Unless you’re a new player of the console version of Marvel Heroes, it’s a frustrating time to be a Marvel Heroes fan. 2016 was a tough year for fans of the game, as work on the “Biggest Update Ever” took up the lion’s share of the game’s production schedule and Gazillion still ended up delivering only part of what was announced.
While I’ve enjoyed the changes made to Marvel Heroes overall with the BUE, the pieces already delivered were arguably the least significant of what was announced. Yes, the changes were far-reaching and impactful, but with exceptions for woefully undertuned characters, players were still mostly enjoying the heroes they had already been playing. The real issue with Marvel Heroes, and it’s something that’s plagued the game for a long time now, is giving players a reason to want to log in every day. I love playing Marvel Heroes. I’d play it every day if there were actually something to do.
What really excited me about the changes announced last year were the new Omega items and difficulty slider features and it’s easy to understand why – they extend the item chase! These items and the increased difficulty wouldn’t fully address things--I’d still be replaying old content--but they’re an absolutely critical part of the equation. These pieces represent an extendable system with new items to hunt and new difficulties blocking me from progressing unless I gear myself up to meet the challenge. That’s the sort of loop that keeps gamers engaged with an ARPG. It’s exactly the shot in the arm the game desperately needs. Are the new talents and hero reworks great? Sure. But once you’ve messed around with things, you’re still back to square one with nothing really to do in the game other than level up.
The Omega items and difficulty level were delayed after the deployment of the BUE, but we didn’t learn the timetable until recently, when Gazillion addressed the community with a 2017 roadmap for the PC version of the game. Unfortunately, 2017 isn’t looking a whole lot better than 2016 did. The content schedule is pretty slim and Omega items aren’t likely to show up until September. That’s almost the entire new year without anything to address what is, in my opinion, the game’s most significant issue.
I’ve written about this numerous times in the past, but if Gazillion really wants to keep players playing, it needs to put its eggs into the Danger Room basket. We are getting a new tileset this year, which is great, but Danger Room really is the studio’s silver bullet to getting players to be patient between larger content releases. What keeps people playing games like Diablo III and Path of Exile? A large part of it is the Rifts and maps both games offer. When Gazillion announced it was going to offer its own version of these modes with the Danger Room, I was ecstatic. But the mode hasn’t really received the love it needs. If Gaz took advantage of the mode’s modular nature and worked on adding new DR exclusive items to chase, along with new missions, tilesets, difficulties, affixes, and enemies, players would have a varied alternative to running older content. Combine this with the Omega items and difficulty sliders and you’ve finally addressed this longstanding issue with the game. These bits and pieces can be trickled into the mode with a regular cadence in between major content updates to keep people running endlessly on that hamster wheel. I could deal with the imperfectly balanced heroes and other issues for a while if I had a real reason to log in, and I’m sure many veterans of the game would agree. I’m just perplexed as to why Gazillion continues to focus on creating new pieces of content that its players will churn through in a day and be done with over focusing on something modular and potentially infinitely varied like the Danger Room.
2016 was a year where I mostly tabled the game in anticipation of what would ultimately become the BUE patch and 2017 is looking to be more of the same. It’s a weird place to be in as a fan. I desperately want to play the game, but I’m beyond squeezing blood from the game’s content stone at this point. The new hero releases at least gave me a momentary distraction, but we’re only seeing two of those in 2017. I was patient while awaiting Gazillion’s plans, mostly because I hoped the massive gap in updates would lead to something significant enough to address the issues discussed here. Disappointingly, the picture painted by this year’s schedule tells me that if Marvel Heroes is ever to reach its potential, it’s not something we’ll be seeing until the end of yet another year, and frankly, that’s unacceptable. I appreciate the honest communication and transparency, but asking players to wait this long is a really tough sell, even for a fan like me.