Let’s just get one thing straight before I start…I REALLY wanted to love this game. MMOs, along with RPGs are my favourite genre of game, and I love a lot of the Marvel universe…comics, films and characters, so I really wanted to love this experience…but honestly…I didn’t.
Marvel Heroes is in it’s Beta stage, and my friend and rather super sketcher HiggieBaby (Click his name to check out his work) was kind enough to pass me a Beta key, so when the game is officially released in early June, things may be a little different, but initally I was disappointed with what it offered. I did eventually begin to appreciate it, (after trying a number of heroes and finding one that suited me best) but I can’t fangirl over it like I would like to. [The game does not support "screenshotting" at the time I'm writing this, so the screens here are from the game's official website]
Marvel Heroes is an MMO, in which you choose your character from the Marvel universe (26 are known to feature so far, including Thor, Hulk, Human Torch, Spider-Man, and Daredevil, and various other X-Men and Avengers) and play out a story in a massive online world, you are free to team up with other players, and you gain levels, which award points that you can choose to place on a skill tree. Think Diablo III meets DC Universe online.
The story is written by comic book author Brian Michael Bendis and deals with Doctor Doom stealing The Cosmic Cube (aka The Tesseract)…I assume to take over the world.
New Hero characters will cost money, as will customised outfits, however, Marvel do assure us all that anyone can unlock almost every character… simply from playing through the game. You can swap between your roster of Heroes at any time, which makes things tactical, interesting and potentially hilarious. The game uses the Unreal 3 Engine to render effects, so destructible environments feature, as do interactive objects. The game has public combat zones, where players can gather and fight randomised bosses, social zones like towns, and solo or party-based dungeon instances that will scale in difficulty depending on how many players are in them.
Don’t get me wrong, there were things I loved about it, the motion comic cutscenes, the customisation that comes from building a skill tree how you wish, the choice of characters and combat styles on offer, and the dynamic boss fight events where a number of you all chip in, to rid the world of some well known Marvel bad guys. (Seeing Hulk revive a dead Wolverine is a little odd, I must confess.)
However, there is a lot of clicking involved, and using the keyboard to move your hero around is pretty impossible, the controls are clunky to say the least, and the less said about the camera angles and control the better. And all that clicking just didn’t feel justified, as at times, I felt unrewarded for my efforts and just wasn’t having fun. Different belts and coats, although supposedly enhancing my stats, did not make my character look any different, and the stat increases really didn’t make a difference in combat. This is something that is done well in so many other games, (hello Diablo 3 and Guildwars 2) so I really missed it. When I upgraded Wolvie’s suit, I expected him to be tougher and he just wasn’t.
At first I was concerned that my love of Marvel would taint my opinion, but looking past the characters, this is a lacklustre MMO, it’s a grindy, click-kill-run around-pick stuff up-level up-repeat, kind of affair, and there is a part of me that can appreciate it for that. I’d love it to have more depth, and for me to care about the story, and become immersed in the experience, but I am yet to feel I can do any of these things. If you want a superhero game that functions on a story or character level, this isn’t it (so far). Marvel need to put in more of a feeling of humanity into game, they do it so well in the films, I have hope for the game yet.
In short I love that I can play as a Marvel hero, with friends, but the way the game executes this, makes it difficult to love in a world that has the likes of Diablo, Torchlight and Guildwars, which are all doing this kind of thing, much much better. That being said, I remember the launch of DC Universe Online (yes I went there) and that was very similar…it is now however, a pretty decent title…so my faith remains in Marvel…for now, just don’t go into it expecting an Iron Man film type experience, because it’s more of a Hulk film…but it’s definitely not a Daredevil affair, and since it’s free to play, I say it’s worth keeping an eye on, and trying out, as although it’s currently not very fun to play…something keeps me going back to it.