Marvel Heroes Review- Really fun, but a little shaky
Marvel Heroes’ story is jam-packed with references, characters, nods to countless story arcs within the vast Marvel universe. The whole game is pure fan service at its best and if you’re even remotely interested in the Marvel universe then you’ll really appreciate the crazy level of detail the game goes into. There’s a ton of playable characters and recognizable faces (although some characters only appear briefly as NPCs and quest givers when they feel like they should take much larger roles, like Beast, for example). The story itself is pretty typical of comic books: Dr Doom is looking for the Cosmic Cube to do some evil things and, of course, every super villain ever created is on his side. It’s presented in a decent way, with cutscenes that appear in the form of voiced motion comics done by Marvel writer Brian Bendis himself.
Gameplay-wise it essentially plays like a more mouse-orientated Ultimate Alliance with a larger focus on loot. If you’ve ever played any Action RPG, in particular games like Diablo or Torchlight, then Marvel Heroes’ gameplay will feel extremely familiar; perhaps even too much for some. There isn’t any trace of originality and if you’re looking for a fresh take on the Action RPG genre I’m afraid Marvel Heroes certainly isn’t it; the game really is just the Marvel universe copy and pasted into Diablo, and I mean that in a fairly good way. The characters and premise of the universe is a perfect match for a Diablo-like game and although you’ve likely done the whole loot-grinding, boss killing, trash filled madness before, you won’t mind doing it again if you’re really into Marvel stuff.
At the start of the game you’re given the choice of a handful of playable starter heroes, which includes Captain America and Human Torch amongst others, and all other heroes must be purchased with either money or the surprisingly common Eternity Splinters that drop in-game (some of the more expensive heroes cost 400 Splinters, but by the time I’d beaten the 20ish hour game I could afford one of the cheaper 200 Splinter heroes). Character progression is reasonably flexible; of course, every hero levels independently from one another, which means that whenever you buy a new hero you’re given the choice of either restarting story progression (which does not remove your waypoints and ability to do daily, although they could explain that a lot better) or simply grinding levels through your various unlocked waypoints. You can also switch between heroes on the fly.
As far as Action RPGs go, Marvel Heroes is generally pretty easy, not always in terms of difficulty because the late game can get pretty intense, but mainly because of how lightly they deal with death penalties. Dying incurs zero durability damage to armor or weapons, in fact gear doesn’t have durability, and dying will only respawn you into the same area with all enemies at the exact same health points. Although durability is just a pain to deal with anyway, the challenge of boss encounters and densely populated dungeons is removed by the fact that you can effectively die your way through any boss.
The lack of difficulty may put off some of the more hardcore fans of the genre, but if you’re there for the fan service then I doubt you’ll mind that the Green Goblin can be farmed.
The game likes to call itself an MMO, although to be fair it really isn’t one and it feels like it would still work exactly the same if it was a single-player experience. There are guilds and open, non-instanced areas to be found, but overall the MMO side of the game feels weak and underdeveloped. There’s no real incentive to form a group or party, you might run into a guy who’ll fight with you for a little bit but you tend to spend way more time fighting on your own. Although they wouldn’t have been able to implement a free-to-play business model into a single-player game, I guess, and some of the persistent world stuff could be pretty neat if you’re looking to get into a guild or something but, to me, it just feels a little unnecessary.
Unfortunately, the game suffers from some pretty major performance issues because of seriously poor optimization, and this can make playing almost impossible at times. For a game that boasts such densely packed areas and mob packs that fill the screen, having such poor performance is pretty unacceptable. The game also has some frequent server-side troubles that can often lead to unfavorable high ping. There’s been a lot of server maintenance and frequent updates so they at least appear to be working on it. The controls are your standard PC hack ‘n’ slash set-up with mouse movement and six bindable hotkeys, all fully customisable of course. The game looks pretty nice, the character models look especially detailed and the game commits to a great art style that feels extremely well-suited to the comic book premise, with the typical comic book font appearing as floating damage numbers.
Generally the sound design is also pretty solid, with some pretty decent voice acting and an array of your typical thwacks and smacks, the soundtrack can get a little ridiculous at times but serves its purpose.
Although Marvel Heroes might lack originality, its well-made blend of fun and satisfying action RPG gameplay wrapped in the Marvel paint makes for an engrossing experience for any Marvel fan, and even fans of the genre for that matter; although games like Diablo and Torchlight offer much deeper and longer lasting loot-grinding experiences. If you can find a hero from the starter heroes that you enjoy playing then you can easily get through the whole game without spending much, or anything, and perhaps just buy an extra hero and perhaps an extra stash slot. Marvel Heroes certainly has a lot to offer to Marvel fans.