Over the past year or two I've read a couple of books and watched a couple of films that personally I think would make epic video games.
Marvel Heroes Beta Review: The Avengers Assemble In A Fair Free-To-Play Diablo Clone
Excelsior! The NDA has been lifted and now I can openly talk about Marvel Heroes, the Diablo-style MMO based off of our beloved comic universe. While the game is still in beta and a full release isn’t scheduled until June, the game has come a long way and with the NDA gone you could argue that perhaps we’ve seen the last of the huge patches and updates. Now it’s bug killing time for the dungeon crawling caped and cowled as well as the hard working team over at Gazillion.
While there were plenty of keys to be found around the internet, not everyone got to experience the online Avengers mash-up so it’s time to delve deep and bring to you our Marvel Heroes beta review!
Read on, True Believers, and see if Marvel Heroes is the right game to tickle your comic fandom.
A Marvel Heroes Beta Review: Should You Even Review Betas?
A Marvel MMO is not a new idea. Marvel Heroes was not the first project to come along and bring Wolverine into an the MMO genre. It has been a long and hard road to this point but finally Gazillion was the one to bring us a product. In June, Marvel Heroes will launch but beta players have been testing their brains out for quite some time. While everyone needs to remember that there is plenty of time between now and the June release date, it is fairly easy to say that we have seen and played a very, very close representation of the final product.
Once an NDA lifts, that usually means that the dev team behind a game feels good enough for the testers to start rambling off about their product. The NDA protects an in-progress game from having a ton of people that the currently tested version and slamming it online for things like muddy graphics, limited graphics options, missing textures, and other things that beta usually always have. It isn’t fair to a developer that a tester takes what they are testing as a final product and using that to tell others to stay away from a game based on those issues.
Beta reviews can iffy depending on when they are done. I’ve been playing Marvel Heroes for a while now. I’ve seen a lot of updates and patches come through the launcher and through my time playing I’ve seen the game grow and morph into a solid product. With the NDA down, I feel that Gazillion is happy with where the game is at. Changes can still occur but I’m hoping that this Marvel Heroes beta review and any others they may read will help them make some final changes to make the June release a successful one.
Bringing Diablo Online And Making It Work
When you play Marvel Heroes the first thing that strikes out at you is how much it just works. The concept isn’t new, really. This is a Diablo clone and games like this, including Diablo itself, have online options but not like this. This is an MMO that brings that type of Action RPG, dungeon crawling action to an online arena and it just works. There are “towns” like the Avengers Tower and Xavier’s School and public questing areas. You’ll see a bunch of people populating these areas and you can invite them into a group to head into instanced “dungeons” like the sewers where you’ll meet Electro and have to beat him or Taskmaster’s Institution.
There’s plenty to do in the public questing areas, too. These aren’t small questing hubs where you’ll fly through just to reach the dungeons. You’ll find hidden areas you can go into for some quick fights, XP, and a reward. There are public quests that will show up that require you to defeat a certain number of enemies, protect a police barricade, or even take down a villain. Public villain battles are insane. It feels awesome when 20+ heroes gather to take down Venom. He’ll be running around and attacking everyone with AoE (area of effect) and single-target attacks as you blast him to hell with everything you have. Every villain drops something of varying rarity and a medal that you attack to a hero that gives him or her bonus stats. Some of them will give you extra attack when you hit a certain amount of health and others will boost your defense if you’re getting pummeled.
The varying amount of things to do publicly without the need of gathering a party means that these public areas are always bustling with people leveling their main hero or leveling a freshly obtained one and working together. I can’t roam a public area without a Hulk or Wolverine or Thor running alongside me attacking whatever I hit and reaping the rewards with me. It’s a very cool system that promoted area teamwork and normally once you take down some public quests with the same people, a simple “hey you want to go into the Institution and take down Taskmaster?” will result in a full party and some new comrades.
