Into the Super-verse: Marvel’s Avengers feels like Marvel Heroes by way of Destiny

Whether or not that works is an open question

    
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Into the Super-verse: Marvel’s Avengers feels like Marvel Heroes by way of Destiny

This past weekend, I finally had a chance to actually try out Marvel’s Avengers because the game was running its open beta. Certainly I’d already gotten the sense that there was a fair amount of controversy over this title right from the word go, but there was always going to be no matter what. At this point, this is a big license, it’s been getting developer by Crystal Dynamics for a long while, it’s suffered through several release delays, and so forth. So while I’d kept up with the words about it, I was reserving my opinion for, well… playing it.

Having now done so, I feel conflicted on some level because I can absolutely see where some of the negative response is coming from. I can also absolutely see where the positive response is coming from. And I find myself… still pretty firmly in neutral territory, honestly. I’m not intensely gung-ho about the game, but I can also see what it’s going for in both the best and worst lights.

See, the thing is… well, this is Destiny. Or, if you’d prefer, Anthem. It’s a game in which you go to a place with a mission, possibly with other people or with AI companions, and then you go all smashy-smashy to get loot and stuff to enhance your loot. You also level up along the way and put points into stuff. If you bring AI companions, your level of stuff on them affects your AI just as surely, but you only collect bits for your current character.

If that sounds kind of familiar – putting heroes together in a team and then collecting loot in a smashy frenzy – it’s because we MMO players kind of had that at one point. In broad strokes, that’s what Marvel Heroes was. It’s just that instead of taking top-down Diablo approach, this offers more of a third-person looter shooter approach.

Does that work? Is that an improvement? Well… thereby hangs a tale, I guess! Or at least a whole lot of speculation.

Tony tony tony

First and foremost, it’s important to note that one problem the game has is one that I don’t think the developers could entirely solve. It is really hard to see someone who is supposed to be Captain America who neither looks like Chris Evans nor sounds like he does. You have to reckon with that reality. It is 2020, the Avengers films have made all of the money, and it’s impossible not to compare portrayals of the characters with those films.

Heck, the movies don’t even want you to. Bruce Banner is clearly channeling Mark Ruffalo, Tony Stark is halfway to Robert Downey Jr., and so forth. But the result is that everybody feels… well, slightly off. To use a rather British aphorism for no reason, it’s like walking in and finding that everything has been replaced by a Poundland generic version.

What is a bit stranger is the fact that despite the licensing deal, none of the actual music from the films shows up. Alan Silvestri’s score is also deeply associated with the characters at this point, and a somber low-tempo rendition of the theme song doesn’t sound right when it’s supposed to evoke memories but you’re just thinking “that’s not what the Avengers theme sounds like.”

You might think this is just quibbling, and it is, but it’s also a pervasive problem the game has. Its first impression is universally somewhat off. Some of that is the fact that the beta gives you a brief tutorial level that doesn’t fully introduce everything, sure. Some of it is doubtlessly a function of cramming stuff in quickly. But at some point you have to stop making excuses for why the game feels off and start accepting that it just does.

For example, right from the start the basic toolkit everyone has feels a bit weird. Everyone has a ranged attack that works the same way. Everyone has a light and heavy melee combo. The exact mechanics differ, but everyone can jump and scale scenery in various fashions. The list goes on, but it feels odd to have Hulk, Black Widow, Iron Man, and Ms. Marvel all control basically the same way.

The trick, though, is that what I just typed up there is kind of a lie. They don’t all control the same way at all; they just all have a universal toolkit that allows you to refine things along the line. For example, the Hulk can pick up enemies that have been knocked around and use them as projectiles instead of just random debris; this is actually a useful tactic to deal with two threats at once. Black Widow’s guns and Iron Man’s repulsors play differently from one another and from other ranged attacks. Thor’s flinging of his hammer allows you to set up some elaborate traps for the hammer coming back from behind enemies.

But your first impressions are going to be that everyone has the same basic moveset, because that’s how the game presents itself. All of the ability to fine-tune things and change stuff around doesn’t alter that basic impression.

Khaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaan!

It’s a bit of a shame because once you start actually getting to differentiate your characters and start picking up gear, the game goes from being functional to being actually pretty fun. The multiplayer side of things in particular offers a great time. Characters have a diverse set of powers that can do different things, and there is definitely a sense of vague roles in combat, but it’s not a trinity-style tank, DPS, healer. It’s much more akin to different forms of battlefield control, and it’s great fun to rip through robots while juggling the needs of the mission.

