Heroes Is Not So Marvelous
Check out all of our past reviews.
Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes, but there are certain traits that almost all of them have. Really cool powers? Check. Ridiculous, over-the-top costume? Check. Evil super-villain to cause a near-cataclysmic event? Check.
On that list of "superhero norms" is the need to keep a secret identity. For the heroes that do, I know Tony Stark that you're too cool and rich to waste time with that, the challenge of keeping two identities is a theme in their rich histories.
Ironically, Marvel Heroes, an ambitious MMORPG from Diablo co-creator David Brevik, faces what so many of the superheroes it touts have dealt with in the pages of their respective comics: an identity crisis.
Taking a page from his days working on Diablo and Diablo II, Brevik and his team at Gazillion designed Marvel Heroes as a point-and-click action RPG with an isometric viewpoint. Or, put in simpler terms, it's Diablo with Marvel superheroes.
So far, this sounds like a brilliant idea. The two Marvel: Ultimate Alliance games were great fun, with quick, lively combat and a host of signature superpowers. Gazillion announced Marvel Heroes would be free to play too, with microtransactions a part of the game but not required to unlock new characters and costumes. Everything could be unlocked without paying a cent, they said.
Focusing on community play, Gazillion said the game was going to be an MMO as well, which, given the multiplayer elements of Diablo, didn't sound too bad at all.
Except that the game is, in fact, outright bad. The action RPG element of the game is underdeveloped. The microtransactions are almost required since the drop rate for unlockables is so low, and the MMO aspect isn't only unnecessary, but turns the game into an inane exercise in clicking and holding the left mouse button for seemingly no reason at all.
What's so frustrating about Marvel Heroes is that in the few, rare instances the game leaves you by yourself, there's a tremendous amount of potential for an entirely new ARPG franchise. All the MMO elements serve to do is get in the way of the action aspects, making the game clunky and awkward. I lost track of the number of times I went through an area, only to find it cleared of enemies who had been taken out by other players well before I got there.
Boss battles suffer similarly. With so many players taking part in the fight, it's simply a matter of clicking and holding down an attack button as you watch the health bar shrink. There's no satisfaction to it whatsoever.
Despite the bland combat, one of the novelties of anything Marvel-related is the cast of characters, and with 26 heroes playable in the game at the time of writing, getting new ones could be reason enough to come back for more. But with character drops so rare, purchasing them becomes almost essential.
Eleven of the most popular characters are available for purchase in three separate packs, each bundled with eight costumes and 10 fortune cards, which unlock a rare item when used. (Each pack contains four characters, but Wolverine appears in two of them.)
The cost for the three character packs? The Avengers Assemble and X-Force packs cost $85 each, and the Marvel Knights pack is $80. That's a staggering $250 price tag for a free game! Marvel Heroes does give players the option of buying individual characters, but they can run as much as $20 for heroes such as Spider-Man or Deadpool.
When you do finally unlock another hero, the game gives you a new one after the first mission, it's disappointing to see how limited the skill trees are. They're underdeveloped, bland and don't give that awe-inspiring sense of power that superheroes should have.
Graphically, Marvel Heroes is average from a gameplay perspective. It does, however, score major points for the between-mission cutscenes, which play out in the form of motion comics. The art work is outstanding, and the voice acting is spot-on. Likewise, the sound in the game does its job sufficiently, but it's during the motion comic scenes that the game truly shines.
Simply put, Marvel Heroes doesn't do the Marvel universe justice. Had it been a fully developed action RPG in the vein of Diablo, it could have been a true gem. As it stands, it serves as an amalgamation of multiple genres that are far less than the sum of its parts.
Free or not, Marvel Heroes simply doesn't deliver and gets 2.5 GiN Gems out of 5.
Matt Jones is an avid gamer and enjoys helping people solve all their gaming questions. : matthewJones10@hotmail.com.