So, recently I had a friend recommend we get and subsequently play Torchlight 2. However, I didn’t really feel like spending any money at the time and so counter offered that we try out the new free-to-play Diablo-like MMO: Marvel Heroes. We got 2 other friends together and away we went on a new crazy adventure! Well, less of a crazy adventure and more your traditional button click marathon while we chatted about nothing in particular. For you see, Marvel Heroes is a strange game in many ways. In some regards, its design is antiquated. However, there are still parts of the game that feel extremely experimental and new. Let’s take a closer look at some of the pros and cons of Marvel Heroes!
If you’re looking for a grand story, Marvel Heroes really shouldn’t be your go-to game. It’s a Diablo inspired MMO game based on comic books. If there has ever been a mix of factors that lend themselves to an open ended story, it’s those three. Summed up, resident Marvel badguy Dr Doom has capture the magic McGuffin of the week and is using its power to provide every other bad guy in the Marvel universe an excuse to bust out of whatever hole their currently located in and wreak havoc. Therefore, it’s up to you and every other Marvel hero they can remember to lock up all the bad guys and stop Dr Doom from playing evil god. While it may seem I’m treating the story as childish (which it is), it is by no means bad for the type of game they’re going for. The story is open ended and pumps out as much fan service as it can provide. If you’re a fan of any Marvel character, villain or otherwise, you more than likely have some representation in this game. You’re here for bad guys being over the top and campy, good guys being snarky with one liners, and to just click click click kill your way through hordes of generic grunts. In that regard, Marvel Heroes delivers.
So, now that we know it delivers thematically, the big question remains of does it deliver mechanically? Well, yes and no. Let me make this clear: Marvel Heroes is not a great game nor is it a horrible game. Think of it like a B-rated action film. It scratches all the right places you wanted it to, but you know you really shouldn’t have needed those areas scratched to begin with because you know it’s bad for you. In its most pure state, this game is Diablo 2, but with a few more rough spots. Gameplay is fairly mindless and you really are just fishing around waiting for awesome random loot to drop while killing thousands of henchmen. The game doesn’t do much to improve this combat/loot synergy since its earlier form in Diablo 2 and that’s really only a horrible thing if you let the skinner-box style rewards addict you too much. It’s not the healthiest of gameplay to obsess over, but it can still make for a fun time.
Characters (which are equivalent to Classes for you Diablo fans out there) are mixed regarding how much fun abilities they have. They each have 3 talent trees with various passive and active abilities, but new powers are given at a fairly slow pace. Furthermore, you only start the game with 5 free heroes of whom you have to choose 1 and randomly unlock others along the way. With no way to test out these heroes before you choose, it is pretty easy to get stuck as a character whose play style just really doesn’t match your taste. You have access to a greater number of heroes if you want to, but each of these characters must be bought for real money if you don’t want to pray to the random number generator you get lucky enough to get one while playing. All this stuff really isn’t that much in the game’s favor, but I still want to give them credit for having just such a number of heroes/classes to choose from and trying to spread out roughly unique mechanics among them. Every now and then you encounter a cool ability that hasn’t been tried much in this genre and it can be fun to see just the number of abilities that there are spread throughout all the characters in the games. It’s just the sad part is that you are going to be viewing most of these powers by watching other people playing those characters, not by getting to play them yourself.
Which, speaking of other players, let’s talk about some of the new experimental stuff that Marvel Heroes does. For you gamers out there with a keen eye, you probably noticed that I mentioned Marvel Heroes is both an MMO and a Diablo like game, two genres that historically haven’t been paired together. Well, now you finally get to the see the mad fusion of these two in action! Marvel Heroes has 3 types of areas total: overworld, dungeons, and boss dungeons. Dungeons are small rooms where you’ll be playing with only yourself and whatever friends you have currently in your 6 person max party. Boss dungeons are dungeons that will automatically try and pair you in as large of a party as it can so that you can tackle a unique and at times fairly difficult boss at the end of a much larger area than normal dungeons. Finally, overworld areas are a complete free for all. Where most Diablo style games cap out at around 6 people total in the world, Marvel Heroes’ overworld will see you playing with what easily appears to be 30 to 40 heroes+. This can be both very cool and also very confusing. For you see, to the game’s credit, it utilizes dynamic quests that will appear in the overworld at random and give you a goal that anyone in the area can work towards. The most popular of these quests are overworld bosses, bosses that spawn in the overworld and require huge groups of people to defeat. Bluntly put, it can be really cool to see a huge mob of heroes shooting missiles, lasers, giant chunks of earth, and everything in-between at large beefy bosses. Sad part is, you will have a really hard time telling where you are on the screen between all those affects going off and often you will not see a boss’ attack incoming, resulting in a quick swift death. Thankfully nearby players can easily and painlessly resurrect you, but it is still ideal to not die in general.
In the end, I walk away from Marvel Heroes feeling slightly mixed. As someone who wasn’t quite satisfied with Diablo 3, it’s nice to see yet another entry into the genre. I like seeing someone try something experimental, even if it doesn’t quite work out. Games like Torchlight and what not will keep the traditional gameplay of Diablo alive, but we need the occasional weird offshoot now and then to mix things up. While I feel Marvel Heroes didn’t do enough to evolve their core combat/loot system from where it was in Diablo 2, I don’t hold it against them too harshly since they then applied those systems to a much more messy MMO / Freemium experience. I’m the type of guy who likes Diablo and occasionally buys new champions in League of Legends. I could easily see myself coming back to Marvel Heroes for another fun play through if they release a character I have a strong enough liking for. Parts of the game turn me off, but it satisfies a desire I have for a particular brand of game on occasion while making things flexible to my budget. The promise of additional future content is also appreciated since it gives me a reason to come back to the game in 6 months to a year. Marvel Heroes is a sloppy stale mess, but it’s satisfying. I should also note that, as with all things, it’s also best played with friends too. Really, Diablo like games in general are best played with friends as they can be a fun type of mindless activity to do after a long day’s work.