It’s been several months since Gazillion Entertainment’s Marvel Heroes burst onto the scene, hoping to give other action RPG juggernauts such Diablo 3, Path of Exile, and Torchlight 2 a run for their money.
Initially, Marvel Heroes failed to live up to its hype and received a fairly lukewarm reception from reviewers across the board. The game was well designed and had interesting gameplay, as it should considering Diablo mastermind David Brevik headed the development of the game, but there were many core issues that held the game back from greatness. Repetitive enemies, terrible drop rates, unbalanced characters, a boring starting hero roster, and outrageous prices in the cash shop frustrated many players. Have these issues all been remedied? For the most part they have been and this is the case why, four months after my original review, I’m giving the game another write-up because of the vast improvements that have come into place over such a short period of time.
When players used to load up Marvel Heroes, they were treated to a rather bland log-in screen followed by an extremely boring cast of selectable heroes. Originally, new players had to choose a hero to start with from Daredevil, Hawk-Eye, Scarlet Witch, Storm or Thing. It wasn’t a particularly exciting stable to choose from, with most people going with Hawk-Eye or Storm. However, with a recent update, the log-in screen has received an attractive facelift and the selectable character roster has been reworked and now includes Captain America, Colossus, Black Panther, Black Widow, Hawk-Eye, Human Torch, Luke Cage, Punisher or Storm. This line-up is vastly superior in terms of variety and offering more appealing characters. Who sounds more exciting between Captain America and Human Torch or Daredevil and Thing? Yeah, exactly.
There’s been a wealth of new gameplay content since my initial review. An entirely new intro scenario has been added featuring a battle against Black Cat as she attempts to rob a bank. Finishing this introduction leads into the original intro mission that takes place at The Raft, a prison for supervillains where security is heavily compromised and villains escape. After finishing up with these introduction missions and heading to Hell’s Kitchen, returning players will quickly note that there’s a plethora of new enemy types and optional mini-dungeons. Players can do battle with bazooka-wielding vixens or rescue a police station from a symbiote infestation now, it’s really a wonderful change and has added lots for new players to do aside from perhaps downing Electro before heading down into the abandoned subway to progress the chapter 1 story.
Loot has been significantly improved to the point where the current build of Marvel Heroes almost feels like an expansion or sequel to the launch build from June of this year. Item icons have been improved to make it easier to differentiate which piece of gear is for which character, new equipment slots have been introduced, and a system has been introduced to make acquiring heroes easier. Regarding new equipment slots, players can now equip far more items than before with relics and rings being the highlight. Relics seem pretty underpowered at first as they provide you with only miniscule stat bonuses suhc as +1 health or +1 dodge rating, but if you take into account the fact that you can stack relics of the same kind to provide additional bonuses, they begin to look fairly appealing and hunting down relics becomes a fun grind. They function a bit like charms from Diablo 2, only relics are stackable and can be equipped, so they’re actually a fair bit more interesting than their Diablo 2 counterpart. As for rings, they’re basically what you would expect and aren’t much more than simple items that provide a few stat bonuses when equipped, but they’re a welcome addition. I can’t help but wonder what some of the unique and/or legendary quality rings will be. Equippable Mandarin rings, perhaps?
In terms of acquiring heroes, it’s still a bit of a grind but has become more bearable than before as you actually feel like you’re making progress towards getting new characters to play as. Originally, you had to either purchase a hero from the cash shop or hope that one would drop for you. In approximately sixty to seventy hours of playing Marvel Heroes, I still have not seen a single hero drop outside of scripted ones that are dropped as boss rewards, so the drop rate on them has never been too high. This is where eternity shards come in. Eternity shards are a type of currency that can go towards buying new heroes and other assorted goodies. It takes between 400 to 800 to unlock various heroes and this may sound extremely daunting, but it’s not so bad once you get playing and realize that eternity shards can drop off of any enemy in the game and will do so at a rate of about once every twenty minutes. I’d feel safe in saying that a player will see at least one eternity shard drop with each play session, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes to half an hour. More expensive heroes cost 600 and 800 shards with the less interesting ones costing 400, but this isn’t all bad considering that, by the time you are able to purchase a hero with your shards, you should already have three heroes from finishing the first eight chapters of the game (you are rewarded with two additional heroes throughout the story).