A Fair Free-To-Play
Making Marvel Heroes a free-to-play game with a ton of options to use real money to buy things usually means you’re in for an in-game currency rip-off. Let me tell you right now that Marvel Heroes is a fair game. Every thing on the site aside from potions (boosts to XP, rarity drops, etc.) and some other minor items can be found in the game as drops. Every hero can be found for free. Nearly every costume (there are some exclusive to the $200 founder’s pack) can be found for free. You get my point.
This game is not a money grabber but it does give you that option to pick up a favorite early on if you really want them. That said, you get to pick from five free heroes when you start and while you may look at them and go “seriously?” it isn’t all that bad. The choices are: Hawkeye, The Thing, Storm, Daredevil, and Scarlet Witch. If you’re not a fan of any of those, then I can see why you’d scoff at the selection. However, Hawkeye levels up and become a monster. Storm is very good. Scarlet Witch does some insane DPS and has a very good AoE attack early on that helps you out for soloing. While the selection may not be star-studded, it is far from weak and crippling. You aren’t going to start with Logan or Iron Man unless you purchase a founder’s pack but you aren’t going to start off at a disadvantage.
For myself, while I did purchase the Rocket Raccoon $20 pack (huge Cosmic fan here), I did find myself playing Scarlet Witch a lot more. Wanda has always been an interesting character and her role in the recent Avengers vs. X-Men arc and Uncanny Avengers has me reading more and more about her so I picked her as my starting hero. I saw huge upside to her and that AoE is amazing.
Balancing A Huge Roster
You can look at every hero as a class. Diablo focuses on five or so classes. Titan’s Quest has a hybrid class system will required more detail and effort. Marvel Heroes has a huge roster that is only going to get bigger and each hero brings something to the table. That required a ton of effort to ensure each and every hero is fun to play or at least authentic to the comic book universe.
Being authentic doesn’t always equal fun, though. Some heroes have issues starting out at level 1 and making you feel like you’re getting something at a good pace. I made the mistake during my first beta test of playing as Colossus. I saw that they had his Phoenix Five costume and I marked out. Let me tell you, playing as Colossus as your first character for the first five or so level can be a giant mistake. Colossus is extremely slow and for a while all you’re doing is punching and blocking. Woo hoo.
Look, I like Peter and all but that kind of gameplay isn’t something you should have your first experience with. It’s slow and boring and doesn’t reflect the game at all. Colossus does turn into a monster later on but you are better off waiting until you’ve seen how fast paced and more action-y Marvel Heroes can be before you spend some time with the tin can of the X-Men.
Some heroes are just going to start off slower than other. Everyone has at least one basic power to start out with. These powers are standard attacks like a short beam with Cyclop’s visor, Scarlet Witch’s hex bolt, Wolverine’s claw swipes, etc. These are free to use attacks that don’t require Spirit (mana). For the first three to five levels you’ll almost exclusively use that basic attack until you unlock something better like Rocket’s first turret that comes at level 4.
It’s a patience game with some and a harder-hitting experience with others. Not every hero will start out blazing through foes but eventually everyone feels fun to use. You will be cycling through your team and leveling a lot of heroes.
What I Hope Gets Fixed, Added, Or Changed Before Release
Now that I’ve gone through the general gist of the game, I wanted to have one section that lists everything I feel is wrong with the game. Gazillion will be watching to see how lifting the NDA has effected the player base and I’m sure criticisms will be looked at and thought over. There will be a torrent of information coming at them and I’m sure the things I have to say will be said a thousand times over from many others.
Marvel Heroes isn’t a perfect game by a long shot. It has some things that need fixing. It needs to add some things that range from basic functions to hopeful additions. So while most of this post has been fairly positive and I don’t mean to end this Marvel Heroes beta review on a negative note, please use this section to see everything that hampers this game currently. If you can read through the above sections and get excited about the game and then through this section and still not have that excitement broken, then Marvel Heroes is a game you need to look into.
- General Gameplay & AI
- There isn’t even rare packs of enemies in areas. Finding a set of blue or gold packs that have special abilities or stats yields better experience and loot while providing a quick challenge during your travels. There needs to be more of them, especially in the public questing ares.
- Some enemies will literally stand in front of you and let you destroy them without making an attempt to fight back.
