We didn’t review Marvel Heroes when it launched last year simply because it felt like a shell of a game. Many features were clearly missing at launch, leaving the title feeling a little lacklustre. Talking to David Brevik prior to launch, it was obvious Gazillion had a grand vision for their Action RPG. But perhaps it launched a little too early. It needed time to sort itself out; and that time is now.
Last month the game was relaunched as Marvel Heroes 2015, in an effort to heighten awareness to the new features and game systems that have been added over the past year. It wasn’t just a cunning piece of rebranding, because the game does now feel more feature complete.
The core of the game’s story mode essentially remains the same. Take on Doctor Doom and thwart his plans to collect powerful artifacts for the traditionally villainous goal of global domination. For the purposes of this review I started from scratch with one of our original free characters, Scarlet Witch, who is not exactly the easiest character to play. I also didn’t use any XP boosts, instead playing Marvel Heroes 2015 as if brand new to the game.
The main story can be completed in around 10-12 hours, and those ten hours encompass all the elements that make a solid ARPG. There’s now so much more to the game with the introduction of more crafting, runes, and one of the later additions: Eternity Splinters.
Marvel Heroes was heavily criticised for its pricing structure when it launched. If you wanted another hero that wasn’t part of the free starting roster of characters then you had to shell out real cash. That system was eventually changed with the introduction of Eternity Splinters, which can be collected as you play and redeemed for cash items such as new heroes and other currency items. This was an essential addition to the game because the more you played the more you could earn, thereby boosting your hero roster without spending a penny. Players got a more palatable route to new heroes, while Gazillion maintained other shop options, confident that people would eventually drop dollars into the system for a new costume or hero anyway.
ARPGS have tended to move away from a standard skill tree system, but Brevik stuck to his guns with Marvel Heroes. The core of the game retains a skill system that Diablo 2 players will find a very familiar. When it comes to the endgame, however, there’s a new system now in place called the Omega System. This allows you to keep improving your character beyond the level cap of 60.
Omega points are gained beyond the 60 cap and can be added as passives. A similar system was added to Diablo 3 but Marvel Heroes is more extensive with a large variety of passives available, covering fourteen different categories. This potentially makes builds slightly more interesting beyond that cap of 60.
You have to look beyond the story mode to find further major changes implemented to keep players enthused. With such a huge roster of Marvel characters to choose from, there needed to be more challenges to keep player engaged to make it worthwhile levelling each and every character.
With each player likely to have a few characters in their roster, Gazillion realised that new characters could do with a helping hand when levelling to avoid boredom creeping in. To address this, they added the Synergies system. Any character you have levelled up to level 25 can grant bonuses to new characters. A second bonus can also be applied from characters who have reached level 50. These bonuses include things like more damage, health or an increased chance to crit. This is definitely very helpful when starting up a new character.
Legendary quests are a great addition too, offering some tasty rewards and a change of scenery around different zones away from the standard quest-line. These appear in the missions roster and offer a variety of challenges away from the standard story missions. They can also be re-rolled if you’re offered one that doesn’t particularly appeal, though this does cost a few thousand in-game credits.
As well as the Midtown Patrol open area where you take on the bad guys, Gazillion has now added the X-Defense mode. In this mode players join forces to protect Xavier’s School from wave upon wave of enemies. This gets progressively harder, until eventually you and your group will likely be overwhelmed as more enemies pile in and you can no longer protect the students. It’s a pretty straightforward horde-type mode, but a handy way to jump in to gain experience while trying to work as a team with other players. The experience bar can shift fairly far too, due to the sheer amount that’s thrown at you in a short period.
The most recent story content added the Loki / Asgard plot, giving players the task of foiling Loki’s latest master plan. This addition brought new areas and missions to the game and also ties in nicely with the Sartur “raid” content with boss battles aimed specifically at level 60 characters. As Gazillion develop new content we’ll likely see more of these challenges added which should help keep the more seasoned players happy.
What I’ve always liked about Marvel Heroes is the way in which it’s easy to join others, even in story mode. The fact that you see other players in the vast shared areas, makes the game world feel alive. Oddly enough it doesn’t matter if you see two Spidermen or Wolverines running around, it just seems to work.
Marvel Heroes has come a long way since it launched and the Gazillion team are starting to finally create an ARPG that’s enjoyable, with enough incentives to keep you playing. With new content and tweaks being added in updates this is well worth revisiting if you were unimpressed after trying it last year.
The game still has problems with lag cropping up in play sessions, and there’s probably more they can still do with the items and Eternity Splinters. It will ultimately need more regular end-game content updates too. That said, essentially this is a free game and now you really don’t have to spend a cent unless you really want to. That’s a big plus for the more casual ARPG gamer.
If you haven’t tried the game then I suggest playing right through with one of the free characters first. Avoid the cash shop entirely until you think you want to invest more time and money in the game. It may not appeal to everyone but I think if you’re an ARPG fan then it’s more than likely you’ll drop a small amount of cash on this after a play through.
David Brevik and his team have done a good job turning Marvel Heroes around, it’s just taken a little longer than we hoped. There’s still work to be done, but isn’t there always in a free to play game?
After a lengthy period of time away, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed revisiting it over the past couple of weeks. The game has vastly improved, and the future looks bright for this Marvel inspired ARPG.