MarvelHeroesTitleScreenMarvel Heroes 2016

Release Date: 3rd June, 2013

Purchase Date:  3rd June, 2013 @ Free

Developer: Gazillion

2016 was one hell of a year for Marvel Heroes, a game which originally launched in 2013. Gazillion continued the good work it started in 2015 to revamp Action Role-Playing Game (ARPG), which saw it tie-in closely with other Marvel properties and events.

First, let’s not beat about the bush here this is a Free-2-Play (F2P) game, and as such uses a lot of the standard methods to sustain and support development and server costs with real money items. However, the majority of these are entirely optional as most things can be found in-game as drops or rewards. Naturally, premium DLC packs are often timed alongside major Marvel events or in-game character releases for those who wish to simply buy new characters and items.

When I first played Marvel Heroes, back when it launched in 2013, I’ll admit to being rather underwhelmed. The hero selection was small, with Daredevil, Hawkeye, Scarlet Witch, Storm and The Thing the five original starting characters. Now, you have to consider this was before Daredevil’s Netflix debut, Scarlet Witch’s appearance in the Avengers movies.

Clobberin Time 2013 style
Clobberin Time 2013 style

Back then I wasn’t the huge super Marvel mark I am now (I’ve since started an attempt to read every Marvel comic in chronological order starting from Fantastic Four #1) , so the prospect of not playing as one of (what I consider) the key Marvel heroes was disappointing. This was further enforced while playing, when you realise that most other players were also playing as The Thing, or Hawkeye. Seeing several identical versions of myself playing alongside me distracted from the game far too much. Sure this is just a small grievance when the same thing can be said about most other ARPG/MMO hybrids. Anyway, I chose The Thing, as you know… Clobberin’ Time.

In comparison the starting hero list now, gives you a larger selection of heroes to choose from including several ‘Key’ heroes (Black Panther, Captain America, Deadpool, Gambit, Iron Fist, Moon Knight, Nightcrawler, Psylocke, She-Hulk and Winter Soldier). If none of those heroes take your fancy, you can always try out any other hero available up to level 10 too. This is where Marvel Heroes has grown for the better – it’s more welcoming.

Originally you might have got lucky and received a hero token as an extremely rare drop, otherwise the only way you’d expand your hero roster was to buy them with real money from the store. Now you can still receive them as rare drops, but the more you play the game the more you can collect in-game currency drops (Splinter Cells) that can be used to purchase any hero of your choice from an in-game vendor. The option to spend real money is still there for those who don’t want to invest a few hours into the game to collect the required amount of Splinter Cells required to buy a hero (or a team-up).

Marvel Heroes 2016 saw a huge in-game Captain America Civil War event
Marvel Heroes 2016 saw a huge in-game Captain America Civil War event

Also this year, has seen Marvel Heroes tie-in with Captain America: Civil War, Netflix’s Jessica Jones, Daredevil and Luke Cage, ¬†Agents of SHIELD and most recently Dr. Strange’s big screen debut. In game events have been created, the majority of which have gifted players a few hero based on the event so if you had played during 2016 you would have received Captain America, Iron Man, Daredevil, Luke Cage and Dr. Strange for free… at the height of the popularity no less! Oh and there was a cheeky Black Cat available on Black Friday.

So there’s a much larger feeling that you’re rewarded for playing, or at least keeping an active eye on the Marvel Heroes’ twitter feed to see when super events are going.

Furthermore Gazillion have revamped the game’s introduction level, which acts as a tutorial, streamlined the crafting system, overhauled the storage (which perhaps still remains the one cash cow in regards to real money) and balanced the game’s story missions to scale correctly with the character’s level. In short, the state of the game in 2016 is a more enjoyable and rewarding game for newcomers and those who dip in and out for the big events.

There’s perhaps a slight argument that the game has stalled slightly for those who have played constantly since launch, with a slow introduction of new content once you max your character at level 60. Yet, 2016 did see the introduction of leaderboards as an attempt to push a bit of competition between long term players, as well as the much waited Chapter 10 of the story (which admittedly received a mixed reception from those I’ve played with over the years).

