Tag Archive: Marvel Heroes


Dr. Doomed from the start

Right next to having superpowers of their own and fighting alongside their favorite characters, the next best thing for most comic-book fans would be actually assuming the role of their most beloved superheroes. Personally, I’d probably like to be one of the X-Men. Wolverine, Iceman, or Colossus, if possible—I’m not picky.

The guys and gals at Gazillion Entertainment zero in on this concept with their free-to-play PC game, Marvel Heroes. Driven by Diablo-style action-RPG mechanics, the game sees players starting off by choosing one of five heroes who most comic fans would consider B-list: Hawkeye, Storm, Scarlet Witch, Daredevil, and the Thing. By beating the game—or spending some cold, hard cash—you can unlock other heroes or purchase a variety of costumes for these characters.

Unfortunately, if you’re like me and get tempted into picking up the ’90s X-Men cartoon version of Cyclops or Wolverine after a few story chapters, you’ll soon realize that the starter characters represent core classes—and no matter what hero you choose, the powersets are basically the same, just with different animations.

Considering the differences between the heroes in the Marvel universe, this was frustrating as a fan. After all, I was willing to shell out the cash—only to find out there’s no need beyond cosmetic preferences. To add insult to injury, each purchased character starts at level 1, so if you want to immediately use them, the game recommends that you start the entire adventure over again, no matter what point you’re currently at.

A couple of saving graces here, however, are the story and comic-book-still cutscenes. Written by Marvel super-scribe Brian Michael Bendis, the tale incorporates some of Marvel’s most famous story arcs from all their major comic lines into one tidy package. The basics, though, boil down to this: Dr. Doom has a Cosmic Cube, and he feels like messing with reality, because that’s what megalomaniacal bad guys do. I’ve also got to compliment the top-notch voice acting in the cutscenes, including instantly recognizable pros like Nolan North as Deadpool, Steve Blum as Wolverine, and Keith David as Nick Fury.

After choosing your characters, it’s time to actually play the game. And by the time I got a third of the way through the campaign, I’d already grown bored. Instead of offering any kind of variety or difficulty, the game simply threw more and more enemies at me—or gave them an insane amount of health—in the hopes of slowing me down. But it’s not like I was actually doing anything. I played as Hawkeye for most of the game after wasting my money, so all I had to do was get a decent distance away, hold the Shift key in order to ground my hero, and then hold another button to attack. Sometimes two. If I played as the Hulk or Thing, the only thing that changed was my distance relative to the target. The enemy spawn times are also horribly balanced, and I’d regularly clear an area of Hand ninjas or HYDRA goons, only to have them reappear nanoseconds later.

One decent aspect of the gameplay, however, comes in the dungeons. If you turn on auto-grouping, you can enter any dungeon without the fear of being completely overwhelmed. Unlike a lot of other MMOs, when you enter a dungeon around the same time as other players, you can be automatically placed on a team with them. Of course, this can lead to the confusing dilemma of having six Hawkeyes on the same team (which happened to me a lot) and getting your particular avatar lost in the chaos, but if you’re a more introverted gamer, you don’t have to worry about pulling up an awkward chat window, begging for assistance, and dealing with complete strangers.

Normally, this is about where I’d wrap up my review, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the most disappointing aspect of my time playing Marvel Heroes: the technical side. I purposely waited as long as I did to put up my review because I was waiting to see how the game performed after some patches. While the game has seen several small patches and one major fix in the two weeks since the game went live, I’m still experiencing many gameplay-balance problems, as well as numerous technical issues.

Every 20 to 30 minutes, my game crashes or freezes for no apparent reason, and while I’ve reported this error on the technical forums, it remains unfixed after performing the recommended actions from the support staff. I’ve made sure my drivers are up to date, I’ve uninstalled and reinstalled the game launcher, and I’ve even turned down the specs to the lowest possible setting (my PC isn’t the highest-end gaming rig, but it should handle the minimum requirements no problem).

This left the support staff confounded—and me increasingly frustrated. So, I want to warn people before they play Marvel Heroes: In my experience, it just doesn’t work as well as it should. And after perusing the forums, I found that the error I encountered is actually pretty common. Then again, you get what you pay for—and the core of the game is free, after all.

So, if the game works for you perfectly, that’s great, but at the end of the day, fewer crashes still won’t make Marvel Heroes the most worthwhile of experiences unless you fall in love with its price tag.

Developer: Gazillion Entertainment • Publisher: Gazillion Entertainment • ESRB: N/A • Release Date: 06.04.13
4.0
While Marvel Heroes does some nice things, the Marvel license isn’t enough to cover up glaring technical and design flaws. As much as I wanted to like this game, I can’t recommend something that is, at its core, broken. In the end, you get what you pay for (or less, if you actually invested in this).
The Good Story that expertly reimagines some of Marvel’s greatest moments.
The Bad Constant crashing and glitches; uninspired gameplay.
The Ugly Expecting to get something for nothing—and then being surprised when what you get just isn’t that good.
Marvel Heroes is a PC exclusive. 

