Marvel Heroes received a somewhat muted response when it was first released back in 2013. Sitting in the mid 50s on Metacritic was an inglorious start for one of the most popular entertainment brands of the past ten years. Thankfully however, Gazillion have kept working on their baby, determined to bring combat and content up to a level that was comparable with the games strong story elements. Marvel Heroes 2015 was the first key change and represented a major step towards the goal, winning a number of Most Improved awards that year. 2016 also kept the progress ticking, and recently the next iteration of the game appeared with Marvel Heroes Omega finally launching onto consoles in an attempt to corner this valuable market.
The isometric third-person camera gives away a lot of what this game’s about. If you’re getting a strong Diablo vibe you’re not the only one. It’s very traditional ARPG style play, with loot to grab and enemies to smash, and that’s not too surprising, considering a number of people currently employed at Gazillion worked on the much acclaimed Diablo 2. The dungeon crawler model is not a new one, but it is a style with long-standing appeal and it’s presented very well by these relative veterans of the system. The combat system is direct and to the point, and also translates well to controllers which is obviously key with the new console port.
Each main action is simply to one of the face or shoulder buttons, with gameplay simple and straightforward. There’s a certain freedom in the lack on in-game accuracy that’s required in comparison to more exacting FPS titles for example, and if anything it feels just as natural to be using a controller as it does on PC. Dodging in particular fits in nicely to the system, and using some buttons as modifiers makes for surprisingly diverse console control. It’s got the usual vague button mashing feel you’d expect but doesn’t really feel much the worse for it.
The story of Marvel Heroes has been praised from the start and fans of the comics will be pleased to recognise a lot of their favourite characters and locations. Written by long-time Marvel scribe Brian Michael Bendis, the plot is wonderfully cliched and makes the most of its need to shove as many different characters and locations together for the joy of its players. Doctor Doom has acquired the powerful Cosmic Cube and the heroes have banded together to defeat him. It’s closer to the classic cartoons and comic books of latter years compared to the more complex fare offered by the hugely popular film universe but this choice feels right and suits the disposability of an F2P MMO very well. The colours are bright and exuberant, with cut scenes told in hand-drawn comic panels really adding to the pervasive aesthetic which is really joyful.
Part of this means that the game isn’t fantastic in terms of its production values, but in fairness this is the case for many significant entries into this genre. Even recent darlings like Divinity: Original Sin have lent more on their gameplay than presentation and that’s the case here also. The action on screen is always clear, and thankfully the uniqueness of the original costume designs really help with the game’s visual style.
A lot of the worry when it comes to an F2P title is whether the game is pay to win rather than truly open to all and thankfully this is largely not the case for Marvel Heroes Omega. You can get stuck in, and start upgrading your character and unlocking more without spending a penny, but of course there is still the old in-game currency system, here known as Gs. This is the currency bought with real money, and there is also the collectable currency known as Eternity Splinters which also can be used to expand your collection. If this sounds confusing it soon won’t be, and slots in with a number of other online games in terms of how it feeds you unlockables.
Eternity Splinters are looted easily off of minions and by the end of the tutorial you will have fully unlocked a character without spending anything. New characters and loot boxes can all be unlocked with either currency so there’s no benefit to spending unless you really want to rush through the progression. This is lessened even further by the lack of PvP elements in the game which ensures players who embrace the grind won’t be quickly outmatched by those with money to spend. The only downside is that some of the games more chase items, like the Spider Gwen outfit, can only be unlocked using Gs. The change is entirely cosmetic but often involves a recent popular character change, which has its own voice files, animations and sound effects.
For Marvel fans, as well as Diablo loot addicts, there’s a lot to like here. The character list is exhaustive, with the game holding the world record for most superhero costumes in a gamer (yes apparently that’s a thing!). The game isn’t perfect and is still a little rough around the edges in terms of presentation. Gameplay wise however a lot of work has gone into making this one of the most popular MMOs around at the minute. It benefits a lot form the license obviously but is also a strong game in its own right.