"The Cosmic Cube is a device of untold power capable of changing the very fabric of reality at the whim of its possessor. The brilliant but malevolent Dr. Doom has the Cube, and with it he aims to reshape the world in his own image. Determined to succeed where the Cube's previous wielders have failed, Doom has lined up villainous allies to prevent the super-heroes from interfering. Can you unravel Doctor Doom's sinister plan and stop him before it's too late?"
Do you remember the Marvel: Ultimate Alliance games for consoles? Well, if you liked those or the old Diablo-ish games then this might peek your interest. Features and content look to still be in the process of being added, but this free to play game already boasts a good mix of characters and the ability to play for free, unless of course you want to spend some cash on the available micro transactions.
First up to bat are the options for the game, and as far as PC games go this is an important aspect, as the more diverse the options menu the wider the range of costumers can become your audience. To put it bluntly, it's not as good as it could be. Whereas many a game out there in the modern market will give you the ability to turn off specific features of the graphics section (such as anti aliasing, shadows, or particle effects), Marvel Heroes does not, instead giving us a slider that auto-tunes features on it's own. While this is irrelevant to someone playing on a dedicated gaming rig, if a person where to play this on a laptop (such as I) or something a little dated, this can lead to some disgruntling. The laptop that I use to play this, for example, has enough ram and processor to handle the brunt of the game fine, but the on-board graphics card can't handle things like advanced shadows or constant little features (like the rain of the first two outdoor levels), and most of its frame rate issues would be alleviated by simply letting me toggle only the shadows and the particle effects down, as opposed to setting everything to lowest quality. Now, this doesn't render the game unplayable by any means, and it still looks fine on the lowest settings, but some people are going to be agitated by this, and there really isn't and reason for it to be set in such a manner.
Thankfully, the same slider is used for other players effects, but unfortunately this doesn't seem to apply to any costume animations they have. Small detail, one would think, until I tried to access a crafting NPC while someone standing next to him had some smoke-cloud surrounding them and my game bogged down so hard because of it I could barely move the mouse across the screen. Audio options are broken out more akin to what the average person is used to: dialogue, sound effects, master, and music. The key binding also allows you to assign any key to any action without a fight, which is a bonus.
While on the topic of controls, my biggest in-game gripe about this game arises. Marvel Heroes plays much like a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena)
type game (such as League of Legends or DOTA 2 ) wherein player movement is entirely mouse based. To move or attack, you click the left mouse button (on an enemy to attack) or hold the left mouse button. If playing a range class, this can lead to running instead of attacking, so they intelligently added a movement lock key (shift) that prevents you from moving and just fires off your main left click attack in the direction of your mouse. The problem that comes from this, however, is that unless you selected hero has a special move that is a dedicated dodge maneuver, most fights degrade into a standing match of fisticuffs until the opponent or you dies first. Although it does work, it also robs the game of a level of excitement and replay-ability that it might have if you could attack and use your specials while still being on the move.
The baddies of the game also seem to have one-track minds, which maximizes it's potential at either closing in and hitting you, or standing at the edge of your screen and shooting you. The three different tiers of bad guys (normal, stronger than you, and "I hope you brought a bunch of friends cause you gonna die!") are easily distinguished from one another, but the difficulty jump between the first two tiers and the last feels like running head first into a brick wall. The last, I should mention, are more difficult than the bosses, whom are still manageable solo probably at least in part thanks to their (so far) knack of appearing one at a time. Variety of enemies is better than one would expect, with a spattering of each location getting a good 4-5 different enemy types (generally, each type looks identical to itself so you feel as though you are fighting a clone army, but the difference between a guy with a machine gun and a guy with a baton is noticeable). Each new location also mixes in a few new enemies for variety (such as the hazmat suit wearing A.I.M. soldiers on the docks) as well as some randomly occurring bosses (Venom made an appearance while I was exploring the said docks) that are meant for groups of heroes to take on.
The biggest opponent you will have in the game, however, is actually the camera. The static not-quite top down view point is very reminiscent of games like Diablo, and unfortunately only adds to the difficulty when you suddenly run into a large pack of enemies because you couldn't see them (off the screen). When an enemy is obscured by a wall (or ceiling) the game outlines them in red so you can tell where they are, but since you cannot control the camera (outside of zooming in or out) the problem arises of pathways being obscured from objects on screen (like the top pieces of bride scaffolding, or scenery especially when heading "down" screen) occasionally. It's not enough to make the game impossible to play, although it will make life difficult for the new players who haven't gotten themselves enough gear or levels to really be in their prime of murdering enemies yet, as suddenly stumbling into a pack of 6+ guys can prove to be quite life threatening to someone fresh out of the tutorial (trust me, I know).
