Overall - 95%
Marvel's Midnight Suns is, without question, my Game of the Year and has quickly become one of my favorite games of all time.
Marvel’s more recent forays into the gaming space have yet to capture the heights of their cinematic success, with Square Enix’s Marvel’s Avengers often cited as a studio’s inability to capitalize on a major IP in video game form. Enter Firaxis Games, developers of the critically acclaimed X-COM franchise, who hope to bring the lesser-known adventures of the Midnight Sons to the gaming space with the release of Marvel’s Midnight Suns.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns Review – Game of the Year
I’m a massive fan of the X-COM franchise, and X-COM 2 is one of my favorite games of all time. Couple that with my recent addiction to the fantastic Marvel Snap and another action-packed dive into the world of Iron Man VR, and I’ve developed an urge to devour as much narrative-based Marvel content that I can find. Marvel’s Midnight Suns was easily my most anticipated game of the year, so I went in with high expectations; usually not the best idea.
First and foremost, this is not an X-COM game. Firaxis Games has clearly taken inspiration from many aspects of the X-COM series, but the similarities lie more within the gameplay loop between missions that the combat itself. However, we’ll get into that in a bit.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns follows the Midnight Sons team from the comics. These are characters I was largely unfamiliar with before starting, so I can’t comment much on the accuracy compared to the comics or setting. The available lists of characters include those from the Midnight Sons and others from Marvel that include Blade, Captain America, Nico, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel, Hulk, Iron Man, Magik, Nico, Scarlet Witch, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and the Hunter, a unique hero that the player can customize and develop as they continue through the game.
The story follows the journey of Hunter and their allies as they attempt to stop Hunter’s mother Lilith from summoning Chthon, an Elder God hellbent on the destruction of, well, everything. It’s a typical high stakes heroic adventure in the Marvel universe, but one that is filled with so much character and depth of detail. It truly draws you in from start to finish.
Much like the X-COM franchise, the gameplay of Midnight Suns is split into two main elements: missions and management. The missions are all entirely combat-based. You load into a level, kill enemies, and then either return or move on to the next combat phase of the mission. When not out smacking Hydra goons to pieces, you’re free to explore the Abbey and all the amenities that come with it.
The Abbey is the main component that sets Midnight Suns apart from other titles from Firaxis Games. It’s a huge environment and acts both as a central hub of operations and as its own gameplay element. A welcomed break from the entirely combat-focused missions, exploring the Abbey reveals tons of exciting and engaging secrets. The Abbey grounds are filled with collectibles, journal entries and Mystery missions to solve, each revealing a little more about the world of the Midnight Sons and those that call it home.
Much of the Abbey involves working alongside The Caretaker or Agatha Harkness, hoping to learn the dark magical secrets the grounds hide to help the team complete their mission and defeat Chthon. As you progress through the Abbey’s story, which is quickly segmented from the main campaign so it’s an area you can entirely ignore, you unlock special Words of Power. These unique abilities lets the Hunter explore previously inaccessible areas. In these new areas there are near endless rewards you can unlock, everything from new color schemes and outfits, to brand new abilities for Hunter. The customization options available on characters is downright staggering.
In addition to the rewarding exploration, the Abbey is home to the Midnight Sons team, offering various resources and tools to aid with their adventures. You can research new items, abilities, and technologies, talk to any of the characters to increase Friendships. This, in turn, unlocks Legendary outfits and abilities; it’s almost a little overwhelming at times. I found myself returning from a hard fought mission, happy for the reprieve from the strategy-based combat, only to be dying for another fight after an hour of conversing with the different characters and exploring more of the Abbey grounds. It’s this core gameplay loop that bears the most similarities with X-COM, but that’s where the similarities end.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns lives and dies on the quality of its combat system, and it’s one that shouldn’t really work. It’s a card-based system where you take three characters into a fight and each character brings their own deck. Players then use each turn to spend various resources and drawing cards from these decks. Sounds good so far, right? However, the core components of the combat system itself never really change, and with the amount of combat in the game, you’d think it really should.
Each mission, players you load into a very small area, analyze the different enemies, and recognize the familiar environments and environmental hazards. It should grow tiresome after just a few hours, but it just doesn’t happen. The depth and quality of each characters combat abilities is incredible, and even after conquering the entire game and all of the side content I could find, there are still different builds and combinations I wanted to try.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns combat feels more inline with the likes of Slay the Spire and other strategy-based card battlers than it does X-COM. There are no accuracy checks, so you can breath a sigh of relief that you won’t need to relive the frustration of missing a 97% shot and losing a favorite character, and there are no permanent deaths – although characters do get injured.
While the core combat and scenarios never really evolve, the characters and management of the combat resources continues to grow and improve as the game goes on. Balancing Card Plays, Heroic Points, Movement, and Redraws, it’s a system that quickly becomes familiar and one, that as you master, just gets better and better. You begin your journey fighting through enemies and attempting to end entire missions in three to four moves, but it’s never simple. Between careful management of the right cards and the right resources, it makes every victory feel well fought and every overcome challenge a satisfying success.
Despite falling in love with the strategic combat, my favorite part of the game is the world of the Midnight Sons itself. Every character feels so fleshed out, so well written, and the voice acting is incredible. Talking with each of the heroes, learning of their origin stories, the inner conflicts, the turmoil within the team itself. They didn’t just feel like rehashed versions of the movie characters; each felt unique, and the Hunter was just the icing on the cake.
Having the opportunity to make your own mark on a Marvel experience feels disappointingly rare, and having the Hunter as a customizable hero unique to the player is great. It’s one that feels like it belongs, not just some nameless hack with a generic voice and motives. Throughout the story, the Hunter can take different paths in conversations and actions. This leads to a Dark or Light side outcome, unlocking different abilities and dialogue options depending on which tree you are more invested in. Sometimes the lack of impact of these choices is a little disappointing, but overall it just adds more layers to an already impressive narrative.
If there was one area of the game that I really found disappointing, it was the PlayStation 5’s technical problems. The game itself runs great, with some framerate problems right at the end when you start launching ridiculously over-powered abilities in conjunction with certain items and perks. However, the game crashed more than a dozen times. It was often when trying to save as I was reloading and exploring different dialogue options, so it may not be the common experience, but it happened too many times to ignore.
This game is what happens when you give a passionate studio an established IP with such promise and potential, something we’ve really yet to see in recent years. If the card-based combat system is a no-go for you, nothing else in the game is really going to change that. However, if strategic card-based combat even piques your interest, this is a game you do not want to miss.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is, without question, my Game of the Year and has quickly become one of my favorite games of all time.
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