When Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix revealed their take on the Marvel universe earlier this year, the reaction was less than thrilled. Understandable, given the highly climatic recent closure of the MCU as we know it - but what many might not realize is that Square’s take on this iconic universe was actually put in motion before the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe hit theaters.
We recently got some hands-on time with the latest superhero game earlier this year and I’ll be honest - it was really hard to distance myself from the MCU. An unfair comparison for sure, but difficult given the decade’s worth of entertainment seen on the big screen. Scarlett Johanssen is Black Widow, Robert Downey Jr. is Iron Man - so to hear and see these characters with different voices, behaviors, and reactions definitely felt a bit disconcerting and made me feel like I wasn’t perhaps giving the title the chance it deserved.
The demo began as Thor after a celebration during Avengers Day turned fatal. With the Taskmaster wreaking havoc with his reapers, it was up to the heroic group to take the threat out once and for all. That fight wasn’t without sacrifices, but it did give us a solid chance to see how each hero plays while getting comfortable within the Marvel-verse through the Crystal lense.
Each hero has a vastly different playstyle. Thor is a healthy blend of melee and ranged attacks, whereas the Hulk is firmly in the tank class while being incredibly satisfying to play. Black Widow was enjoyable, though a little bit basic - great for players not familiar with this genre of playstyle - while Captain America wasn’t afraid to get up close and personal while dealing some massive damage.
Iron Man is my second favourite hero to play outside of the Hulk mostly because the freedom of flight, thrusters, and weaponry makes him feel powerful while not weighed down. Through his skill tree, players can also tailor him to practically any style of combat, making him incredibly versatile and an easy hero to play for those that like to switch it up a bit when playing for the long haul.
One thing I enjoyed during my time with Marvel’s Avengers is that strategy was definitely at play without disrupting the overall flow of the narrative. Though the part we played through was the tutorial showing off the moment that the Avengers broke up - thus being a very guided experience - it felt very fluid and natural, a perfect combination for both comic book fans and newcomers to the Marvel-verse.
Being able to execute the perfect combo felt incredibly satisfying and really offers a rewarding feeling for truly learning how each hero operates. The more in-tune with characters the player is, the more heightened the combat experience is and the more damage dealt. Though not necessarily uncommon for games of this genre, it’s a perfect mechanic when looking to keep the player-base engaged and invested in a title mechanically as well as narratively.
There are also two very different experiences that players can partake in. The War Table offers these two main branches of gameplay: Hero Missions, which are the single-player missions and the traditional campaign, and the Warzone Missions which has a lot more freedom and is open to up to 4 players. Play solo or play with friends, both seem to have a lot to offer for the story as well as multiplayer fun exploring these iconic characters.
The skill trees will also pretty much make any RPG fan drool. Each is incredibly intricate but more than that -- easily swappable. Though overwhelming at first, the game does a solid job at showcasing exactly which perk offers what which effectively creates an upgradable path that feels rewarding while also accomplishing major personal growth as each character.
Overall, my opinion on Marvel’s Avengers has changed drastically from its E3 reveal. I was absolutely one of those people that felt underwhelmed by what was shown off, but looking at what Square has been working on for over 10 years, it’s easy to see that this was very much a labor of love, passion, and thorough knowledge and respect for the source material. Despite the daunting shadow cast by the MCU, Square’s vision for this game looks to have what it takes to be a phenomenal and unique Marvel experience.