Editorial | 7/31/2013 at 9:00 AM

Marvel Heroes Co-Op Impressions

Pay to play dress up

Marvel Heroes is an MMO styled as an ARPG in the vein of Diablo and all those other games that are always being compared to, well, Diablo. Move a small figure around the screen while click-click-clicking away at enemies until they die and give you loot. Repeat for the next five minutes or one thousand hours, depending upon your personal tolerances for clicking things. 

Here's the nitty gritty: Marvel Heroes is an MMO in the sense that you will see plenty of other player characters running around in the "open world" areas as you move between instances and missions. This mass of characters offers a nice feeling of camaraderie mixed with a sense of urgency as you watch other players steal your kills. When you enter a specific area or mission you can play cooperatively in a group of five players. With over 21 super heroes to choose from, including heavy hitters like Iron Man, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and several Avengers and X-Men, the potential for glorious super hero shenanigans is there.

Take a look at this sweet promo video:

Looks pretty cool, right? Sadly you have to start the game as either Scarlet Witch, The Thing, Daredevil, Hawkeye, or Storm. They're not bad characters, but they're not necessarily the cream of the comic book crop. After you've chosen a character it's either grind city or time to bust out your wallet and pony up some cash for some of the triple-A heroes. Add in dull combat and lackluster skill trees and things get boring pretty fast. DJ and I spent some time adventuring as Hawkeye and the Thing. Here's our take: 

DJ's musings and misgivings

Some games are meant to be played as a distraction. There are games that leave a lasting impression on us - games that push the boundaries of what a game can be. Then, there are games that exist for mindless entertainment. While not revolutionary, they do have a time and a place, as sometimes you just want to zone out and blast enemies and pick up shiny loot.

Marvel Heroes is a shining example of the click now, worry later type of game. It is probably best classified as an MMO-ARPG. While this may sound like a cool concept, the result is anything but cool. Marvel Heroes takes the most basic elements of an ARPG like Diablo or Torchlight, and simplifies this concept into its purest form. The game boils down to a linear progression through a series of acts, using a variety of heroes from the Marvel Universe. There will be loot to find, and many enemies to slay, but something is missing from the equation.

The missing element is depth, and from putting in some time with the game, you will notice a serious lack of customization. Skill trees are linear and uninspired. Loot is boring and one-dimensional. Skills are sometimes cool, but very limited in application. The game essentially breaks down into a formulaic point-and-click fest with little to keep the player hooked. The developers hope to reel you in with cool characters that you will want to buy, but in the end, you will probably realize it is all the same.

Even the gameplay could be somewhat forgiven if the cooperative features were worthwhile in this game. The developers really had a chance to blend the best parts of an MMO with the fast paced action of an ARPG. Instead, what we get is a half-baked attempt at an open world. In each act, there are hub zones where you can interact with many different players. Upon first examination, you might find it cool to roam the streets with unknown allies in a masked crusade for vengeance. After some time, you will begin to feel that other players are getting in the way of your killing sprees. After a long time, you will want to fast forward through the hubs and into the instances.

The instances are the core of the game, and it is here that you can party with up to five players to tackle bosses and zones. Nothing really spectacular stands out about these instances, especially with partners. There is little skill synergy to be experienced with a group due mostly to the fact that heroes are not heavily specialized and ultimately lack impactful skills. In the end, you will be clicking more enemies, and grabbing more loot.

Marvel Heroes feels like a missed opportunity. There was some serious potential in this game, with a large universe of content to draw from and an interesting basis for social dynamics and cooperative gaming. Sadly, it is a shallow game, and the micro-transaction model is far too transparent. Overall, I do not recommend trying this game, not when there are better F2P ARPGs available, particularly Path of Exile.

Andrew talks money and mindlessness

The Marvel skin wrapped around this Diablo-lite MMO will certainly draw in plenty of fans to the house that Stan built. It's easily accessible and full of familiar faces. The problem is these faces quickly become a little too familiar. As I backed up DJ's sure-shooting Hawkeye with my clobbering Thing I began to notice a heck of a lot of other Things and Hawkeyes in the common areas.

At one point I had accidentally been following the wrong player for a while. DJ finally realized it when he entered a small instance and I didn't come with him. We had been talking the whole time about some other games and life in general, absent-mindedly wandering around thumping bad guys and we both had no idea where the other one was. I eventually tracked him down and joined him in a large building. The two of us ventured forth, clicking away at the faces of muggers and small-time thugs. Once again the conversation drifted off to some other game. That's when he told me we were in a boss battle. I had no clue. I clicked a little faster and harder. The big bad died and we grabbed our individualized loot without looking at it and moved on. 

The Thing wasn't doing it for me, so I decided to drop a few bucks on a new character. How much could it be? Turns out it costs about five to fifteen bucks per character, and each outfit costs a similar amount. You heard that right. The Hulk is priced at 1100 "Gs," --that's the in-game currency. The Gray Hulk skin will run you 450 Gs. The Horsemen of the Apocalypse costume and the awesome Mr. Fix-It costumes will cost 950 a pop. Planet Hulk and Avengers movie Hulk are 1250 each. What's the exchange rate of Gs to USD? $4.99 will get you 500 Gs. (There's a slightly better rate at the $20, $50, and $100 buy-ins.) 

If you're not feeling mathy, that's $59.50 for just Hulk and all of his outfits. I should note the store has a Hulk Smash character pack on special right now for $49.99, as well as several other deals. I understand developer/publisher Gazillion Entertainment needs to make money, but that's a little pricey for me. I could grind for a new character or costume, but I don't have that much time, and there's no way to get a specific character to drop. (Gazillion is currently testing a new way to earn specific characters for free, but it hasn't been implemented.)

Marvel Heroes is a mindless distraction, but I can think of a few friends who would gladly spend dozens, if not hundreds of hours and dollars grinding away in this version of the Marvel Universe. It's not bad, but it's not good. I'd rather play the old Marvel Ultimate Alliance games. 

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There you have it folks. Our down an dirty take on Marvel Heroes. DJ recommends passing on this one. I suggest trying it, because hey, it's free.