Superheroes have become the world’s biggest fascination as of late, transforming from niche fodder to the public consciousness. They’re now the focus of the largest grossing films of all time and our biggest pop culture connection points. Video games have been playing with superheroes for almost as long as they’ve been around, but with the presence of superheroes evolving in the world, the same is expected from these games.
That’s why Gazillion’s Marvel Heroes was maligned when it was originally released, being criticized for its unbalanced, expensive, clunky interface. But something truly amazing happened here as Gazillion actually took this criticism in stride, re-tooled their product, and turned it into something infinitely more powerful than what it began as. It’s as if Marvel Heroes transformed from Bruce Banner to the Hulk, or even the metamorphosis that took place from Jon Favreau’s humble Iron Man to the interconnected, complicated Marvel Universe that we currently have. The result here being that Marvel Heroes 2015 is the all-powerful, ultra-satisfying game that it should have been in the first place. They took a buggy mess and turned it into one of the best free-to-play action RPG MMOs out there, and it’s not surprising to learn that the creator of Diablo and Diablo 2 is the one behind it. These guys knocked it out of the park…and with Thor’s hammer no less.
To begin, the gameplay and controls here are hardly breaking the mold, but you know what you’re getting with a game like this, and as long as they’re responsive and streamlined, there shouldn’t be a problem. You know the drill here: you click on things mad fast to kill them, all the while gaining experience and leveling up accordingly. Battle, Rinse, Repeat.
This battling is also your method of unlocking new characters, which are at your discretion rather than being randomized, as you spend currency at Avengers Tower to add to your roster. It is at least nice to see the game having a vast knowledge and respect for the Marvel Universe, which I suppose is a given with a game like this, and with how comic-savvy the average person has now become, but I still found myself surprised with the deep cuts and niche references included here.
The aesthetics here, while also not groundbreaking, are fairly impressive for a title that’s not costing you anything. Everything looks slick enough and isn’t sluggishly moving around as if these defenders have been zapped with a freeze-ray. There are extra details and ornamentation thrown around, and the same can be said with the audio, which offers full-speech for these people, and while you may not be humming the music from the game afterwards, it’s certainly engaging enough.
Marvel Heroes 2015 also offers various modes of gameplay to challenge you (Story Mode with varying difficulties, X Defense Horde Mode, Terminals, Midtown Patrol, and Shared Quests). There are also the wonderful raids that come in the form of end-game content that see you taking down tremendous superhero foes as you work alongside nine other heroes. It’s an exhilarating experience that I never found myself once getting frustrated at.
It’s kind of unbelievable how much is being given to you in this title. Every month a new character is added (allowing them to stay relevant with current Marvel cinematic endeavors, including characters like the Guardians of the Galaxy crew when their respective films come out), and even more frequently you’ll see new patches being released to assure you that this isn’t going to be a bug fest. There are also regular special events going on to get you involved and enthralled in this world they’ve created, and so even if you’ve cleared Story Mode countless times, there’s still near-infinite replayability going on here. And with the Omega System allowing you to level up past Level 60, there’s plenty here to keep you busy.
One of the best features of this newly updated game is how there’s no longer any real advantage to the gamers that are spending money to buy content. While this idea crippled the game before, it’s now widely liberating. Spending money only corresponds to cosmetic touches (costumes, boosts, fortune cards…), and this is certainly not a game where you need to spend actual money to survive or even get the “true” experience. You’re not constantly being mowed down by gamers who have made their characters nearly invincible by running out their wallets, but rather everything is balanced here. They’re throwing a tremendous amount at you and not asking for anything for the most part. The very active community that’s constantly online in this game is a testament to the developers’ dedication to this title. It’s almost ridiculous that full console retail titles that are giving you this same experience, like the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games, actually require you to pay money to gain characters through their DLC, while this game, that is apart of a genre that is designed to thin out your wallet, is being more respectful of your cash.
Of course a game like this is going to feel repetitive at times, but that’s more an issue with the genre rather than Marvel Heroes 2015 itself. If anything, they’re doing great work to fight this inevitable malaise. You are also going to encounter the usual sort of grievances here though, like a heavy need to grind, and people spamming attacks to excess, but it’s no more aggravating than it is anywhere else.
I did find myself encountering some unfair loot distribution, at times to the point where people might be pushed to actually spend money and buy the items that they’re not getting, but this choice is hardly necessary. I also found that there are some sensitive moderators in the community, with censorship and banning perhaps occurring a little more often than they should, but a safe, patrolled online community, I suppose is a healthy one.
Despite these minor quibbles, Marvel Heroes 2015 is a deeply enjoyable, addictive game that is still evolving and becoming even more impressive. If you have even a tangential love of superheroes or RPGs and MMOs, then you’re going to love this game and become one of the countless individuals who have sunk in nearly thousands of hours into the experience.