The game has also received several visual updates, with some older characters getting a visual face lift, Stark Tower becoming Avenger Tower and the The Raft tutorial changing entirely. The one area that still needs an entire visually overhaul is the game’s UI. It felt clunky and dated in 2013, and feels even worse in 2016. The interface doesn’t have a natural feel and flow to it, with some areas of the character’s ability and development hidden away and unclear as to what they actually do. The Omega System is a good example of this, it’s hidden away in the power tab, which isn’t an easy find to begin with, and there’s no real explanation behind it. You’ll find yourself using a trial and error approach to find the best fit for you, and in most cases you’ll continue to use the same build for most characters despite the large options available. It could be argued that the Omega System isn’t that important, as it’s a complimentary ability system to go alongside the character’s main build. It’s almost like a reward for those who have played a long time.

Essentially Marvel Heroes 2016 is a loot game at heart, with each hero having it’s own themed loot to gather most of which will make sense to true Marvel fans when they see the names. However, the loot feels a little lifeless. Unlike other loot games the collecting of new items for your hero doesn’t change or upgrade the character’s appearance. Sure you get your stat boosts, but any cosmetic upgrade you might be after can only be sought from new costumes (either from the store or from a huge stroke of luck by an in-game drop).

At it's heart Marvel Heroes is a loot game
At it’s heart Marvel Heroes is a loot game

While I haven’t unlocked all characters (and I feel that I probably never will), the ones I have played have felt unique and true to how you’d expect them to play. Hulk and The Thing have played similar, but then they’re similar within the Marvel Universe too, as two powerhouse brawlers who just want to fight and smash things. This is reflected in their gameplay too, as both characters have huge devastating physical attacks, and feel near on impossible to kill. One of my favourite characters to play so far has been Black Widow, for almost the exact opposite end of the scale of Hulk and The Thing – she’s fast, using a combination of gadgets and martial arts to takedown mobs. It’s this aspect of Marvel Heroes that seems to go unnoticed. Gazillion have done a great job at reviewing and rebuilding characters to play more like they should. When you play as Thor you feel like a God as rain thunder down on mobs, and hurl your hammer. Deadpool is quirky and odd, and yes… he breaks the forth wall. The characters just feel right, and the audio should be given credit for this too. Each character has a bank of one liners stored away that trigger during certain interactions with objects mobs and other characters. Coy little references to Marvel Universe events will make fans smile, or at the very least make people feel like that there’s some history and character within the game.

All in all Marvel Heroes is a fun game that for me does the F2P model correctly. Every item in the game can be achieved in-game from either a lucky drop, or currency grinding (which for the most part happens naturally as you play). Or you can splash out with real money to buy the hero you want ASAP, with a Costume you want, and the extra STASH slot you might need too. And that’s OK, as those purchases don’t cheat other players out of an experience, there’s no real Pay2Win feature within Marvel Heroes. It’s easy to play this game solo, or to play with friends and strangers. If you’re ever short of friends to play with there’s a rather strong community spirit within this game. This of course is where I suggest you should check out good friend Rushlock‘s stream, as he’s been a big supporter of Marvel Heroes for a few years now. He also hosts several groupings over the weekend to tackle content. I guess that was a semi shill for a friend!

Updated 2016 visuals
Updated 2016 visuals

There are areas where Marvel Heroes could improve, and it feels like Gazillion have started to address that with the updating of visuals, the heavy running and feedback gathering of content and changes via the Test Hub. There is a small feeling on reddit, the official forums and on Steam that Gazillion aren’t sure what to do and are running out of ideas since the development team has changed since 2013 but… that’s what happens. People leave to seek new challenges and jobs, and new people come in to replace them. It’s hard to criticise a development team that are pretty open on the forums about what they’re doing, that do listen to feedback (they often poll to see which new characters should be added), and spend time with Streamers and community groups.

There’s criticism that there’s no new content to the game, yet 2016 has seen specific content added for Civil War and Dr. Strange. I also find it difficult to think of many loot games that keep introducing new content too. For me half the fun of loot games is running the same areas, harvesting, wrecking insane damage to gather items, materials and other oddities that I have my hit list.

Marvel Heroes 2016 has been one of my most played games of 2016, one which I keep returning too simply because it’s easy to play. It’s helped me to become a Marvel fan too, and I’ll admit no shame in enjoying the cross promotion that’s happened with the game and Marvel franchises over the last 18 months or so. I’ll admit this might not be a game for everyone, but for a Marvel fan it’s almost perfect as it plugged the need for a good Marvel game since Ultimate Marvel Alliance (which has since been rereleased).

– Chris

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