Hero selection promises to be greater as time goes on, and thankfully heroes can be acquired without spending a single cent (assuming one is incredibly patient). The opening selection offers 5 heroes (among them Storm, Hawkeye, and Thing) out of the (currently) 26 available hero characters (some of whom are listed but not yet playable), and of the three days (12 or so hours total) spent playing as the bow-toting Hawkeye I have only received one new character (Thing) from a "thanks for completing the tutorial" reward box. Impatient players, however, can go ahead and buy them for a real life price tag of around 10-20 dollars (depending on the hero), or spend some money on various alternate costumes for the characters they already have (Iron Man has the most in this category, clocking in at 14 different costumes available). Each character has their own stats that passively upgrade as you level, and their own powers that you directly upgrade with points earned from leveling (Hawkeye, for example, can learn to shoot taser arrows). How much of a play style difference there are between the characters will be most dependent on those powers, as otherwise I feel the only big difference the player might notice is between staying far away (ranged) or getting up close (melee).
The story also promises a lot of content to come, with an over-arching plot line of Dr Doom being up to no good, making trouble in your neighborhood. There appears to be eight acts available now (as of June 28th, four more were added to the original 4 acts), and I'm currently only on act 4 (mostly due to my nature of wanting to see everything on the maps before continuing). Currently, that means it won't take most players too long to "finish" the game unless they play extremely casually, but assuming the characters feel different enough (or someone just happens to get their favorite super hero and wants to play as them instead of who they started as) the other replay-ability will come from the randomized loot drops and the desire to level your character up. Of course, being free to play helps here, as if a player bores of the game they can stop playing until new Acts are released, and hop right back into the game without feeling as though they have really missed anything.
Shops and crafting, and indirectly item management, becomes a bit tedious fast, as you have a limited inventory, and items are getting dropped constantly by every baddie you kill. The loot is randomly generated (which I feel makes for the main driving force behind the game, much like Borderlands or Diablo are loot-driven) which can lead to getting mind-blowing strong gear for where you are, and also for getting a ton of items your specific hero can't use (although more often than not, at least 80 percent of my inventory was Hawkeye specific). Shops are where it starts getting complicated and a bit more in depth, in that in order for a store to sell better gear, you need to level the vendor by "sacrificing" gear to that vendor, which turns the monetary profit you would have gotten into experience points for the vendor instead. Crafting works the same way (level the vendor for new recipes), and the actual art of crafting something also has a monetary amount associated with it. It's cool that its more deep than an average merchant, but it also becomes annoying that you are competing with trying to earn money to afford wares/crafts, but also have to sacrifice the items that would get you money in order to make the wares/crafts better.
Audio in the game is pretty top, providing pulsing background music to amp up your adrenalin levels while fighting and also falling into the wayside while in between battles. Heroes will say various little quips (some of them make no sense, such as talking to a character who isn't there) that (at least for Hawkeye) are all delivered pretty well and quite cheesy. The general action sounds (such as explosions and arrows fwipping through the air) are well played are relatively diverse for powers, although they can get repetitive considering how incredibly often you hear the same sounds (fwip thud, fwip thud, fwip thud all day every day ).
Although it isn't a perfect super hero game and some of the features feel a bit like they might have fallen flat on their face, the game is still pretty fun to play. The fact that one doesn't have to pay a cent to play really helps to enjoy the game, as you don't feel any pressure outside of just wanting to play the game, which I can say that despite any grievances I have with the game I do keep trying to get my Hawkeye to the next step, and also trying to earn myself new characters to try out (really, I'd love to get either a Thor or an Iron Man), and if you are the kind of person that finds an appeal in that, this game is up your alley. It is a bit steep on the data side (clocking in at around 10 gigs of space), but if you have a computer that can run it and the available space, it might be worth downloading if for nothing else but a trial of it. Within a day or two of playing, you should know pretty well whether this game is for you or not, of that I can be pretty sure. Otherwise, if you happen to be a fan of MOBA type games, but wish you could fight AI with friends instead of fighting other people, you might enjoy this more than the average cat.