And there’s definitely enough meat here for fans of the aforementioned Marvel Heroes to enjoy themselves. We already know some of the characters planned for the future, but the matter of getting gear and powering up is fun in and of itself, doubly so since the other characters you’re not playing can serve as bonus characters Guild Wars-style. Add plenty of costume options outside of any cash shop, and yeah, this could definitely serve a similar niche… except that it has different mechanics from that now-departed game, and a bigger up-front price tag.

None of this is touching on the other issues, either. Like, the indicators for incoming attacks to be dodged/parried are not great at this point, which becomes an issue when some of your build options seem to revolve around them. Those ones strike me as smaller issues, though, the sort of places where “it’s a beta” can actually make a difference; lack of practice and a need for refining some interface elements that are in place can actually be fixed.

Is it a good game? Does this setup actually work? Well… on the bright side, it’s not wholly reliant on online play to keep running, so that’s a good thing. But I think a lot is going to depend on how people stick with it past the first impression. It’s not a bad first impression, at least to me, but it’s not a good one either. That’s a major issue.

So I find myself still somewhat neutral. I want to like it a lot more than I actually do so far, but I don’t dislike it either. And if you really miss Marvel Heroes and want something similar, it might scratch that itch.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Eliot Lefebvre and Justin Olivetti covering superhero MMORPGs, past, present, and future! Come along on patrol as Into the Super-verse avenges the night and saves the world… one column at a time.

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mysecretid

The more I learn about this game, the less I think I’ll enjoy it. That’s disappointing.

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EmberStar

One thing I really liked about Marvel Heroes (before the big PC “reboot” where they stripped out a ton of abilities to make it more like the console version) was that each of the heroes played so differently. Playing as Spiderman was NOT the same as the Hulk, or Rocket, or Thor. When they added him, Dr Doom had at least two *totally* different ways to play depending on if you wanted to focus on his talents as a mastermind (bring your own army of loyal Doombots!) or as a sorcerer.

It’s also something that I enjoy in Warframe – each Warframe has wildly different powers, and even some that kind of overlap with another don’t do so completely. Trinity and Oberon can both heal, and both can damage enemies. But Trinities link means if you want to use her as a “healer tank,” you have to be *right* up in the enemies face to get the best use out of it. Where Oberon can throw down his fields of eldritch ferns and work from long range (but with the ability to *really* make anything that tries to melee him regret it for the rest of its life. All two seconds of it.)

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

I think this game has reasonably emulated that. Iron Man plays nothing like the other characters, neither does Black Widow (from what I’ve heard). Ms Marvel and Hulk both feel like very similar dodgy brawlers early on, but once you start unlocking abilities and some health/defense upgrades through gear, their own gameplay styles start to shine. It’s one of the few things I think this game managed to do right.

What we have yet to see is whether each character will feasibly have multiple play styles like in MHO.

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mysecretid

The PC “reboot” was painful, I agree.

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traja

Don’t worry if your friends are at a higher Power Level than you. When in a Strike Team, Power Level is a unified value across the team, and will determine enemy power. Challenge Rating doesn’t limit the matchmaking pool either; difficulty is set individually per player, and affects the rewards you receive at the end of the mission.

This being a website for MMO fans I don’t think I need to explain why that is absolutely ridiculous. The game is DOA.

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EmberStar

Actually I think you do need to explain why this is such a terrible thing. Because I’m pretty sure that City of Heroes had a system kind of like that, and I think Star Trek Online might have something loosely similar right now. STO at least doesn’t seem to be on immediate life support. And I’m *pretty* sure that the end of City of Heroes wasn’t because people of different levels could play together without someone getting shut out because their level was too high/low for them to get XP or rewards.

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traja

Sure I can go over it no problem.

CoH has the mentoring system where you can play with a lower level friend for instance by having your level be temporarily matched to theirs. So you become less powerful for the lower level content to be reasonable to do. That is a system that I have no issues with.

What this is saying is that you can have two max level characters but playing on different difficulties. So one is on brutal difficulty with enemies being tanky and hitting hard, while the other is on easy difficulty where enemies die in a couple hits and deal next to no damage. That combination makes any instance faceroll easy because the player on easy difficulty can carry the player doing brutal.

It would be like in WoW you would have 3 people doing m+ 15 and two players doing normal, at the same time, in the same dungeon. It completely trivializes anything that would otherwise be a challenge. Also it enables farming methods where you take turns being the carry player who is doing easy for the others who are getting brutal difficulty loot.

