Marvel’s Avengers Review
Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix look to take the Marvel Universe to the next level with the live-service action RPG, Marvel’s Avengers. Bridging the near endless potential of the Marvel universe with an ever-evolving video game sounds like a match made in heaven, but does Marvel’s Avengers live up to expectations?
Marvel’s Avengers Review
Marvel’s Avengers struggled in the build up to launch. A string of controversies surrounding platform-exclusive content, questionable monetization methods, and comparisons to the struggling Anthem raised a lot of red flags. Moving closer to release, several beta events didn’t seem to do much for easing the concerns of players. Now the full game is out in the wild, how does it stand up?
To put it simply, Marvel’s Avengers surpassed just about every expectation I had. Offering a free beta event prior to release has many perks, but based solely on my limited experience of that event, I’m not sure I would have bought the game at launch.
The story follows Kamala Khan, a young and enthusiastic Avengers fan who finds herself surrounded by her heroes after submitting a fan story to an Avengers competition. Tony Stark and co. are celebrating the unveiling of a new energy technology, with a massive party the likes only Iron Man could host. However, the celebratory event quickly turns to catastrophe as Task Master and a group of unknown soldiers attack the event.
Despite the efforts of earth’s greatest heroes, the Avengers fail to contain a massive explosion that spreads a deadly disease across the population. The events, which later became known as A-Day, saw the Avengers disbanded and outlawed as Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM) takes center stage, promising to cure humanity of the inhuman disease. This disease caused the infected to become mutated, gaining superhuman powers in the process.
The overarching narrative of the game is fantastic from start to finish, but it’s the miniature stories told between the killer action sequences that really sell the tale. While the world is struggling with the impact of the Inhumans, the Avengers have their own inner struggles to contend with. Hulk has all but completely taken over as he struggles to deal with the loss of Captain America, with Banner and Stark clashing heads. The story direction does a brilliant job of showing the vulnerable sides to these otherwise invulnerable-like characters.
Even if the concept of the looter-based multiplayer has zero appeal for you, the single player campaign of Marvel’s Avengers – while short at about 10 hours – is more than worth the purchase.
Whether you’re adventuring alongside buddies in multiplayer or diving into single player’s fantastic narrative, combat is Marvel’s Avengers’ most dominant constant. There are currently six playable heroes in the game, available across both modes: Captain America, Iron Man, The Hulk, Black Widow, Ms. Marvel, and Thor. While each of the characters follow the same basic principles, with basic and heavy attacks, dodging, and travel abilities, the actual play style differences and build potential between the different heroes is huge.
Every punch, every throw of a shield, every rocket fired, and every dodge feels unique to the character you are playing. Mixing up heavy and light attacks with Iron Man, watching him spin and turn as he blasts enemies in every direction – every character feels great and looks fantastic.
The single player campaign often funnels you into specific characters to suit the story direction at the time, but once you unlock all the heroes and begin experimenting with different characters, builds, and load outs, the game really begins to open up. After finally unlocking Captain America (he’s the best Avenger by far, shut up), I immediately threw him into the heat of the action. Focusing on gear that boosted my survivability, I utilized his various tank-like abilities to keep my allies alive and dealing damage.
Struggling with the perfect dodges and parries, I often found myself incapacitated, waiting on the mercy of my fellow heroes to bring me back to my feet. After a few hours, I grew tired of being a liability and completely switched my approach. Focusing on attributes and equipment that increased my ranged damage and critical hit rate, I opted to sit on the back lines throwing my shield into anything that moved. This versatile approach to character building is present across all of the characters, creating a rewarding but challenging progression system that is only let down by the repetitive aspects of the multiplayer content.
One of my primary concerns with the multiplayer in the beta event was how simple everything was. Nothing put up a fight, even the hardest content was a breeze, and it really felt like being on autopilot for the sake of grinding gear. While the gear grind is very much still dominant, and the variety of content is a little slim, dialing up the difficulty definitely ups the stakes – and the experience is much better for it.
It’s difficult to fault Marvel’s Avengers approach to the single player campaign, but analyzing the problems with multiplayer feels all too similar. Much like previous looter-based, live-service games, Marvel’s Avengers struggles with uninspired multiplayer content with repetitive objectives and re-used maps and missions across the board. I often selected 3-4 different mission types in sequence, only to be met with identical objectives and map layouts for each mission. Many of theses issues are compounded by rather lengthy loading sequences between each mission and conveniently placed “elevators” for loading within missions.
Then there’s the monetization. While not overly aggressive, it’s very present throughout. All characters have a Battle Pass style system where you are rewarded with cosmetic unlockable items through daily activities and achievements. Having an individual pass per hero is questionable by any standards but the value, or lack of, is entirely down to you. (UPDATE: The premium “battle pass” features will only apply to new heroes introduced after release, the current roster of heroes will continue to feature free Hero Challenge Card contents)
These aren’t new struggles for games that want to deliver an ongoing service, but it’s one that Marvel’s Avengers makes very little effort to correct. However, the incredibly satisfying combat never once grew stale and the huge potential for development across multiple characters is going to offer endless hours of play for those more acclimatized to the live-service model.
The future of Marvel’s Avengers’ ongoing success will be completely dependent on the quality and regularity of content. However, as a game available today, it’s a solid entry into the loot and shoot RPG space. The single player story is worth the price of admission alone, leaving the fun but dated approach to multiplayer a welcome addition for fans of the looter style approach.
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