- The hidden/extra areas that you access from doors, holes, etc. should be reset after each login. I’ve come back online to find Bazillion Entertainment’s chest reward still open. I can fight the monsters again but no reward is waiting for me at the end.
- There should be randomized maps for the public areas. Going through Hell’s Kitchen 5+ times becomes so repetitive and boring since the map never changed. If the game is going to split up heroes by “channels” and whatnot, then each channel should cycle through 2 or 3 different maps to switch up the experience. Dungeon crawler game really benefit from randomized maps.
- The mini-map is horrible. It looks very outdated and while the rest of the game has been updated for a much better experience the map still looks old and PS1-like.
- Hero Gameplay
- It would be awesome to see roles incorporated into the game. For example: heroes like Thor and Hulk should have a taunt that makes villains and area bosses focus on them with their single-target attacks. Heroes like Storm and Jean Grey should have a healing ability that heals nearby heroes. This will give some structure to parties while not being completely mandatory to have. I don’t want dungeons to require one tank, one healer, and two or three DPS to complete but having some sort of role would make the game feel more organized.
- For characters like Colossus who start off slower than others, give them a quicker unlock for their first attack that isn’t a defensive move. Colossus is a fun character after you get past the starting levels but for that time you feel bored. Instead of a block, why not a ground slam or a dashing punch or something? Just something to make slower character feel more impactful at the start.
- Social Interaction
- It would be nice to have the ability to target a nearby hero by clicking on them. Having to go into a social window is annoying and takes too long. Why can’t I just click on someone and start a conversation or invite them into the group?
- How about inspecting? It would be nice to inspect a hero and see what kind of gear they have.
- The chat system needs more options. There should be a General chat for the area you’re in, a Say option for local chat, a Trade chat for players looking to sell, trade, or giveaway, Party chat, and private Tells. The chat system does have some of those things but it needs to be structured better.
- Speaking of Trades: GET A BETTER SYSTEM. This is just like Diablo 1 where you throw stuff on the ground and hope no one but the guy you’re trading with take it or he actually drops something in return. There needs to be a trade window where both players have to accept what’s being traded.
- Vendors & Crafting
- Right now crafting is confusing. There’s a quest that takes you through it but an in-game help manual for it would be awesome.
- Crafting materials need to stack. Why am I looking twelve Prototype Pym Particles in my inventory?
- If I donate items to a vendor, let me get them back. I accidentally donated an item to a Weapons vendor and it was lost forever.
- Vendors never have anything I want. Ever. Even with donating to them and raising their level I only ever buy med kits and leave. There should be some incentive to at least check out a vendor’s inventory but after a while I just stopped. Never to see here, move along.
- Story & Questing
- Story right now is the weakest part of Marvel Heroes. It doesn’t feel connected enough and just seems like a weekly episodic show. Villain shows up in an area, stop the villain, move on. There is some sort of arcing details but overall I just feel like I’m heading to a new area to fight and level and move on. The story just doesn’t feel up to par. It also feels like Torchlight 2 where I just didn’t care and kept moving on to play the game.
- Story cutscenes are not final in the beta but they have very awkward lag in them. Why am I lagging during a cutscene? I hope this is fixed.
- Keith David for voicing Nick Fury while keeping the same comic book look? Seriously? Just does not work. I like Keith David but not as Nick Fury.
- Questing has some issues while grouping. Many times I’ve tried to collect an objective and flat out be denied, thinking I have the objective like the rest of my party, leave, have to come back, fight through again, and get the objective. It’s annoying. Make objective able to be gathered even if someone in my party is collecting it at the same time. This reminds me of World of Warcraft’s “This object is busy” crap.
- Drop Rates
- Hero drop rates should be tiered in terms of rarity. Right now every hero is a extremely low drop chance off any mob while villains and bosses have higher rates. That’s fine and all since they have to keep the game somewhat profitable, however, why is Storm just as rare as Wolverine? There needs to be tiered rarity for hero drops. Why not make some heroes like Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, and Cyclops easier to find then say Hulk, Cable, or Deadpool?
