Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Marvel Heroes 2015

Work has consumed an unhealthy chunk of my time (along with holiday cheer and what-not) so I thought I'd mention one of the few "Steam Sale finds" I actually spent money (and timee) on in the last week or so: Marvel Heroes 2015.

On the surface Marvel Heroes 2015 appears to be a Diablo clone with Marvel Universe setting and characters instead of the usual swordsmen, sorcerers and ornery demons and angels. This impression would not be wrong. In fact, the top reason I have avoided this game up to now was the (misguided) impression that I wouldn't enjoy a game where you play iconic Marvel heroes in a isometric top-down Diablo-style game, including loot drops and everything. It just seemed so...ARPGish, a terrible mesh for the "deeper" storytelling experience I generally think I want out the comic hero genre. It's a tricky angle to take: I am not all that fond of the Arkham line of Batman titles, for example, becase as fun as they can be and as great as the story moments are, they ultimately feel like a glorification of the least interesting elements of the Batman mythology, the stuff usually glossed over in the comics themselves: Batman walking around (or swinging around) Gotham beating up nameless thugs. Lots of this, puncuated by moments of cool, seem to drive the Arkham games.

Marvel Heroes 2015, being an ARPG, is all about the action and there is probably more thug-bashing going on in the first two chapters of the game than in the entire Arkham series, but somehow it "gells" better. Probably because slaughtering Hydra agents or AIM scientists in Marvel Heroes is accomplished with great rapidity and style thanks to quick combat thematics (in the Diablo tradition) and a plethora of levelable character abilities that lend to increasingly devastating levels of mayhem. This means than you get more bang for your punch and also more "plot"  for your time investment.

Make no mistake, though....the plot in Marvel Heroes is wafer thin compared to a spectacle like Dragon Age: Inquisition or even the Machiavellian mayhem of the comics themselves, but anyone who's got even a passing familiarity with the Marvel Universe in its contemporary state will recognize exactly where this game is coming from and appreciate the care with which it manages to transport the lore of Universe 616 into an action RPG experience.

If you already enjoy games like Diablo III or Torchlight II then really Marvel Heroes 2015 is a no-brainer. If you happen to love the Marvel Universe lore as well then its an even more delectable experience. You can forgive it for some minor "glitches" as these are probably all deliberate oversights for which planned additional content will fill in the gaps later. Playing the Eddie Brock Venom for example (I fully expect the Flash Thompson Venom to be an available skin in the future), or the absence of Mr. Green from the current Marvel Now Hulk in favor of the "Hulk armor" era of the character from a year or two earlier. These are minor quibbles.....a lot of the game's revenue comes from selling you alternate character costumes, so I am sure these will pop up eventually.

The monetization process for Marvel Heroes 2015 is to get you to play one hero for free (with a smattering of additional starter heroes you can play to level 10 without cost), then give you enough in-game special currency to pick up a second hero. At that point they have four angles to snag money from you: first is more heroes, for those who can't just play two. Second is team-ups, the in-game term for hirable NPC mercenaries, second rate hero options to provide support to your main (you can have Domino as Wolverine's backup, for example). Third is alternate costumes, in which you can pick the favorite skin for your character; these often come with specific additional flavors (see Superior Spider-Man vs. regular flavor Spidey for an example). The final option is power-ups, which come in the form of various random items from "card purchases" that give you everything from additional characters and costumes to (much more frequently) XP, item and currency boosts. They keep you tempted with daily rewards, too.

None of that is can level two heroes at no cost to level 60 cap without much effort. It will, however, probably become something you want. The pricing is a bit extravagant, but the sale prices (at least right now on Steam and in the shop) are 1/2 off so I took full advantage of the discounts. Like most in-game shops the pricing is set to "too much" with the expectation that they will drive sales with special deals, at least that's what it looks like to me. Are these purchases worth it when the sales aren't active? I think if you feel comfortable sticking to 2-3 characters and a few "card" purchases you can spend $5-10 a month on this game without feeling in the least bit guilty. Me....I've got a feeling I'll be enjoying this title for a good long while, so I plan to level more than a few to cap.

Look for docfuturity on Daredevil, Moon Knight, Deapool, Hulk and others if you stop in. Trust me when I say that if you are into Marvel and Diablo-style games, you can't go wrong here. The price of admission is just right, but if you get in and want to actually spend money, I doubt you'll feel bad about it.

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