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

That’s not how it actually works in practice though. Per the devs in an AMA last month, which matches my experience in the beta weekends, missions scale down to the lowest powered player in the match, while gear drops still scale to your individual power level (influenced by the challenge rating).

So whether the enemies are one-shotting you, or getting one-shot by you, is based more on the CR you choose rather than the people you’re grouping with.

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traja

That is the problem, that it depends on the CR you choose individually. That you can have someone doing Easy and someone doing Brutal in the same mission. The Brutal player getting Brutal missions reward while the Easy player rolls over the mission for him.

How else would it work that players have different difficulties set in the same instance? Let’s do this in WoW terms to reduce confusion. How do you have it make sense that some players are doing Mythic while others are doing Normal, in the same instance, and the Mythic players still get a Mythic reward?

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

The only time I ever got matched with people of a different CR was the first weekend, when the game’s matchmaking was so busted it would put you into missions you didn’t even select. Even then the CR was set for the entire group – it overrode my default choice of CR2. That was a bug, not a feature. If you’re set to CR2 the game puts you with other CR2s.

I never once had a single match in either beta weekend I played where one person was one-shotting everything, and nearly every match featured a wide range of levels and power scores.

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traja

The quote I pasted is from a newsletter posted today so it certainly appears to be the intention that players can be in the same mission but with a different CR.

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

Then they’ve done a terrible job wording this stuff, as it both contradicts what they claimed in their July AMA on the old Reddit, as well as how everything appeared to function in the beta weekends.

Even that newsletter makes it incredibly unclear. It first defines the three level mechanics as:

Hero Level: The individual Hero’s total level, which is increased by gaining XP. The Hero Level affects enemy drops, chest rewards, and skill point availability.
Power Level: The average number of all Gear slots used. Power Level influences rewards, enemy progression, and gates access to late-game content.
Challenge Rating: This is the chosen difficulty of each War Zone on the War Table. Challenge rating affects enemy attack and defensive strength and counter difficulty.

But then in your quote about playing with friends, they instead say it’s your group’s unified PL that determines enemy power, and that challenge rating determines the loot you get?

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traja

It says that Challenge Rating determines the rewards at the end of the mission. So presumably the base PL of loot is still determined by your power level. I guess CR means quantity or rarity, or both.

The way I understand the group situation is that with friends you will have some average PL for the whole group and everyone functions at that power level, but that the PL of loot would still be based on what you personal average is. Then at the end you will receive a reward based on what each picked as their CR.

Basically this means that Power Level only matters up to a threshold and not beyond it. To optimize after that you will look at stats other than PL. At worst it can mean a situation similar to Anthem, where the best gearset was quite low level because of this mechanic.

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Schmidt.Capela

Why I’m giving it a pass:

– Exclusive Spidey. This by itself would prevent me from purchasing it on any platform that doesn’t have Spidey due to not getting the whole game (and missing one of my favorite Marvel characters ever), and prevent me from purchasing it on a platform that does have Spidey because I don’t want to reward anti-consumer behavior. It would take either an end to the exclusivity, or else an unofficial mod adding Spidey to the PC version, to get me to even consider the game.

– Loot-based. IMHO this strikes a deep dissonance with hero-themed games.

The image and audio differences to the movies don’t bother me in the least. Though, granted, while I’m a Marvel fan, I’m not exactly a fan of the Marvel movies, to the point I kinda stopped watching them some time ago (mostly because of the two latest Avengers movies being a single story that ended in a massive cliffhanger; this made me choose to just not watch Infinity War until End Game was released, but in the time since I kinda lost interest in the MCU).

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krieglich

If there was an award for ridiculousness, this game would win it in every category.

It’s packed with effing micro transactions, battle passes for every(!) single(!) hero, boring gameplay and the slowest combat system on earth.

“And if you really miss Marvel Heroes and want something similar, it might scratch that itch.”
Not a bit.

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

Spider-Man PS4 and the Arkham games had no issues with their characters just being their characters, rather than movie knockoffs. Avengers could have easily avoided the lookalike syndrome by just being for a more ‘comicy’ or animated style, like so many games have in the past.

This game decided to come out gates in its original announcement with very blatant off-brand versions of the MCU actors – clearly inspired by but different enough to avoid royalties. One comment I saw about it last year was “it looks like they based the game on the actors’ stunt doubles.” To their credit they did update the models since that point, but the game’s whole visual style is just bland and uninspired regardless.

