Square Enix’s Marvel’s Avengers: Civil War
So despite the amount of Avengers-related content on this blog lately, I promise this will not be all Avengers, all the time. But that’s sort of the nature of this blog; only so many Disney-related games come out every year, so when a really big one launches, I’m going to write about it a lot. Marvel’s Avengers is a huge game with ongoing content so expect me to write about it regularly for a while at least as often as there are major updates with characters and story-expansions and so on.
So very early this morning, I finished the single-player campaign of Square Enix’s Marvel’s Avengers developed by Crystal Dynamics. As I have not really messed around in the multi-player and post-game content much I won’t really be writing this as a full-on review of the product in its entirety, this will be a review of the 15ish hours I spent playing the single-player and doing a little side stuff, what I will most likely do is post a separate review of the post-game/multi-player content in the next week or so after I’ve had ample time to play around with it. But even if you only touched the single-player, it’s very obvious that Marvel’s Avengers is a game very much at odds with itself. The desire is clearly there to make a compelling single-player experience and in that they mostly succeed, despite the more Destiny-like and other multi-player aspects along with some puzzling UI implementations trying to ruin that experience.
The story of Marvel’s Avengers single-player experience is a pretty marvelous one honestly, full of charm and wit, and dare I even say emotion, and a lot of that is thanks to the lead really being the relatively unknown Kamala Kahn aka Ms. Marvel. The opening sequence where you spend a significant amount of time at an Avengers public event as a wide-eyed child that idolizes these superheroes and gets to meet and interact with most of them is really great. From there on out it gets a little more boilerplate with the standard “heroes must band together to save the world” plot but while you get some time with each Avenger it’s mostly through Kamala’s perspective and that brings a hint of freshness to what would otherwise be pretty boilerplate.
The rest of the cast is pretty entertaining as well even if no one is really stretching their boundaries, i.e. Nolan North is definitely just playing his Nathan Drake charming rogue personality as Tony Stark, but Tony Stark is a quippy charming billionaire rogue so it works.
Aside from Ms. Marvel being front and center, the biggest surprise of Marvel’s Avengers, even for those of us who played the beta (maybe especially for those of us actually), is how good and diverse generally speaking, the combat is. On its most basic level, yes the characters can feel a little samey because they all have the same basic move-set. But how you build each hero changes how they work tremendously, especially when you unlock two extra sets of skill trees that admittedly if you don’t grind a lot of experience, you might not get much out of, but the depth is totally there to make each character feel incredibly unique. With one exception, thus far (we’ll see if it keeps up as future heroes release), every Avenger is pretty much a blast to play, the combat overall just feels good and it’s fun to pull off huge combos and mix basic attacks, special abilities, and powers.
The one exception to this is the big green guy, aka The Hulk. I’ve alluded to this in my beta impressions, and since the final game is a pretty big improvement over what I played in the beta, I was hoping this was not the case but Hulk remains the worst character to play by a large margin. I get it, it’s hard to balance a guy who is basically invincible, but not only does Hulk come off as unnecessarily weak (which at least in my experience has not been a problem with Thor who is similarly powerful), he is clumsy in both attacks and maneuverability and takes as much damage as anyone else so he’s not useful as a tank either. The Hulk is just bad and there are missions or parts of missions you have to play as him and it just drags the experience down some.
The other thing that isn’t a big deal but is annoying is just how everything outside of combat works. The UI is pretty obtuse or just involves a lot of necessary steps. A lot of stuff is poorly explained or explained too late.
Ultimately, you can play the single-layer experience and have a pretty solid 10–15-hour experience, more so if you really dive into the side missions and leveling up your characters and getting gear before even finishing the story campaign (how necessary that is depends on the difficulty setting you choose to go with). Maybe that sounds like too little for a full-priced game, but you can always wait for a sale and other characters with their own story arcs are being released for free over time so odds are you’ll get your money’s worth.
However, the single-player campaign is admittedly only part of, and while significant, definitely the smaller part of Marvel’s Avengers, which is why the game feels in conflict with itself. It tries to shoehorn a lot of its multi-player and “Games as a Service” (commonly known as “GAAS”) mechanics into the single-player as much as it can and while that actually might’ve worked with a much bigger campaign, you don’t have the time in the actual campaign to max out any heroes, unlock all the emotes and costumes, etc. You could certainly do that by paying money, and I’m sure Square Enix would love it if you did spend that money.
There are also various resources to collect to upgrade gear and gear itself to find and collect and while the gear definitely makes a difference in combat, it doesn’t change anything cosmetically (why do that when Square Enix is trying to sell you cosmetics). It certainly seems out of place in what you might think a game starring the Avengers should be and you do need to invest in these mechanics somewhat if you want to get through the campaign. I personally love collecting loot and seeing my stats go up and don’t care that much if the gear is reflected on my character in a cosmetic fashion. Your mileage may vary. There are also daily quests that you again don’t have to invest in, but will result in badly needed resources if you do them. If reading all this turns you off from the game, it might not be for you, but I think it presents a compelling loop because again aside from Hulk the combat is a lot of fun.
As I said previously, I haven’t really messed around with the post-game/multi-player stuff but it is very clear that the intention is there for you to do so, it’s reasonably the only way you’ll get to unlock higher-level abilities and get really cool gear and unlock those cosmetics you would otherwise have to pay money for. So in essence Marvel’s Avengers is a game that tries to offer both a great single-player action campaign and a “live-service” game where you are meant to either spend a lot of time or a lot of money (or both) grinding out various things. If it wasn’t any fun this would be a bad thing but I had a lot of fun with the story campaign which was a very pleasant surprise and the gameplay is compelling enough that I want to at least try and invest time in the post-game activities and see how long that keeps me involved. Maybe it’ll be a game I play all the time, maybe only when new heroes drop, or maybe I won’t touch it again after this month but for now I’d say Square Enix’s Marvel’s Avengers is nearly worthy of the heroes starring it, and depending on how the game develops over time, could be truly great. For now though, based on my time with the story campaign and a little bit of side stuff, it’s a D-ticket attraction… (reminder that’s a good thing). That’s all for now, see ya real soon!