- Costume drop rates actually seem slower than heroes. Out of the time I’ve played I found two heroes (Cyclops and Ms. Marvel) and one costume. Why are costumes rarer to find? I’d expect them to be a tad easier (not common, though) since there are multiple costumes per hero and you’re not going to have every hero that a costume drops for, therefore making a lot of them useless right away. To me, I’d be more inclined to buy a hero if I found a cool costume I like. If I found the trench coat costume for Punisher, I’d actually think about dropping some money on G’s for the store. It’s a risk-reward thing. You give me a costume for free and perhaps I’ll buy the hero it’s attached to. It works vise versa, too. If I found Cyclops then I’d probably want to buy his Marvel Now! costume right away (seriously, where is his Phoenix Five costume?).
- Drop rates for crafting materials seems a bit high. I will go off on a questing rampage in a new area or go back to an earlier one for a new hero and come back with tons of crafting supplies.
- The Store
- Prices for some heroes and costumes seem way off. Why am I giving 1,200 G’s for Punisher then paying over 1,000 G’s for a new costume for him? That is very discouraging to me and I don’t believe I’d ever buy the Punisher since the costume I want is just as expensive as the hero. That seems off.
- The store itself is laggy and actually has a chance to become unresponsive. At one moment I’ll be looking through costumes and then close the screen to play some more. After a bit I’ll open the store to find nothing there. I have to exit the game and come back in to find it working again.
- Opening screens has a delay. Closing them is instant. I’m not talking about just the store, which has to load up for any changes. I’m talking about the powers screen and inventory. It isn’t a constant issue but I do see some delay at times opening these screens.
- Changing the hotkeys for abilities sometimes doesn’t even work. I’ll change my hotkeys from A,S, D, F, G, and H to something more accesible from the Shift and Alt keys but have them revert or not even show the correct key on the UI. Even if my changes go into effect, the UI will still say A, S, D, F, G, and H for the hotkeys while my new bindings work fine.
- Performance & Options
- The graphical options are extremely limited. There needs to be more resolution options and the graphical options should have an advanced list. Being stuck to Low > Medium > High > Etc. means I have to be stuck with some options always on. I split my play time between my desktop and my Surface Pro. The game plays great on the desktop with any option but the Surface has some issues in public areas no matter what. Give me the option of doing whatever I want to any option for a custom configuration.
- There are some areas in the game – public or instanced – where I’ll have lag for no reason. No one will be around me and I’ll still have some small fits of lag. It seems that when the game fills in an upcoming area with enemies, chests, etc. the additions to the map don’t morph in smoothly.
- Fanboy Issues – Ignore me while I rant.
- Where’s Star-Lord?
- Where’s Drax?
- Where’s Cyclops’ Phoenix Five costume?
- Where’s Magik?
- Where’s Havok?
- Seriously, where is Cyclop’s Phoenix Five costume? It is so badass.
- Speaking of Phoenix Five, did you see the fictional one that was in Avengers Assemble on Facebook? It was insanely awesome and needs to be in this game.
- Ok, I’m done.
That list may be long but honestly, there is nothing major in that list that would stop me from playing Marvel Heroes at launch. I would love to see most of those fixed by June but some things just won’t be. The story is the biggest issue here but Marvel Heroes contains enough fun to overlook that. I feel like this is the Torchlight 2 syndrome. The story isn’t worth a lick compared to the gameplay.
Marvel Heroes has surprised me over the course of this beta. At first I thought it was a very sub-par game but betas can be deceiving. You need to stick around, test, and see how the developers react to what you’re doing and saying. Gazillion has done an amazing job at bringing this game to quality level. They’ve also had great customer support in the beta forums which makes me think that the launch of this game is going to go very well.
You won’t lose anything by trying out Marvel Heroes. This is a free game with a lot of incentive to keep playing based off of the drops and potential huge roster you’ll be able to swap through. The store is fair and I never felt trapped by not spending money.
If you’re a Marvel or dungeon crawler fan then Marvel Heroes should be on your radar. It’s got some rough patches to fix but overall I had a ton of fun with this game and I can’t wait to spend more time in it come June.