The biggest systems update ever for Marvel Heroes 2016 is about to land on the live servers this coming Thursday. The culmination of seven months of rigorous work, every single hero (of the 50+ in the game) is receiving a skills pass. The Omega system for end-game progression is being replaced by the Infinity system. Talents are coming to the game along with traits for each hero. Skill points are going by the wayside as a part of this all, oh and Rocket can ride Groot with a new Ultimate power. That last part may be more important to me than you.
Now, let’s get the controversial bits out of the way, as everyone’s going to have a different opinion on the direction this update goes with progression. David Brevik was Marvel Heroes driving force for a long time. As basically the godfather of skill-point ARPGs, it made sense for Marvel Heroes to have a similar system to say Diablo 2. But as time went on, even before he left Gazillion, the dev team began to realize that skill points were a.) kind of pointless and b.) useless when you can just give everyone the powers and let them make their own builds. Ergo, as of this week’s patch – skill points are gone, and you’ll have a single hotbar to assign up to 8 skills at a time.
Skill points were really a formality, a way to give you something every level, but eventually and especially at later tiers, everyone just maxed the skills they liked for their build and left the others behind. In the new system, you unlock every skill as you level, and they scale with your level. You don’t have to power them up, and your main customization of minute-to-minute play comes in the form of picking which 8 skills to have on your loadout, and to come up with multiple loadouts for different styles of play or whatever your mood might be. These can be swapped to as easily as they are now with the multi-build tool in the powers window. And yes, items with skill point ranks have been replaced by items with added power ranks. Stength, Agility, Fighting, Energy, etc are now where the bonuses lie, not in bonus power ranks. Overall, that will make your entire character more powerful, not just one or two skills.
Alongside the new powers system, every character has been overhauled with new talents and traits to further customized how your Human Torch plays from someone else’s Human Torch. As an example, using talents you can turn Scorching Wall into a Flame Wave, sending out a cascading wave of fire. You can turn Fiery Uppercut into Flame Tornado using talents to make a wider-area mid-range area attack as opposed to just a flaming punch. You can then augment Flame Tornado with the Cyclone talent that spawns a moving flame tornado which incinerates mobs as it roves about the area.
It’s this kind of customization of powers and marriage between talents and powers that makes the new system more exciting. Yes, the instant gratification of spending power points is gone, but in its place is a much more versatile toolset to build and customize the game’s cast of characters. Each hero is touched up in this update much in the same way single heroes were getting polished with individual updates. Dr. Doom got better specializations, Loki got a major fun-factor overhaul with tons of new skills, Luke Cage got a nice rework with a superb looking new Ultimate. And yes, Rocket rides Groot. I’m in love with that one.
The Infinity system is another big new change in this patch. The current Omega system was deemed too complex and filled with nebulous choices. The Infinity system, based around the 6 Infinity Stones, is intended to simplify the end-game progression of your heroes without sacrificing the impact the Omega system had. It was originally called the Omega System 2.0, in fact. Like the cutting of skill points, some may see the nixing of the 170 Omega nodes and 14 pages as “dumbing down the game”. In this case, it may be for the best.
In a lot of ways, the Infinity System reminds me of ESO’s Champion Points or Rift’s Planar Attunement. There’s no experience cap for Infinity, and since the system is an account wide tool, you’ll essentially never stop earning experience and power on any hero you choose to play, once the Infinity System is unlocked fully with your first level 60 hero. If you’ve already earned a ton of Omega Points, every 10 Omega Points will be converted to 1 Infinity Point in the new system, which translates to roughly the same amount of progression in the new system.
There are other new changes to the game. Not the least of which is BIF or Bonus Item Find as a sort of experience bar. Currently, Rare Item Find (RIF) makes rare items more likely to drop, and Special Item Find (SIF) makes it more likely that special items will drop, but the system suffers from a problem: the rarest items in the game drop with very low probability. If you multiply such small probabilities by even a large magnitude like 4x or even 10x, you still have low probability of finding anything.
Ergo, Bonus Item Find. When you use a Boost item (found throughout the game, in the store, and obtained as rewards), there will be a BIF bar that fills up. Once you do so, just by playing and gaining XP, you’ll immediately get a special loot drop with a flashy in-game effect to tell you what happened, and it’ll be from an exclusive BIF loot table catered exclusively to your account and the hero you are playing.
But wait, there’s more! The difficulty slider is also coming with this patch, effectively netting the same sort of system you might be familiar with from Diablo. You can choose progressively harder difficulties for any content you’re playing, and the rewards and experience will be greater thus. Right from the developer blog:
“Heroes that choose to play higher difficulty levels will be rewarded for their courage and skill. They will earn progressively higher experience bonuses, a bonus on the items they find (more on that later), and the upper end of the scale, called Omega, unlocks all new item tiers called Omega Rarity Items. (ED: new item rarity with special powers attached.)
Some game modes might even be limited to certain difficulty settings, for example the Raids might be restricted to Omega level difficulty. The total number of options in the slider bar will be continually evolving as we generate new content at the upper Omega levels.”
All of these changes, and on top of it we’re also getting a visual upgrade to a slew of heroes, as pictured above. I have never played Marvel Heroes seriously. I’ve dabbled, like many of you. But with these changes, and the new Infinity System that reminds me so much of what I love in ESO, I’m finally going to invest some time in leveling up a few heroes and hacking away at some bad guys. The patch launches on the live server this Thursday, January 19th.