Marvel Heroes 2016: First Impressions

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Posted February 24, 2016 by John Clark in Video Games

I first played the Diablo-inspired MMO Marvel Heroes about a year and a half ago at the request of a friend who wanted a co-op buddy. Having gotten about halfway to the level cap, I eventually lost interest due to a lack of time and not feeling challenged by any of the content before the endgame, but came away interested in potentially picking up the game again later. I recently discovered that unlike many games, which attempt to release paid expansions or DLC to extend their legs, developer Gazillion has been overhauling Marvel Heroes annually – for free. Intrigued by this bold approach, I decided to give the game another shot. Here’s what I found.

When I reinstalled for the first time and logged into my account, I was greeted by the familiar face of Taskmaster, my favorite Marvel character and the one I’d been leveling during my last venture into the game. A professional mercenary with the ability to copy the fighting styles and techniques of people he sees in action, Taskmaster is often characterized by his sardonic sense of humor and professional, no-nonsense approach to his work. In-game, this translates to a stellar voice acting job by Steve Blum (who also voiced him in Marvel vs. Capcom 3) and plenty of situational dialogue when he’s interacting with other characters.

There's no lack of other players around, that's for sure.

There’s no lack of other players around, that’s for sure.

 

I bring this up because one of the most immediate and obvious appeals of the game is the fanservice woven into every fiber of its being. Early missions are doled out by Maria Hill and Nick Fury, every piece of gear has a quote from another character commenting on it, and the likes of Juggernaut and Dr. Doom make up the biggest boss fights. In the time-hungry genre of isometric ARPGs, Marvel Heroes attempts to set itself apart by fully embracing the universe in which it takes place. A passing interest in the ultra-popular Marvel movies will certainly suffice, but there’s a surprising amount of content that seems dedicated to providing in-jokes to those with plenty of comic lore under their belts.

This fan-focused approach is an intrinsic part of the gameplay as well. With over fifty characters to choose from, I assumed that many would be outright clones of each other, but while some do have some similarities in how they play, I’ve been pleased to find that most handle distinctly and even have multiple specializations. Taskmaster, for example, has three trees – one dedicated to ranged attacks with his bow and guns, another focused on melee with his shield and sword, and a third that emphasizes his copying of other fighters’ styles in the form of activated buffs. Even though he’s literally a copy of Hawkeye, Spider-Man, Punisher, and Captain America, he feels like his own class in a way that none of them do.

Anyone who’s played Diablo 3 on PS4 or Xbox One can attest that it handles remarkably well on a controller, and I suspect this inspired Gazillion’s decision to add gamepad support to Marvel Heroes this year, too. Though it took a little configuring to get rolling on my Xbox One Elite Controller, I feel like the game handles just as well on it as on a keyboard, with customizable buttons making it easy to find a configuration you like. While I wouldn’t argue with a more flexible camera [for both KB/M and controller settings], it’s intuitive to play on either. Joining the addition of controller support is an extensive graphical update, with new options and updated character models. While they aren’t all complete yet, those that have been finished look fantastic, and Gazillion’s dedication to keeping the game as pretty as possible as it ages is commendable.

Even this many enemies can't stand up to a fan of arrows.

Even this many enemies can’t stand up to a fan of arrows.

All in all, the new updates are impressive, as is the graphical overhaul, but there’s one interesting problem I’ve noticed – those who were midgame when the update went live [hint: me] can wind up in a very awkward place. A previous story patch updated the level requirements for story content, and between that and the fact that completed main missions can’t be redone for experience, It’s very easy to fall through the cracks on characters who are neither level 1 nor 60. With story content no longer an option on my Taskmaster, I’ve had to grind or do my legendary quest, which is a random-rolled series of missions that provide large boons to experience and rewards in the forms of tokens.

Outside of this minor bump – which won’t affect new players or those returning at level 60 at all – I’m having a lot of fun with the game, and look forward to playing more. Once I reach the cap, I’ll be trying out the endgame and posting my thoughts.


About the Author

John Clark