Make Mine Marvel

I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t want to be a superhero. Whether it was wielding the Hulk’s impossible strength, firing lasers from my eyes like Cyclops, or cutting things to ribbons with Wolverine’s claws, superpowers have always been at the forefront of my imagination. So, I’ll admit that I relished being able to go hands-on with Gazillion Entertainment’s upcoming free-to-play MMORPG Marvel Heroes.

The story starts off with vintage Marvel bad guy Dr. Doom getting his hands on a Cosmic Cube—and the chaos he intends to bring down upon the citizenry of the world will be significant. Therefore, Marvel’s mightiest heroes from across all major lines must come together to root out Doom and his allies. Being as obsessed with comics as I am, this story may look like it’s been done before—on the surface, anyway. But the game’s writer, Brian Michael Bendis (best known for his long run on The Avengers), is clear that it’s difficult to write for a game like this.

“The challenge was to come up with a story that hits as much architecture and landscape in the Marvel Universe as possible without it feeling too much like a knee-jerk thing,” he says. “What’s interesting about the Marvel Universe is that there are just as many interesting things going on at the street level—let’s say the Daredevil level, the Spider-Man level—as there are at the cosmic level, the Guardians of the Galaxy, the Silver Surfer, the Galactus level. The cool thing—and the interesting idea for us—was to actually start the story at the ground level and kind of roll like a snowball downhill. As you discover more and more about the actual story and play through the game, you get to travel up toward the cosmic level of the Marvel universe, all the while not getting newcomers lost or confused. I looked at it like this grand opportunity to create almost like a Marvel event comic unlike anything you’d actually seen in publishing. And at the same time, create like a Marvel lifestyle product, if that makes sense. Then, there are some fans who live and breathe these characters—and are going to live and breathe this game. This is going to be, if done well, the next step of the worldwide community of comic-book fans and Marvel fans and just fans of games. To create something that really lives and breathes like the Marvel Universe for them all to live in is a real treat—and a real challenge.”

If you should live and breathe these characters, as Mr. Bendis so aptly puts it, then you’ll probably be as excited as I was to see what he was talking about. I was fortunate enough to play through three of the story’s dozen chapters; in that time, I went from Mutant Town in New York City to the Kingpin’s penthouse to the Morlock sewers to the Savage Land—hopping through some of Marvel’s most iconic locations in a way that makes sense to the story. I also took on iconic baddies like Sentinels, Mutates, A.I.M., and the Purifiers, not to mention individual supervillains like Green Goblin, Tombstone, Sauron, Bullseye, and Lady Deathstrike.

But including characters that we expect to see in a game like this isn’t going to be enough—the gameplay needs to be there, too. Fortunately, Gazillion president and COO David Brevik has a bit of experience in making games like this really shine (he created Diablo I and II, if you didn’t recognize the name).

Steering away from fully customizable avatars, Marvel Heroes wants to make you feel like those great characters we all grew up loving, so you only play as established characters from the Marvel Universe. If you want to smash with the Hulk, you can do it. If Ms. Marvel is more your thing, then no one will stop you. Or maybe purple really does it for you, so Hawkeye’s your man. If they’re a hero in the Marvel Universe, you can unlock them and play with them at some point. And if you don’t like their standard look, you’ve got a bevy of alternate costumes you can unlock—like, if you’d rather your Captain America have that 1940s helmet instead of his modern mask.

And playing with these characters feels as great as you’d expect. Setting hotkeys for special powers or just left- and right-clicking makes it so you can fire a variety of beams with Cyclops or set the world on fire however you wish with the Human Torch. It couldn’t be easier to start mowing down Mole People or putting the screws to Pyro than that.

As Brevik explains, though, you can’t just go it alone if you really want to get through the story and the inevitable expansions down the road. At times, you’ll have to team up, and Gazillion’s trying some different ways to make some of those feel more spur-of-the-moment than camping out in front of a dungeon entrance looking for help.

“We had an idea about the way that we’d like to get invites going and get people together,” he says. “We have events that are more traditional encounters, making sure that there are opportunities for people to socially get together and group up. You hang out in town, and people are like, ‘I need help with the Kingpin fight!’ or ‘Oh, I’m on that, too,’ and group up and go to this thing together. That’s something we wanted from the very beginning as part of the design. Then, we have optional grouping, which is this loose grouping out in the public combat zones. Green Goblin suddenly pops up, and then everybody can get together dynamically and work together, and everybody gets rewarded. So, there isn’t an official formalization of the grouping there. There’ll be other ways to group and other ways to do things, especially in the endgame, that I think will also play right into the kind of MMO hands that people are used to.”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the crafting system. Going to certain characters like Forge at the X-Mansion or Hank Pym at Avengers Tower will allow players the chance to upgrade their equipment or add buffs to items like Cyclops’ visor or Deadpool’s katanas. This just gives you an even deeper connection to the experience; it hearkens back to Diablo while still featuring the Marvel flair players expect.

Marvel Heroes is shaping up as one of the more special free-to-play MMO experiences. With the power of the Marvel license, writers like Brian Michael Bendis, and David Brevik’s Diablo background, every Marvelite will likely be shouting “Excelsior!” when this game’s finally open to everyone—hopefully sometime later this year.