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Monday, June 10, 2013

Marvel Heroes - 10 Hour Review

Just a few days ago Marvel Heroes, a new free-to-play Action RPG in the style of Diablo, released on Steam. Marvel Heroes is being put out there by Gazillion Entertainment, most notable for being lead by David Brevik, one of the three founders of Blizzard North of Diablo fame. While it's release was rocky (though I have yet to see a game have a smooth one) and marred by crashed servers and client issues, at this point it seems to be fairly stable (in my time of playing I have not encountered any problems).


The story seems to fit a comic book universe, and is simultaneously full of every betrayal, scheme, and random macguffin necessary to try and assemble virtually every hero and villain Marvel has ever cooked up. This game was designed to in large part cater to fans of the publisher, and it shows, even down to the "Facts" that adorn the loading screens. In terms of story, it's nothing revolutionary, and exists mainly as a backdrop for the gameplay; suffice to say the villains are up to no good, and the player is there to stop them, if you were expecting more, you're in the wrong place.


The UI has all the same bugs I have come to basically expect from new releases. It does not "remember" what you have explored so every time you turn the game on and off you have to re-explore which I found frustrating; especially because I am neurotic about full-map clears in the case of Heroes I found myself eventually just giving up on that goal.

Furthermore the quest markers are TERRIBLE often pointing off into space apparently and giving the player little to no guidance about where they should go. This is doubly offensive with zone-based events, which you will get prompts about but no direction towards. On numerous occasions I have been told that I succeeded or failed at a mission I didn't even know I was participating in.


I've not tried playing with a party of friends yet, but I have ended up in groups. I tend to avoid grouping in most games after numerous frustrating experiences in WoW and others, but I found Heroes system of throwing quick parties together for certain missions as you zone to be quite adequate. It seems to just grab the last 5-6 players doing the mission and sticks them together so now near release it works well, but it might suffer down the road when fewer players are available. However, the missions seem to scale for the player count, so this might not be so bad. It also nicely fits the "superhero" theme of having a random group of heroes show up to solve the problem...though it gets a bit weird when the group has 2+ members playing the same hero.

One definite positive of the game is its resurrection mechanic. When you "die" you actually just go "down". You become invulnerable, and your team has 3 minutes to resurrect you (stand next to you for 5ish seconds and do an action that is interrupted on damage) sounds easy but sometimes it can be hard to get that window. Either way it is something Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 could have taken to heart, as their "you died, have fun back at the waypoint" mechanics had the bad habit of splitting up teams and forcing the rest of the group (if they weren't jerks) to wait for the deceased to return to their corpse.


Suffice to say one could spend hours dissecting every aspect of a game like this for fun. For what I had expected I am not disappointed, the game has 20+ characters who each have somewhere in the realm of 20+ abilities. They seem to be reasonably balanced though melee has the same drawbacks it always has in ARPGs in that they do not do substantially higher damage despite the risk of being in melee. The problem with the character volume is the free-to-play elements (see below).

Bosses rather obviously announce their more dangerous abilities, and in general they feel fair and fun to deal with. One thing I noticed quickly was that I had not encountered and of the sudden deaths I did in Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2. I don't mind dying, but when everything is going swimmingly and out of left-field I suddenly die to an attack that did disproportionately high damage or was not well broadcast I get annoyed; especially when the game has a long run-back.

As Penny Arcade teased, much of the game is "open world" in which you are in a zone with dozens of other players. I think the idea of this was to invoke a sense of having lots of heroes be around (consistent with the comics) and helping. The problem with this is that you are rarely the only one of your character around. I had a particularly amusing experience (which I sadly did not get a screenshot of) in which there were 8 or so Storms all attacking Venom as a HUGE mob of people were following him. I get the feel they were going for, but having THAT many people on a shard somewhat turns it from "Avengers, thank god you're here!" to "Lets have an army beat up ONE guy..." ironically making the players seem more like the army of minions attacking one tough "hero". They might remedy this by trying to shuffle people onto servers in way that maximizes breadth of hero selection, but right now the starting 5 are VERY common sights, and it somewhat breaks the "immersion" to have a dozen of yourself running around.
"Storm! Glad you're here. You too Storm, and you Storm..."
Free to Pay Play

Consistent with most F2P titles, Marvel Heroes bases its free-to-play mechanic around getting access to more characters and skins; much like popular MOBAs like League of Legends. The problem in Marvel Heroes is that you are basically stuck with 2 heroes unless you spend cash. You get to pick one of a set of five right off the bat, then you get another random one of those after the first chapter of the story...and supposedly one random hero at the end of the game. After that, it's all chance, and the chance of a hero token is EXTREMELY small. Hero costs are also different, depending mainly on how popular they think the hero will be; big names like Iron Man and Deadpool are 2000G while Hawkeye is down at 600G. In addition, every new hero starts at level 1, meaning the full grind through the story for endgame access.

They might improve this by offering 1-2 heroes a week as "Test Drive" heroes, similar to Hawken, which might allow a player to have access to one for a few days...perhaps even let them keep the xp, but have to buy the hero to get permanent access. Alternatively, they could do a "rental" for a period of time. Either of these would solve the problem of players having little information about a hero before they buy them outside of general knowledge of the Marvel Universe.


Marvel Heroes is definitely not the second coming of the ARPG, but it's not a terrible game either. If you are a fan of Marvel comics and a fan of ARPGs it might just be the perfect game for you. If not, you won't miss anything if you choose to stick to D3, Torchlight 2 or others.


  1. I realy was looking forward to this game but the lack of quest markers were frustrating.

    After spending 1 hour randomly bashing bad guys I called it a day.

    I don't mind randomly running around beating on bad guys but it just gets to repetative without mission targets to intentionally complete.

    I actualy botheres me so much that until they fix that I'm out. Hope they fix it soon.

    Great looking game though and would definetly recommend it to people to try out.

    1. Right now it is definitely in the category of "This game could be fantastic if they fixed some issues," such as the poor quest markers. Also a bit more transparency/explanation for how the dailies after the main story work would be nice...