My other big issue is that nothing in the game besides the characters felt MARVEL. They’ve said they have the whole Marvel universe to work with. So where are the Skrulls? The Kree? Sentinels? Hydra? The Black Order? The Annihilation Wave? The various baddies from Asgard and the nine realms? Doom and his Latverians and bots? We see logos in the A-Day level for both the Wrecking Crew and Roxon, so why are they relegated to just being easter eggs?

Why the hell are we stuck fighting bland AIM drones, bland AIM soldiers, and bland AIM robots the whole time? Hell they’re not even ULTRON robots, they’re just boring gray robots. Even the boss in the “boss invasion” multiplayer map was just another bland AIM robot, rather than an actual Marvel villain.

It all feels like a half-assed MCU knockoff that they didn’t want to go “full Marvel” with because god forbid the fans who only know the MCU might actually have to read up on who some of these non-movie villains might be.

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EmberStar

It all feels like a half-assed MCU knockoff that they didn’t want to go “full Marvel” with because god forbid the fans who only know the MCU might actually have to read up on who some of these non-movie villains might be.

Or they could just explain it in-story. Something the movies have actually been reasonably good at, even when it’s pretty minimal. “This is Red Skull. He talks like an intellectual, he’s basically a super-fascist that even scares the Nazis, and he kills people. Oh, and his head looks like a red freaking skull. Also, he hates Captain America.”

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

Yeah it really doesn’t take that much work to do. “Oh no it’s the Skrull, an intergalactic space-faring race of shapeshifters who want to conquer our planet and take it over because their homeworld was destroyed !” Boom done.

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Ashfyn Ninegold

And here I spent the past week playing The Last Echo and it was awesome.

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Bryan Turner

Are there going to be other characters that haven’t been in the movies yet like the X Men for example or are they just including some of the Avengers (since they couldn’t he bothered to include all the MCU ones)?

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Ben Stone

Ms Marvel (Kamala Khan) is one of the main characters and hasnt been in the MCU yet. I suspect they will draw on the wider universe.

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

Nearly all of the leaked playable characters have shown up in the MCU. The only ones that haven’t are She-Hulk (MCU forthcoming), Kate Bishop (MCU forthcoming), and technically Mar-Vell. The latter may also be an MCU knockoff, assuming they use the version Annette Bening played in Captain Marvel rather than the original male from the comics.

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Bryan Turner

Well no X Men not interested.

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

I didn’t expect any to be honest. The game’s development started before the Fox buyout happened, so mutants were very out of favor in the Marvel universe (and obviously the MCU). It’s why the game’s centered around the whole terrigen mist plot point that created Kamala Khan, since (at the time) Marvel were using that to push Inhumans as the X-Replacement.

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Bryan Turner

Your info regarding Marvel Comics and the X Men is out of date, a year ago Jon Hickman took over the X Men and has set the narrative arc for numerous X Titles. Hickman is the same guy known for his Fantastic Four run, and his Avengers run which led into Secret Wars which was supposed to be Marvels version of a DC Crisis.

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

No, it’s not out of date, it was literally my whole point. Hickman’s House/Powers of X happened because the Fox buyout concluded and the X-Men were no longer a competing (cinematic) property. This game’s announcement and development started before any of that.

I’m sure we’ll see some X-people added to the game in a couple years, once their current crop of DLC characters are finished, but they weren’t part of the original batch (most of which were datamined, not officially announced).

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Witches

Doesn’t look ready to launch next week.

It’s a looooooooooooooong way from being able to be compared to Marvel Heroes, even as an Avengers from the MCU game it’s pretty incomplete, no Hawkeye, Vision, Scarlet Witch or Quicksilver.

The face model for the Black Widow seems to be Colby Smulders, a very weird choice, and Thor just looks…strange, something is not right with that face model.

The best thing about MH was how you could be your favourite version of a superhero, this looks like the polar opposite of that so far.

Never played Destiny, would describe it as The Division with superpowers instead of guns.

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traja

It’s like The Division with superpowers instead of guns, and no pvp, and no city map.

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Kanbe

I had little time to actually play so only got through the intro. It may get better later but I found the gameplay to be on the bland side. I would want to see more than light/heavy/ranged attack and a special. Super heros have powers, use them!

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krieglich

It doesn’t get better later, the gameplay and combat system stays the bland shit you’ve seen in the intro.

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

If you only played the A-Day mission then yeah, it does get a little bit better. Not a whole lot though. Every character has three special powers that regenerate over time, which you can get gear for/pick up abilities to speed up. I think the characters in the A-Day mission each only had access to one of the three.

These are in addition to the light/heavy/ranged combat things, which get added onto as well.