I don’t recall exactly when I first saw screenshots and images from MultiVersus, but I do recall initially thinking that it was absolutely ridiculous and truly a stretch of a concept – even for a cash grab. I mean seriously, characters from Scooby Doo in a combat game fighting DC superheroes, Finn and Jake, and even… Arya from Game of Thrones? It’s almost beyond silly. How did this even get pitched, much less made?
But then I watched videos, and now I’ve even played it, and holy moly, y’all… it’s good. This is really, really good. I played it, went to bed, woke up the next day, and realized I had a dream about playing it. I can’t believe it. I’ve been playing MultiVersus at every opportunity and even trying to sneak in a few matches here and there.
Now, MOP’s own Colin already gave us his thoughts on the game last week. My response to basically everything he said is a great big ditto. He really covered and touched on just about everything MultiVersus has as a whole. And as I understand it, he’s an avid Super Smash Bros. player as well, so he really checked all the right boxes. I haven’t played a Smash Bros. game since the GameCube edition came out, but I did play it a lot back then. So I honestly can’t speak much to compare this to that, but what I can do is tell you how well MultiVersus has been built and where I see some flaws in the balance, design, and gameplay choices.
For those unfamiliar with MultiVersus, seriously stop here and go read Colin’s piece. But the one-liner is that it’s a Smash Bros. clone with a mishmash of characters from Warner Bros. properties. It’s a much smaller scale of game than Smash Bros. in terms of both playable characters and actual arena fights. Not to mention there’s no semblance of a PvE story mode; it’s pure online PvP, although you can fight bots.
Combat-wise, the attacks and animations are all top-notch. When you initiate a move, it fires off as you expect. Heroes don’t feel floaty or move in an unnatural way. And it’s always a satisfying moment when you land a solid hit and your foe flies off the edge of the map.
With that said, there are certainly some issues around character hitboxes and general balance that need a solid update. I’ve read others complain about the reach of Finn’s sword and just how easily he is able to combo from one attack to the next. I’ve also experienced Garnet knocking me off an edge with a shoulder bash that clearly didn’t connect with my hero. For a game with so much going on during a fight, it’s really frustrating to have to fight design issues too.
Another design choice that I can understand in some respects but really feels bad when playing against it is the various grab moves. Moves like Superman’s two grabs and throws are repeatedly spammable and infinitely infuriating to play against. In one fight, I spammed these moves and got all four knockouts for my team. Since each arena is unique, there are some that cater to these cheap tricks more than others. A similar attack is the Iron Giant’s grab followed by his downward meteor-looking attack off a ledge. I think Velma even has something similar with her police car that is just outrageous.
Sure, in some of those cases a “skilled” player will be able to break out. And I know the Iron Giant’s attack is a suicide move, but you really don’t want players to be frustrated into feeling like they’ve been beaten by a cheap trick, especially younger players or those who are not as versed in these sorts of games. A few fights like that and I wouldn’t expect them to return. So, if you’re up against these sorts of attacks and you end up losing to them, don’t feel too bad. It’s not so much your fault as it is poor design. Hopefully the developers will make balance adjustments including adding cooldowns where necessary to prevent the spam.
There are also some weird control issues that are an absolute plague. Oftentimes, it seems like the attack, specifically my neutral charge attacks, will begin facing the wrong direction. It’s extremely annoying to be setting up a knockout blow only to have your hero face the wrong way and blow the whole setup. I’ve been playing primarily on Steam, so perhaps it’s a PC issue. It’d be interesting to know if other players have the same issue.
So while we might still be in beta technically, I’d like to see these sorts of issues firmed up. We’ll see whether Player First Games can actually live up to its name in that respect and work on these problems to improve the game or will just push forward with new cash shop items. (The recent season delay suggests it’s the former.)
Taunts represent another system that could use an improvement. On one hand it’s fun, especially since players can’t directly communicate through any chat. A better solution would be to do a quick chat or sticker system for conveying information like Rocket League does – something that lets players quickly indicate to one another who they’re targeting, which side of the map to fight on, or just anything of that sort. I’m sure we’ve all had Rocket League matches where players intentionally send “What a save!” when you miss a block, but there are also games where players send it genuinely.
The biggest downside I can see with MultiVersus right now is that it’s kind of hard. Or more likely, I’m just not very good. My family are serious Steven Universe fans, so when I saw we could play as the Crystal Gems, I was excited to show it to the family. But the game is just too hard for younger kids. They kept losing constantly and so just lost interest.
It leaves me wondering whom the game is really meant for. I wanted it to be something fun for the family, but it’s way too hard. So, I guess it’s going to be more of an esports sort of game. But then, is the audience for esports and these IPs really there? I’m not sure, but I guess we’ll see.