I also feel that I should mention that a gripe I had with the early builds of the game has become a thing of the past, and this problem was item stacking. Originally, crafting materials did not stack at all and med-kit only stacked to ten. Crating materials can now stack (up to ten per stack) and med-kits now stack up to twenty. This has resulted in both my inventory and stash each looking less cluttered and far more organized.
It’s worth noting that the story has been expanded now to include a new villain in Loki. After the downfall of Doctor Doom in chapter 8, Loki takes advantage of the situation and begins a Dark Elf invasion into Norway. This all takes place in the brand new chapter 9, taking our heroes to Norway as they continue to progress the story and work towards unlocking a new town hub in the form of Asgard (which will be available in an upcoming patch). I’m yet to finish the new chapter, but it’s a huge breath of fresh air as we take our characters into the frozen steppes of Norway to battle entirely new enemies such as the aforementioned dark elves or gigantic frost giants that make sentinels look like pushovers.
Several new characters have been released since launch. Cable, Emma Frost, Human Torch, Loki, Luke Cage, and Squirrel Girl have been added to the game’s roster with Nova still in the works (he was announced well before launch) as well as characters such as Gambit, Magik, Nightcrawler and Sue Storm rumoured to be in development at the moment. Marvel Heroes receives an average of one new playable character per month, which is remarkably impressing. While most pay to play games offer new character classes once very year or two with expansions and major updates, the free to play Marvel Heroes hands them out like candy about once a month. Gazillion Entertainment is doing a wonderful job in keeping this game fresh with every new update.
Marvel Heroes’ end game has also improved significantly. When players originally defeated Doctor Doom in chapter 8, there was little to do other than daily challenges in recycled dungeons. While these daily challenges are still present, there are also survival challenges to take part in as well as two maps which really have no objective other than to have fun, grind eternity shards and loot, or level. These two maps are Midtown Madness and X-Defense. In Midtown Madness, players get to patrol Midtown Manhattan to take down elite hordes of enemies as well as random supervillains who decide to pop in. X-Defense sees players unite to protect xavier’s mansion from waves of increasingly powerful enemy forces. Both of these maps are insanely fun and, best of all, are available at any level. I wouldn’t recommend sinking your teeth into either map until you’re at least level 25 or so, as that is when they truly become hectic and require a vast amount of powers to succeed on. There are also multiple difficulty settings which unlock after defeating Doctor Doom in chapter 8. This was a welcome addition and brings all of the fun of Diablo’s nightmare and hell difficulty settings to Marvel Heroes.
On the graphical and technical side of things, the UI has been reworked several times since launch and is now at a point where it feels just right. Issues with graphics and sound effects have been ironed out and many players report improved game performance compared to when Marvel Heroes went live in June. With this free to play game receiving constant updates that iron out technical gremlins while repeatedly adding new playable characters and new story chapters, it would be insane to not try this game. Marvel Heroes feels like a fully realized pay to play game that easily could’ve been purchased off a store shelf, but this isn’t the case here at all! While the cash shop still draws some ire from players, many prices have been reduced from launch and are mostly agreeable now. Considering the fact that this is a free game, it’s understandable that some characters and costumes on the cash shop would cost a few dollars to purchase. The way I see it? If you’re enjoying a game that is completely free and is commanding just as much of your time as a game that you paid money to purchase, why not lay down a few dollars to buy a hero or costume and support the developers? Gazillion Entertainment are continuously refining Marvel Heroes and making it into the game that it was hyped to be. It still has a little ways to go, but with addicting gameplay and frequent content updates, they’re more than on the right track with this excellent free to play game. David Brevik has created what almost feels like a spiritual sequel to the last game he worked on, Diablo 2. If you’re a fan of Brevik’s work at Blizzard North, then you should undoubtedly get some fun out of Marvel Heroes even if you’re not too familiar with the source material.
+ Addictive gameplay feels like an evolution of Diablo 2.
+ Free to play with cheaper cash shop prices than at launch.
+ Superb cast of characters that continuously grows larger.
– Many costumes are still pretty expensive in the cash shop.
– Older computers may experience issues when many heroes are fighting on-screen at once.
– Some gameplay systems aren’t really explained in-game.