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Marvel Heroes over promised and under delivered with a good looking if not slightly schizophrenic action MMO that unfortunately falls short in basically every area except one – the comic element– which is probably where this title should’ve stayed.

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Developer(s): Gazillion Entertainment, Secret Identity Studios

Publisher: Gazillion Entertainment

Genre: Massively multiplayer online, action role-playing

Platform(s): Windows PC

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Marvel Heroes Online is the latest effort in what has been a mixed bag of recently released free to play MMOs. I hoped that Marvel Heroes would be able to offer something novel to the genre as unlike the more common approach of medieval fantasy you had the ability to play the game as one of over 20 of your favorite Marvel Heroes including heavyweights like Spiderman and Ironman. Sadly, this exciting spandex clad action MMO doesn’t live up to its potential- not just falling short in a few areas but pretty much across the board.

Don’t get me wrong, there are some nice touches and if you are a die hard Marvel fan then you are probably going to play this game through regardless of the game’s flaws but this is the only demographic I can see that would have the staying power. Particularly when there are other, far better, free to play games available

Gameplay:

Marvel Heroes Online seems to be a cross between the fast paced chaos and action based gaming found in Diablo 3 and the more classical MMO format most MMORPG players will be familiar with. This should be good, unfortunately Gazillion appear to have tried for everything and ended up with very little.

With limited progression mechanics courtesy of a familiar but overly basic three tree talent system you soon become aware of that combat tactics reflect the simplified leveling system.

If you do venture away from your singular attack, or try out a different character you realize many of the attacks across characters are suspiciously similar both in output and graphical rendering. Neither does the progression system do itself any favours by clearly favouring key talents which you need to save for as opposed to progress towards. This leads to point pooling and one-dimensional understrength characters until you have enough points for a specific skill that you will then employ ceaselessly.

In counterpoint to this, one positive aspect of both gearing up and skill progression is the chance you might get some gear with +skill on it. This will allow you to reach higher skill levels and the talents they confer, before your character is there naturally. So keep an eye out for these items, but really that’s it – no really, that is it.

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All in all this makes for some very repetitive combat – unlike Diablo which manages to keep things interesting with differing skills, weapons and gear there is no distraction in Marvel Heroes Online because not only do skill sets remain very similar but so too, do characters’ appearances which is a surprisingly noticeable flaw to this game.

In theory playing your favourite superhero should be great. The reality in-game is not so straightforward. It lends itself to exactly the situation Marvel Heores Online finds itself in. Character creation is limited to choosing one of 5 starter heroes – Storm, Hawkeye, Thing, Daredevil and Scarlet Witch with any other hero costing you $20 unless you get lucky and get a rare drop. This in itself isn’t so bad as we are getting used to the in-game marketing on free to plat games, the problem arises because as you level your character remains with the same visual representation regardless of the gear equipped.

This means there are hundreds of clones running around the Marvel world spamming the same basic attacks doing an effective job of depersonalizing your playing experience whilst lulling you into a comatose state until a cut scene comes along.  Sure you can get temporary respite form this by laying down cash on a new costume but then the novelty will wear off and you’ll find yourself in the same disenfranchised state only with less money.

Standout feature:

To Marvel’s credit they have managed to cram in a lot of Marvel lore and the cut scenes that unveil the story are exceptional and true to Marvel’s rich and colorful and graphic history. This may not be enough to keep the casual gamer on-board but for fans it will be a pull and a real treat that keeps them with the game.  The storyline has been crafted by Marvel writer Brian Michael Bendis and he has done a stellar job of pulling together some of Marvel’s more famous storylines – think Dr. Doom decides to screw with reality and you’re half way there.

Graphics:

It’s unfair to totally criticize this game. The graphics are nice and clean. The characters and their skills, for all their repetition, do look spectacular and in the larger skirmishes there is no noticeable slow down which is a real achievement for free to play especially when you consider the shear amount of carnage that is laid down in the larger fights.

As beautiful as this chaos is, it too lends itself to spamming as you soon become unable to see what is going on for all the abilities smashed about. This is fun for a time but soon looses its charm once you realize that by holding down you special attack you can track your foe thus removing any skill element. Beautiful carnage though.

Sound:

The voice acting is excellent. Good dialogue, nice quips and true (comic) life cut scenes are done to perfection in Marvel Heroes Online.

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Multiplayer:

Sadly, the same cannot be said for the PVP element to this game. I wasn’t even sure if it should be reviewed as it is still in my opinion, entirely broken.

It remains very unbalanced. Presuming you’re still playing – don’t even bother to get involved in the PVP until you hit around level 35. The previously mentioned beautiful carnage of skills intensifies to crazy levels and you cannot see what is going on at all until the blue box comes up to inform you “your butt has just been kicked” or something like that. I lost all will to care very quickly.

The game revolves around 3 teams that have to battle through each other to get to and destroy a CPU boss character. I confess, I never reached said character as I could never make my way through wall of unbalanced chaos to the other side and soon lost interest.

From the forums I have visited it seems this beta version of the PVP is being improved but in its current state it simply fails to offer any enjoyment. Steer clear.

Value:

Marvel Heroes Online is free to play and it is possible to, should you have the inclination, to complete the whole game and compete in the endgame without laying down a cent of your hard earned cash. Rare drops of costumes and characters mean that given time you can have a full roster of heroes to play with and thus it remains very good value financially speaking.

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Longevity:

Whilst it may be good value financially, the same cannot be said of its longevity. If ‘time is money’ then Marvel heroes will bleed you dry. There is no real replay value, unless you are a true fan, and the time you invest will not be rewarded.
[one_half]Pros:

  • Excellent storyline written by Marvel’s own Brian Michael Bendis
  • Cut Scenes are superb
  • Plenty of Marvel lore for fans

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[one_half_last]Cons:

  • Repetitive, spammy combat
  • Depersonalized playing experience
  • Terrible PVP

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