Marvel Heroes (Review)

I have significantly updated my thoughts on this game as of November 2014. Click this link for my second review of Marvel Heroes.

When it comes to gaming, there’s one genre that always suckers me in no matter what and that is the action RPG genre. We’ve received some real gems over time such as Diablo II and Torchlight and, in recent years, the genre has seen a bit of a revival as several noteworthy action RPGs entered development. The four big ones for the last few years have been Diablo III, Path of Exile, Torchlight II, and this very game. Marvel Heroes. Developed by Diablo creator David Brevik, along with many former Blizzard North developers, you’d think that this would be a pretty difficult game to mess up. Well… I don’t know how to really put this, but…

They messed it up.

Marvel Heroes was released at the start of June as a completely free to play massively multiplayer action RPG. Think Guild Wars 2 or World of Warcraft but with an isometric camera and tons of action oriented gameplay. On paper, this sounded like a really great idea. The low online player limit in games such as Diablo III left a very sour taste in the mouths of many gamers, so having tons of players running around to interact with sounded like a really cool idea. Even better, this game promised almost thirty characters prior to launch, so you’d assume that there would be a very diverse crowd of characters running around at all times. Well, throw these ideas and notions in the garbage.

First off, the hero roster. While it sounds like a really awesome idea to be able to play as Deadpool, Hulk, Iron Man, or Wolverine, pretty much all of the enticing characters that will draw players to the game are not available from the get-go. Initially, players can choose to start as either Daredevil, Hawk-Eye, Scarlet Witch, Storm or Thing. Yawn. In order to play as the more desirable characters, players will have to play the game relentlessly until a hero drops or they can obtain one immediately by purchasing the precise hero they want from the cash shop. There are two problems with this.

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First, the drop rates are so terrible that it’s not even worth it to hope for a hero drop. Ever. I played through the entire story campaign and didn’t receive a single hero drop outside of two that occur automatically. You see, after finishing the tutorial map you’re awarded with another starter hero from the yawn-inducing five that you initially pick from. Same occurs after you defeat the final boss of the story, you’re awarded with another starter hero token. The problem here? You can get duplicates. It’s not entirely possible for someone to pick Thing at the beginning, have Thing drop at the end of the tutorial, and then have Thing drop again after clearing the story all without ever getting another hero drop. So, a game that says that everything is available in the game itself does a hell of a good job of restricting the content from the player. Honestly, the drop rate is so bad that I never received a random hero drop in over fifty hours of playing. That’s pretty awful in my opinion.

The second issue with this system is the cash shop. While I’ve read that prices have been slashed slightly since I last played, I’m aware that they’re still not ideal. At launch, if you wanted an additional hero, you’d have to purchase a special ingame currency using real money, and this currency can be spent in the cash shop on heroes that may cost anywhere between $10 and $20 actual dollars. Yes, you read that right. Even worse, some costumes are just as expensive. I’m sorry, but Gazillion Entertainment is out of their minds for concluding that it’s okay to charge someone $40 to play as a specific character with a costume of their choice. Of course Gazillion has to make money somehow, but if you wanted to play as every hero and with every costume? Well, you’d literally be spending hundreds of dollars. This is a pretty disgusting practice.

So, now that I have my thoughts on acquiring heroes out of the way, how does the game play? Thankfully, it has pretty fun gameplay. Granted some heroes can feel pretty similar (there are over 20 of them after all), but everyone can feel somewhat unique. Deadpool has tons of grenades and AoE caltrops while Ms. Marvel feels like an exploding shower of light effects. Everyone has their signature moves, and you can develop them however you wish via the skill trees. Each time you level up, you’re granted two skill points to distribute however you wish. The skill trees are a bit linear for the first ten levels or so but, once you overcome that hurdle by playing enough, the trees open up and build diversity begins to become pretty apparent. For example, Ms. Marvel can be set up to be a very punishing melee brawler, a quick and speedy attack/skill interrupter who zips all over the place, or she can be a lethal master of ranged attacks and projectiles. Each hero offers very several different ways to play, and it allows players to choose a play style that they’re most comfortable with.

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There’s not much to be said about the difficulty of the game. The entire story/campaign is pretty easy and the only increase in difficulty usually comes in the form of enemies who hit harder. I was pretty underwhelmed by most of the mobs in the game since little strategy is ever required when it comes to taking them down and all you must really do is just click repeatedly until they die. Fortunately, bosses require a bit more thought as they all have very clear attack patterns which require different strategies. Green Goblin likes to form poison clouds all over the ground while throwing bombs down while Mr. Sinister will fling all sorts of projectiles at you while randomly unleashing an army of X-Men clones upon you. The bosses are a lot of fun and are, without a doubt, the highlight of the game for me. Green Goblin, Kingpin, Magneto, Sauron and many others make boss encounters quite a fun treat as a whole.

Once you clear the game’s story mode, which has a pretty decent plot and is moderately enjoyable, you’re left with the end game content. This consists entirely of walking up to a computer terminal and picking a daily challenge to do. Are they fun? No, not really. They’re more or less just all rehashes of the campaign’s dungeons. I ended up quitting the game shortly after I hit level 30 because I felt like I had run out of things to do. Gaining levels had been reduced to a boring and slow slog through daily challenges, and I didn’t want to put up with that. For a game that places the level cap around 50 or 60, this is a pretty massive problem.

There is a rough crafting system in place that works a lot like Diablo II’s Horadric Cube. Crafting materials function like the gems from Diablo and can help you improve your gear by upgrading rare pieces into epics, or by even applying various affixes to your costume pieces. There’s quite a bit to do with the crafting system and I found it to be somewhat enjoyable, but crafting materials currently do not stack. As a result, your inventory (and eventually your stash) will be completely overrun by crafting materials. It’s a bit frustrating when your storage is taken over by these items, but Gazillion has promised that they will make them stack at a later date.

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In terms of the art direction, the graphics are mediocre. They get the job done and aren’t bad looking, but literally nothing you look at in this game will impress you. The comic book style cutscenes are pretty cool though and are certainly worth watching when they appear on your screen. As far as the sound goes, however, I’m not too impressed. The music is largely forgettable and, aside from a few of my favourite voice actors such as Nolan North and Steve Blum giving good performances, the voicework isn’t anything to write home about either.

So, overall, how is Marvel Heroes? It’s certainly pretty good for a free to play game. Unfortunately, this game utilizes a lot of tactics (such as terrible drop rates) to try and sucker you into spending a stupid amount of money in the cash shop. It’s a very subtle and sleazy business tactic that Gazillion employed and, considering that we have the genius behind Diablo at the helm of this game, I’m a little bit ashamed to speak positively about the game at times because I would never expect these decision from a man like David Brevik. It plays just fine and some heroes are a lot of fun to use, but do you really want to put in what is likely over one hundred hours to stand a chance at getting them? Or paying a dumb amount of real money to unlock them? No, I wouldn’t either. Still, Gazillion promises frequent updates such as additional heroes (there are several being worked on now) and eventual campaign expansions, and they’re probably worth checking out. Overall this is can be a great game, but playing it frequently ends up being a battle between your own morality as a consumer and how much you enjoy the game itself. Give it a try since, after all, it’s free to play.

Final Score

7.1/10

Pros:
+ Free to play.
+ The basic gameplay is enjoyable for what it is.
+ Overall great cast of characters.

Cons:
– End game is extremely boring, unfathomably slow, and mind numblingly tedious.
– Hero drop rates are so low that it’s ridiculous.
– Too many subtle nudges by Gazillion to try and get you to spend money.

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