Is Marvel Heroes some part of a super villain's evil scheme to fleece money from unsuspecting comic fans?
As a Marvel Zombie a game that lets you take on the role of most of the big names from the House of Ideas should be an instant win with me. The Ultimate Alliance games certainly had been with my mates all crowded round a TV. This just meant we could do it over the internet, how could it go wrong? Well, to start with, the characters that are available from the start aren't exactly an encouraging sign. While I am a big Hawkeye fan, and Daredevil is relatively well known (much to the chagrin of Ben Affleck) there's no denying that the five starting characters (the others being The Thing, Storm and Scarlet Witch) aren't exactly your headliners. Anyone recognisable are stuck behind a paywall, which isn't that surprising, considering Marvel Heroes is another entry in the growing trend of free-to-play MMOs.
Only this has to be one of the most cynical cash grabs I've ever seen. Iron Man, Spider-Man, Black Widow etc aren't cheap. You'd expect micro-transactions, but Gazillion don't seem to have heard of the word 'micro'. Instead Thor and his fellow Avengers are going to set you back about £20... Each! Even costumes aren't cheap, most set around the £10 mark, and they're only cosmetic. changes.
An Event Boss, where you haven't a single clue what is going on
Gazillion will probably point out that they are also available as loot drops, but these are incredibly rare. Between the three of us that were playing, we had two drops over a few days, both of which were costumes, not characters. Even simple things like re-speccing your character costs cash, though that is decidedly cheaper, a steal at a couple of quid. All of this results in that the majority of the time, all you see is a phalanx of Hawkeyes, Things and Storms running about, which takes away all of the fun out of playing as one of Marvel's many heroes. What's so special about being bombarded with cosmic rays and turned into a super strong rock creature when everyone has been?
Making matters worse, is that each new character starts off at level 1. It'd be nice if they were at least the level of when you bought or won them. Yet if the game's fun who cares that we have to start at the beginning again.
Unfortunately, it's not. The levels are bland, and the combat is unwieldy and uninspiring. With your main attack also being the same click as move you sometimes end up running around the enemy instead of actually hitting them. Holding shift locks your hero in place, but usually that leaves you just outside punching range, admittedly not a problem for the ranged characters. Other powers help, but they all drain your mana - or spirit - and that's in incredibly short supply. The majority of your fighting is done with just your basic attack, and anything extra is kept in reserve just in case, which usually means only against bosses. The game seems to do everything in its power to stop you feeling as heroic as you should stepping into the tights of these classic heroes. Maybe the fact you can web sling like Spider-Man could help that?
This is Marvel Heroes on a slow day, needs about five times more explosions
Except, this is another area Gazillion have decided you have to work towards. Things like web slinging and flight are closed off until you reach a level to be awarded them. Admittedly, it's a relatively low level, but a good majority of these characters are supposed to be able to fly. Instead Storm, Iron Man and Spider-Man are grounded, running around on foot in an incredibly un-heroic way. What's more, flying costs spirit, a lot of it. If you do decide to zoom about in the air, when you land you're probably not going to be able to use any of your powers. Ultimate Alliance solved this by just having the player hover a few feet off the ground, it wasn't much but it at least gave the character [i]something[/i].
Even navigating around is less than fun. Every area is absolutely littered with enemies, but this results in two problems. If the area is packed with other heroes you're just walking past dead bodies, or if you're on your own you're lucky if you can move three feet without everything respawning because it's taken you so long to kill them. Even worse is that if you leave an area and then return your map is completely reset, so any hope of tracking down the little sidequests that are scattered around is made impossible as you have no idea where you've already been or not.
Once you get out of the hub areas things improve a bit, as quest areas are treated as instances. You and five other people fight your way through countless cookie cutter mooks to a villain that you might actually recognise. Villains like Doctor Octopus and Elektra. Yet these instances are still unwieldy. By default Marvel Heroes dumps you into an instance with anyone who happens to be nearby, whether you want to or not. First time I discovered this I was went off to fight Taskmaster, a mercenary who can copy the skills of any hero he watches. Suddenly there I was in a makeshift team – with two Hawkeyes – and any challenge of fighting our way to the merc disappeared. Against the villain himself, five still seemed too big of a number and everything just exploded into special effects that left it hard to keep track of what was going on. Once I got the group of three together that seemed to be the perfect number with super villains actually proving to be a challenge and the explosions kept to a minimum. I even had to start thinking about how I should fight them. Yet to get there I first had to switch off autojoin instances, an option that is buried in the menus and you're never told about.
Look at Iron Man shooting at nothing, a typical occurrence
Back in the hub area there are Epic Bosses, who have even more health than the instance fights. But the problem of special effects going off is even worse as you have something in the region of a hundred players descend on villains like Venom. The frame rate drops as explosions fill the screen, and you lose sight of the bad guy you're meant to be fighting. In fact, the villain and your own character are the hardest people to spot as you're the only two that are singled out by the UI and in a batch of 17 Hawkeye's, 20 Things, 12 Scarlet Witches and a smattering of other heroes it's hard to make anything out. It's almost like the end of Iron Man 3, only making a lot less sense.
I could keep going. How stores are pointless because drops are better than what you can buy. That you need to donate the items to the crafter to get any decent recipes, while actual crafting doesn't earn any XP for anything. Suffice to say Marvel Heroes is a waste. The combat is dull, the graphics are boring, even the heroes – the games' big selling point – are totally underwhelming. Not to mention ridiculously expensive for any extras. It's free to try, but it's not really worth the bandwidth either.
MARVEL HEROES VERDICT
I could keep going. How stores are pointless because drops are better than what you can buy. That you need to donate the items to the crafter to get any decent recipes, while actual crafting doesn’t earn any XP for anything. Suffice to say Marvel Heroes is a waste. The combat is dull, the graphics are boring, even the heroes – the games’ big selling point – are totally underwhelming. Not to mention ridiculously expensive for any extras. It’s free to try, but it’s not really worth the bandwidth either.
TOP GAME MOMENT
Laughing at the lemming-like tail of heroes following an event boss.