Developer: Gazillion Entertainment
Available on: PC
Release Date: June 4th 2013
Reviewer’s note: This review was originally written August 14th, 2013 on my IGN account. I decided to move it over here to keep things in one place.
I’ll admit it now: I suck at MMOs. I also suck at Diablo styled RPGs. Yet I keep going back to them for some reason I can’t figure out myself. Marvel Heroes is a free-to-play MMORPG that takes some clear cues from Diablo. The game puts you in the role of one of about 20ish heroes from the Marvel universe, at least if you’re willing to shell out the cash for the more interesting ones.
Upon starting the game, you’re asked to select your free hero. You have a choice of one of 5: The Thing, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Daredevil, or Storm (Who I personally picked and played through the game with). Any other character can be obtained in one of two ways: paying for them with cash, or collecting enough Eternity Splinters in game to buy them. When I originally started playing at launch, the heroes were almost stupidly overpriced (Iron Man, Spider-man, and Deadpool were $20 each, for example) but by the time I was done the prices have gone down (They’re now only $14.50). Heroes could cost either $4, $9, $11, or $14.50 mostly depending on how popular they are (and/or if they starred in a movie recently). Likewise, there’s a chance that every enemy you kill can drop an Eternity Splinter, or you can get them as quest rewards, that you can spend on heroes, which will either cost 200, 400, or 600 of them. You could also spend 175 of them to get a completely random hero. Eternity Splinters were introduced when I was about half way through the story, and by the time I was done I was about 25 short of the random hero option. So if you complete the story from start to finish, you can probably afford either a random hero, or one of the cheaper ones. The good news is that this means the game is completely free to play, and I never dropped a dime on it while I played. The bad news is that you’ll have to shell out cash or time for the hero you want, most likely.
Now for the game itself. The story involves a group of villains breaking free from prison, in an escape orchestrated by Dr. Doom. Really early in the heroes learn that this is just a ruse to cover his real plan of gaining ultimate power. And that’s… really about how deep the story gets. Characters don’t really get developed, there’s not really any twists, and nothing really happens. The story plays out in comic book sequences that actually fit the theme nicely and look neat. As a note, if you want to feel like your hero is personally involved in the story, I suggest playing either Captain America, Spider-man, or Wolverine, as they are the only three heroes who are in the story from start to finish. The other heroes that tag along tend to get swapped out here or there. For example, the first third of the game has the other heroes being Black Widow and Luke Cage, the second part is Cyclops and Storm, and the final one is Hulk, Ms. Marvel, and Iron Man. None of the five free heroes, except Storm, are involved and even some of the paid heroes don’t even show up.
Moving onto the gameplay, if you’ve played Diablo or Torchlight recently then you already have a good idea on how to play this game. You play from a top down perspective, and control your character by pointing and clicking on where you want to go. The buttons A-H on the keyboard, along with the left and right click on the mouse, are dedicated to the abilities you want to use. On one hand it all works, which is nice. I had fun dropping lighting on people and watching their ragdolls flop to the ground. On the other hand, it’s not very fun after a while. By the end of the game I was still using almost the same abilities as I was from the beginning. My basic attack never changed from “drop lighting on someone’s head” and nearly all the abilities I had hot keyed were some different version of that, usually with little notable difference. Enemies rarely required any kind of tactics to fight and mostly just boiled down to how many I could kill with a single chain lighting attack. The only time I saw anything close to tactics in play was during the boss fights. Even then, most bosses were just some version of “Punch until they die” and few bosses required any kind of thought outside of that scenario.
The gameplay itself is split up into three segments. The first is the hub world, where you’ll either hang out in Stark Tower, the X-Mansion, or the S.H.I.E.L.D Helicarrier. From these locations you can buy and sell items, craft items, accept some quests, do the daily missions, or join the PVP. You can also talk to some of the NPC heroes and learn some Marvel history while you’re there. One weird quirk about these places is that every character has a “I’m bored” line for when you spend a few minutes there. So the whole time you’re there, you just keep hearing different heroes blurt out their version of “I’m bored” over and over.
And different heroes is a good segway into the second part of the game: the open areas. From the hub you go to various open areas where a bunch of different players are beating up people, doing event quests, and running between instances.These sections are the most like a traditional MMO in the fact that you always see other players running around and fighting enemies. It’s funny at first, but you quickly stop feeling unique when you begin to see 10 different Storms running around using the same abilities as you. The game now also has the problem of having to deal with dozen of heroes running around and trying to balance that. As such, enemies tend to spawn at a stupidly increased rate to the point where you’ll pretty much not escape constant fights as you slog your way to the next instance.
The instances, which can be run solo or with a group, are the best part of the game. They play like a level in an action RPG and do a much better job of making you feel like your hero. Each one takes about 10-15 minutes to complete and usually end in a boss fight against a (sometimes) recognizable villain of the Marvel universe. Most of these bosses aren’t very fun though, and just feel like enemies with really large health bars. Some are really annoying even, for example the boss fight against Pyro had so much going on the screen at once, I had no clue what was going on or where anyone was. The final boss against Dr. Doom had so many effects going on that I had to lower my graphic setting to keep the game from lagging. Also, it should be noted that death has zero consequence in this game. If you’re having a problem you can seriously just walk in, do what you can with basic attacks, die, and then just walk back to where you were, the boss still missing the same amount of health. Most bosses even have checkpoints right outside their doors, making this strategy even easier.
Graphically, the game looks fine. I thought that the abilities’ effects and such were neat, and none of the graphics stood out as really bad. The motion comic cutscenes were a fun throwback to the game’s comic origins, and didn’t feel out of place. Likewise, none of the voice acting stood out as particularly terrible in any way, but none stood out either. I’ll be honest, I don’t even remember music playing at any point so I can’t even comment on that.
So, overall, I’ll admit that didn’t have much fun with Marvel Heroes. The game felt tedious, with awful boss encounters and a dull story. There is some fun to be had here in the early levels, and the game is completely free to play with no need to drop a dime on it, if you don’t mind playing a default hero