Marvel Heroes Thoughts
by Tyler Edwards, February 20, 2014
Recently, I took a look at DC Universe Online and found it surprisingly enjoyable despite the fact that I've always preferred the Marvel mythos. So it seems only fair that I should also spend some time with Marvel's MMO, Marvel Heroes, to see how it ranks up.
Off the bat, I should say that Marvel Heroes is a very different game from DCUO, so a direct comparison might not be entirely fair. DCUO was a fairly traditional MMO in terms of its core systems, whereas Marvel Heroes takes its inspiration from Diablo and similar action RPGs.
But is it a good game? Read on to find out.
I can be your hero - for only $19.99!
One of the odd things about Marvel Heroes is that you can't create or customize your own hero. Instead, you choose from a large roster of iconic Marvel characters. On the one hand, it's cool to be able to play as Nightcrawler or Spider Man, but on the other hand, this is an MMO. It's more than a little weird that you can potentially end up in a group composed entirely of Spider Men.
The really frustrating thing about this system, though, is how they've attempted to monetize it.
Everyone has different ideas of what is and isn't acceptable in a free to play game. I have a pretty open mind, and there's a lot I can learn to accept, but one of my personal redlines is limitations on class, race, or character builds. I can live with pay limitations on game content or rewards, but not on my character.
So Marvel Heroes turned me off pretty strongly right out of the gate with its heavy restrictions on what heroes you can play as without paying.
When you join the game, you get a choice from a list of free heroes, but of course, most of the big name heroes - like Wolverine or Iron Man - are behind the pay wall.
What's even more obnoxious is that once you pick a hero, all the other previously free ones then require payment to unlock, too. So you better hope that you're happy with the hero you picked first.
Now, you can unlock new heroes for free by farming items called Eternity Splinters that drop throughout the game, but the drop rate for these is very low, and it requires hundreds to unlock a single hero.
Nothing in an RPG is more important than your choice of character. It defines how you interact with the game, affecting gameplay and aesthetics heavily. I know many times my opinion of a game has been radically changed by switching to a different character or class that turned out to be a far better match for my play style.
Why anyone would choose to place such draconian limitations on this most important of decisions is beyond me.
And it's not as if each character is heavily customizable, either. Build options seemed fairly limited, and the only way to alter your hero's appearance is to acquire new costumes, which are, of course, very hard to find unless you want to pay real money for them.
I've encountered a lot of irritating or questionable free to play tactics in my time, but this is one of the few I would classify as game-breaking.
But what about the game itself? Unfortunately, the story doesn't get any better there.
High drop rates and low difficulty:
I didn't go into Marvel Heroes expecting deep, intellectually stimulating gameplay. That's not what the action RPG genre is about, and that's perfectly fine. There's plenty of satisfaction to be found in smashing your way through hordes of enemies and collecting mountains of loot.
But Marvel Heroes is proof that there can be too much of a good thing.
MMOs and action RPGs are both genres that tend offer fairly simple, user friendly combat, but Marvel Heroes takes it to a whole other level. Playing as Storm, I spent the first several levels just spamming any random combination of buttons and finding that no particular strategy was necessary, even for bosses. My chain lightning spell could pretty much clear the screen with a single cast.
Then I unlocked an ability that surrounded Storm with a large, constant aura of damage. It was enough to kill most enemies in a second or two, so the preferred strategy became simply running around the map, instantly killing anything that came within reach, and Hoovering up loot and experience. I didn't have to do anything but hold down the move button.
I've got nothing against easy games, but this was nothing short of tedious. Even elite enemies could be defeated by simply running in circles around them for a minute or two.
I don't doubt that it gets harder at later levels, but I don't know how anyone could wade through this tedium to reach that point.
The open zones are especially ridiculous, because you have dozens of other players slaughtering enemies with the same degree of ease as you. Add to that incredible mob density, near instant respawns, and destructible environments, and you get an unending bedlam of wall-to-wall carnage. That does hold a certain entertainment value, but it gets old quick, and it makes the game into something of a farce.
I guess looking for immersion in an ARPG based on comic books is probably barking up the wrong tree, but Marvel Heroes is just beyond ludicrous. I particularly like how completely blasť the civilian NPCs are about the hordes of ninjas, lava men, Sentinels, mad scientists, and car throwing superheroes beating the snot out of each other at all times.
Also, one of the possible enemies is a rocket-mounted T-Rex head.
Group content is a bit more challenging, but no less mindless, and it left me longing for even the most basic of MMO traditional MMO dungeons.
There is PvP, but it doesn't seem to be a popular feature, as the queue time was so long that I eventually just gave up. I therefore can't comment on whether it's more interesting than the PvE content.
Then there's the copious amount of loot this game rains down on you. I don't think I've ever seen a game shower loot on the player like this one does. It got to the point where I couldn't even be bothered checking to see if any of it was an upgrade or not, and I started ignoring most of the drops. It was the only way to keep my inventory from constantly overflowing.
You might think there's no such thing as too much loot, but this is the game that will prove you wrong.
Marvel Heroes does have a storyline, but what I played of it was scattered and confusing, seeming like little more than an excuse to take a tour of the iconic locations and characters from the Marvel universe.
It has even less continuity than actual comic book plots, too. At one point, I took down the assassin Elektra as the culmination of one part of the story, only for her to appear in another boss battle a mere hour or two later, with no explanation of how or why.
One good thing that I can say about Marvel Heroes is that the voice acting is top notch. Every character's voice is full of personality and matches their identity well. Spider-Man sounds very much like a geeky teenager. Daredevil's brooding growl exudes intensity.
In a nice touch, playable heroes will often chat with each other when they cross paths. Storm likes to trash talk Thor, but she's always happy to see Cyclops.
Unfortunately, this strength isn't capitalized on as much as it could be. Quests, for example, are just bland old text - a stark contrast to DCUO's fully voiced quests.
One other highlight is that major story moments are illustrated with cartoon cinematics in a nice comic book style. This is where the voice acting really gets to shine, and they add a lot of personality to the game. But it's not enough to compensate for how scattered the story itself is.
Is it worth it?
Marvel Heroes and DCUO are such completely different games that it's hard to directly compare them, but even so, I feel confident saying that DCUO is the better game if you want a superhero fix. As a Marvel fan, it pains me to say so, but there it is. And if you're looking for a good ARPG, there are many better options, like Diablo III. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing is a nice indie diamond in the rough if you're looking to go off the beaten path.
Marvel Heroes has some good ideas, but they're all so poorly executed that it's hard to find any good reasons to play it. It could be a good choice if you're just looking for something you can mindlessly farm while watching Netflix, I suppose. And if you're absolutely desperate for ARPG gameplay in a massively multiplayer setting, there aren't a lot of other options.
But simply put, Marvel Heroes just isn't very good.