A new free-to-play MMO set in the Marvel universe created by the guy who made Diablo I and II? Um, yes please! This game is the next big thing in the new free-to-play game world, but will it be your next family game night pick? Or will you be stuck sneaking in play time after the kids go to sleep?
Marvel Fanboys (and Girls) Rejoice
It’s gotta be rough taking on Marvel fans, but Marvel Heroes developer Gazillion Entertainment has done a respectable job. Marvel fans, including vets who grew up with the comics, youngsters who dig the Avengers film franchise and everyone in between will be able to find something to love in this game. To get a sense of the depth of coverage, all you need to do is check out a cross-section of Iron Man’s available costumes. You can wear the exact 3D model of his suit from Iron Man 3, imported directly into the game from the vault of the filmmakers, or you can wear the Mk. V armor that Stark wore in May 1968’s Iron Man #1.
There must be a catch though, right? Well, as it turns out, you can experience the whole game without paying a penny, unless you want a different costume or hero. Some hero tokens drop randomly so you can eventually play as someone else, but if you want gameplay variety or cosmetic changes, you’ll need to fork over some cash.
This game definitely shines in the personality department, and is full of inside jokes and Easter eggs. Instead of customizable classes, you play as one of 22 different iconic Marvel characters. Each piece of gear in the game is labeled for a particular hero and features a quote or message from their owners. One of Hulk’s items reads “Hulk…mad. –Hulk.” I would normally expect cute flavor text on one or two special items, but every item has a hero quote. The Marvel authenticity even extends to the quest narrative, which is written by the same Marvel comic writer who helped launch The New Avengers and Ultimate Spider-Man.
In short, there’s plenty here for whole families of Marvel nerds to geek out about.
But what about the gameplay?
If you took the gameplay style of Diablo II and added glitzy hero costumes, crazy spell effects and a Joss Whedon-esque sense of humor, you’d have Marvel Heroes. The difference that may make it acceptable for your family to dig into is the simplicity of gameplay controls and the lack of Diablo’s blood, guts and general creepy darkness.
To play, you assign skills from your spellbook onto one very simple spellbar that only allows eight skills at a time. These skills are assigned to the a-s-d-f-g-h row of your keyboard, with your main skills having already been assigned to your left and right mouse buttons. It’s pretty hard to go wrong here: Just assign the spells (or not, it doesn’t even really matter that much) and start clicking and mashing away.
This game doesn’t look all that impressive until you start spamming your spells; the spell effects are astounding and the physics are noticeably realistic. The first time your little gamer’s Jean Grey turns into a bright, fiery phoenix, he or she will be hooked. Even if your youngster isn’t the most coordinated gamer, they’ll still be delighted by the flashiness of their power to whump, shoot hand-lasers and hurl cars at hordes of ninjas and street thugs.
Grouping together isn’t necessary, but it’s definitely a lot more fun. You can be in a party of up to five players and go through the story together, or you can run around the open-world areas keeping the streets safe with a big mass of other heroes. Fighting together with other players is one of the more thrilling experiences in the game, and definitely lends itself to the creation of a family superhero team. Your only limitation for group gameplay is the number of computers in your home.
While Marvel Heroes does involve killing through shooting, punching, kicking and, in Hulk’s case, smashing, it lacks the serious blood and gore that’s prevalent of many other games in the genre. The violence is right in line with that you might find in a Marvel comic. Fisticuffs are an essential part of a hero’s job description, after all.
Only you know what’s right for your family, but if they’re old enough to read Marvel comics and see Iron Man on the big screen blasting wave upon wave of baddies, it’s pretty safe to give Marvel Heroes a try. It’s flashy, fast-paced, authentically Marvel and free.