle against other players’ pre-assembled defending teams, and the associated PvP seasons were frequently ways to snag powerful items and new characters. The individual heroes were split into different archetypes (bruisers, blasters, scrappers, and so on) and could be customized further with a variety of crystals. There are a bunch of these sorts of games available on mobile now, but Avengers Alliance stood out not just for the Marvel IP, but for the depth of the combat mechanics. The interactions between the class archetypes and the variety of different ability effects, debuffs, and buffs, made for a much deeper experience than I’m used to seeing in similar mobile games. Again, the issue (for me) was the game’s monetization. Disney did not handle things with a light touch, which was true for most social games on Facebook at the time.
Going fully mobile for the sequel offers Disney an opportunity to modernize its approach to gameplay and monetization, so I was eager to find out how things fared. While the game is only soft launched at the moment, I can definitely say that Avengers Alliance 2 benefits from all the best aspects of its predecessor while adequately addressing the monetization issues I had with it. I haven’t spent a dime on the game yet, and playing it constantly over the past week, I haven’t felt much pressure at all to do so, either.
The one catch is in the game’s hero collection component. If you spend the gold you’re given from task rewards and leveling up to keep energy and other currency levels refilled, you can pretty much play the game all day, but if you’re looking to fill your hero roster, it’s going to be tough balancing the two without shelling out a least a bit. Unlike the original game, heroes aren’t directly purchased with points, but are instead randomly drawn from a pull item that can only be purchased with gold.
This is a problem for two reasons. For one, this item also includes abilities, which are also handled differently from the original game. Heroes start with a pair of abilities, but they can get new ones along the way and you can customize their ability slots with any you acquire. It’s a great new feature, but lumping abilities in with heroes means you’re more often than not going to end up pulling abilities (including many duplicates) than new characters. Not such a great idea if you’re not looking to spend money on gold and also want to play frequently. I imagine this will only get worse in the future, as costumes will be handled differently in Avengers Alliance 2, as well. Each costume will be its own individual character, which will likely inflate the roster over time and make it difficult to acquire the specific characters you’re seeking to recruit without spending a bunch on gold due to the RNG factor.