I’m currently playing Marvel Heroes, Gazillion’s new MMO action RPG utilising the Marvel universe as its base. It’s a free-to-play game and makes you very aware of it, even before clicking install, with a myriad of options presented to you that will give you bonuses, new characters and costumes. While in a way, that’s quite normal, it’s the extraordinary prices that have me a little concerned, though we’ll get back to this later on.
Although I’ve now found myself about six hours in and on chapter three (presumably once this goes up, it’ll have progressed further), I’m yet to find any point where I’m actually enjoying myself. I feel constricted and bound by the haunting walls of the free-to-play mansion and as I look outside to the yard, I shake my head at the missed opportunities and boring nature of it all. On one side, is the luscious grasses of Torchlight 2 and the other, Diablo 3 is currently on fire, but anyone can have fun with fire in some respects. In front, the other free-to-play ARPG, Path of Exile sits eloquently, with the gardener constantly mowing and trimming the hedges, smiling as he does so. Here, in Marvel Heroes, the grass looks like it needs a good watering and the prized petunia bush is in need of a good replacement, stat.
When you first boot up Marvel Heroes, you’re forced to choose from six heroes, none of which I really wanted, but that’s where they get you, I guess. Currently stuck with Daredevil and his close quarters combat, slow the enemy and hit them while they’re down style, there’s yet to be that moment where I go, “Wow, yes. That was cool.” Torchlight has it when you start seeing things explode on contact, in a big chunky mess. Diablo 3, with its large scale presentation and Path of Exile with the pure ridiculousness, Marvel Heroes lacks any of this. The combat has no weight to it – other than the forced animation of watching someone fly across the screen – and also is missing the flamboyance of a comic book. Where’s my brutal Daredevil fights or as I witness the umpteenth Scarlet Witch and Storm fly about, why is the more exciting looking magical powers have this nice feeling of dullness?
It lacks style. That’s it. For a comic book based product, it lacks any sense of style. Dare I say, it’s boring to look at. To be in. To play. Nothing exciting ever happens. Nothing reacts as you’d expect, enemies just standing there as you wail on them, sometimes forgetting that you either exist or how to fight in general. Along with no style, it took the worst parts of an MMO’s animation standards and threw it in. I can tell you now, Daredevil does not move like that. No flow to anything. That’s really nitpicky, but in an action RPG, if I’m not hustling around quickly and it all looks really stilted, considering I’m not really doing all that much, you’re losing me as player in the whole ‘engagement game’.
This all said, I actually really enjoy the story it’s trying to present in between all this video game. Doctor Doom is the villain and there’s a conspiracy, Hydra and The Hand are involved. It’s just fan service for everyone who loves Marvel. (Captain America’s voice is also super ridiculous in all the right ways)
Free-to-Play. My new favourite thing in video games, when done right. To see how it’s done right, please refer to the following games: Team Fortress 2; Path of Exile; Warframe; War Thunder; World of Tanks; TERA and Planetside 2. All these games provide the full game for you to experience, while hiding cosmetic and rather silly items behind the pay wall. Some of these, you’ll eventually get them for free or even have the ability to purchase through ingame currency. While Marvel Heroes does allow you to unlock particular heroes through completing quests, from what I’ve seen so far, these are far too and few in between, leaving the assumption that by the end of it, I’ll probably wind up with the free choices regardless.
I can understand completely, the selling of characters and such, but not at £64.99 a pop, for just four variations on the same game. I don’t particularly care all these costumes are supposedly worth a lot of money, what if I don’t like playing as Spider-Man? I never got the option to try him out and here I am, stuck with a character that doesn’t suit how I play and I’m out of quite a fair bit of cash. Costumes, sure, but actual possible gameplay alterations? You never, ever, hold that ransom for a price. Some people are never going to see how everything plays, because those prices are steep.
“But Joel, why are you complaining? The game is free and it’s all optional!” Yeah, sure, it’s optional and even Dave Brevik – Head Honcho of Gazillion – said, “Fundamentally it is a free-to-play game. You don’t have to pay us anything.” Again, I agree, but fundamentally, you’re holding back some of your game from us. It starts to beg the question, why make this free-to-play to start with? Why not have us pay an actual price (perhaps similar to Van Helsing, which was just released under £15) and throw on the money shop? Lock characters like usual, but also, have them unlock periodically, after a chapter or something. There’s little need for this extravagant set up of paying oodles of money, just so I can annoy myself with what the video game industry and anyone else who touches Marvel, has turned Deadpool into. Just to point out, I’ve been reading on forums that this quote here, from the Marvel Heroes website, is now a blatant lie, “Players will be able to get nearly ALL heroes and costumes in the game for free, just by playing.” As many have pointed out that in regular playthrough, only free characters have dropped so far, with beta players saying otherwise, but also suggesting that you’d have to put in a lot of time to get to that stage where they do begin to drop.
The game has yet to impress me and this whole shoddy way of dealing with free-to-play in the days where we’ve slowly started to surpass that shady feeling that F2P once had (hiding the classic ‘find X easier by X% stat is beyond gross and charging for special daily missions isn’t cool, at all), Marvel Heroes actually feels quite backwards in a lot of ways. Quite backwards and it’s like eating a plain cracker after the delicious feast of ARPGs we’ve had in the last year.