One of the questions that I received after my debut Marvel Heroes column was, “Can you explain how to play this game for free?” And sure, I could’ve been snarky and replied, “You just boot up the game and play without spending money on it,” but then I realized that this was asked by one of my friends who is twice my muscle mass and I should probably not tick him off.
Actually, it’s a good question. Players going into Marvel Heroes for the first time are often understandably wary about the ins and outs of its business model, all the while nervously twitching in anticipation of the moment when the game decides to slap down a pay wall or shove a guilt trip down their throats for not coughing up cash. The truth is that this game is remarkably generous in what it gives for free and rarely if ever pressures you to buy. I spend money on this game because I want to, not because I have to.
But if you wanted to play 100% for free and get the most out of it? There’s a guide for that too, and it’s after the break!
First things first: Marvel Heroes doesn’t sell power, and it doesn’t even really sell advancement (XP boosts aside). Most of the money that this game makes is through selling characters, team-ups, pets, and costumes. Acquiring as many of those as possible is a goal for many players, one that is accessible by paying, playing, or both. Choosing not to drop a penny on the game will require some patience as you settle in for the long game, but it’s totally feasible.
Gazillion gives you a nice start in the game. Right off the bat, you’ll get to select one hero join your roster as an “unlocked” level 60 (the game allows you to play all characters to level 10 to get a feel for them). On day 2, you’ll be gifted an incredible sum of 400 eternity splinters, which is one of the rarest currencies in the game (more on that later). With those splinters, you can purchase one additional hero at 400 splinters or two heroes for 200 splinters apiece. So by the dawn of day two, you could have three full characters in your roster to level — that’s not a bad start!
Marvel Heroes is well-known among its playerbase as a game that genuinely seems to love giving you free stuff. You’ll want to keep your eyes out for the freebies, such as this month’s second anniversary giveaways or various promo codes that you can apply to your account. Orcz keeps an up-to-date list of these codes, and I’ve verified that they work.
Of course, the biggest source of presents is the daily login rewards. Get into the habit of logging in at least for one minute every day to click on the gift icon (occasionally there’s more than one if there’s an ongoing event). You’ll accumulate a lot of great stuff through this, including more splinters, a free pet on day 100, a free team-up on day 200, and a free random hero token on day 300.
The achievement system is relatively new to Marvel Heroes, but is well worth checking out for its rewards. Many achievements will gift you goodie chests, which are always welcome. However, there are a handful of categories that go the extra step with premium rewards such as costumes, team-ups, ultimate upgrade tokens, and pets. Those are worth scoping out as long-term goals. I know they’re on my radar right now.
Fortune cards are Marvel Heroes’ version of lockboxes, although they don’t drop in the game; they are simply sold in the store. I’ve never been super-tempted to buy any of them (they’re $1 each), but for some people they’re desirable because they have costumes and other “chase” items that are impossible to get anywhere else.
However, did you know that Marvel Heroes will give you free fortune cards? One of the vendors, Clea, will sell you cards from the first series for 10 cube shards apiece. These shards are not hard to get — running terminals is a good way to snag them daily — and the cards are usually good for boost potions. Once in a while you’ll get a costume too; I think I got a Wolverine one a while back.
5. Prestige and story bonuses
Speaking of costumes, I’d say they’re probably the hardest to get in the game for free. Once in a blue moon one will drop, but most of the time you’ll need to pay or just accept your default outfit. However, you do have a path to getting more costumes by playing through the prestige system.
Prestiging is a topic for a future column, but the short version is that it entails voluntarily going back to level 1 on a hero in exchange for a few extra rewards (like a name color change or the ability to buy an Iron Buddy pet). One of the rewards is a copy of your basic costume, which might seem silly until you realize that you can take three identical copies of a costume and exchange them at the crafter for a new (random) costume.
I’d also encourage you to clean out your story mode on all three difficulty levels. Not only do you get power points and other permanent stat boosts, but there are some nice freebies here, including fortune cards and potions. Free is free, right?
6. Eternity splinters
If you’re really looking for the free in Marvel Heroes, eternity splinters will soon become your world entire.
It used to be that Marvel Heroes would make hero tokens random drops, but players didn’t like the “random” part of that so much, so Gazillion went back to the drawing board and decided to introduce eternity splinters instead. Now, every eight minutes or so of combat gameplay, you’ll see a pink splinter (and occasionally more than one) drop. Save up enough splinters, and you’ll be able to buy any of the heroes and team-ups you desire.
Most heroes are 400 splinters each, although there are some that are 200 and some that are 600. That’s a lot of saving up to do, particularly if you want to collect all 48 heroes. One strategy is to buy random hero tokens for 175 splinters apiece, particularly if your roster isn’t very large. Any hero you get will be worth more than what you paid for it, although you do run the risk of getting a less-desirable hero or a repeat (in which case you get a token to upgrade that hero’s ultimate ability). I bought two in a row and got Hawkeye both times, so now I prefer to pay more and be assured of what I’m getting.
There are ways to speed up your eternity splinter acquisition. One is through boosts (splinter boosts are particularly rare; I’ve seen only one from a Christmas event). However, the main way is to increase your special item find (SIF) stat, either through gear or boosts. The more SIF you have, the higher your chances of getting a splinter drop on a kill.
If you do spend money…
Whether or not you spend money on Marvel Heroes is your business. I’m not here pushing you one way or the other. But I did want to end this column by giving you one last piece of advice that I learned over time.
If you’re tight with your money and want to pay just a little, I would say the most important thing you could buy is more stash (bank) space for your account. Inventory space is in short supply in Marvel Heroes, and until or unless the rumored splinter-purchasable stash space comes, money is the only way to get more.
And because costumes are much harder to come by than heroes, team-ups, and pets, I consider it money well-spent to buy an outfit that I particularly enjoy.
I’ll turn it over now to the comments section. What advice would you give to players looking to enjoy the game for free?