Let’s Play: Marvel’s Avengers

Excelsior! A promising, ambitious, Marvel(ous) project that delivers a solid story, and countless hours of pure, unadulterated fun.

(Credits: Playstation.com)

Announced in 2017 at E3 under the title, “Avengers Project” with a very brief and mysterious teaser, fans wouldn’t see the game again until E3’s 2019 event, with an official trailer, gameplay, and updated title. The launch trailer and gameplay showcased were received with doubt and criticism by the community. It didn’t take long before criticism surrounding the voice acting, heroes appearances (not MCU inspired), clunky and derivative gameplay, and expected micro-transactions took place amongst gamers. It is not outlandish to say that overall people were in disbelief, or at least suspicious of the quality of the game. As someone who didn’t believe in the ambition of this project, who was unimpressed by the graphics presented, and felt the gameplay was just a refurbished God of War/Arkham combat style, I could not be happier that I was so utterly, blatantly, appallingly, miserly, woefully, incompetently… well, I would never run out of adjectives to say how wrong I was.

Before I wrote this review me and my brother did a live stream where we tried playing the game for twenty-four hours straight. At twenty-eight years old, after being awake for thirty-one hours, I decided to cut the stream at seventeen straight hours of gameplay. We were amongst the first people to finish the game and experience its wonderful roster fully, and after a short five-hour nap, the first thing I wanted to do was play the game again. I honestly see myself pouring hours, and hours into this title, especially when I know as soon as my friends gear up and catch-up I’ll have a squad to play, explore, and fulfill that childhood dream of assembling with friends as a super-hero squad.

Judge me all you want, I felt like a kid when I saw the Avengers assemble the first time on the big screen, and it felt exactly the same once I loaded up and played the game. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics deliver a cinematic adventure, and with so many unique heroic moments for each one of the characters that I felt speechless. All I could do was ramble on like a kid with my brother about how epic, empowering, and fun everything felt, looked, and played out. It hasn’t been long since I’ve been impressed with a game, since Ghost of Tsushima was such an amazing experience, but Marvel’s Avengers left me in awe. When I was thirteen I was introduced to what would become my favorite game series of all time with God of War, fifteen years later I was convinced that I would never again get the same thrill, joy, excitement, and childish amusement from a game, and that was the case. Until now.

As someone who just hours before playing the game expressed on a podcast/talk show a lot of concern on how ambitious this project is with its mission to jump to the next generation (free upgrade from PS4 to PS5, and Xbox One to Series X), support new story arcs, campaigns, raids, villains and introduce new heroes, all for FREE, I feel at ease. I am hopeful and confident that this game has the potential to achieve longevity comparable to the MCU. It’s clear that this is what Disney is aiming for ultimately, they already are the undisputed kings of the big screen, so it was a natural step for them to try to conquer the gaming world, which is the biggest entertainment industry in the world. And with almost unlimited investment from Disney, with Square Enix (arguably one of the most accomplished publishers in the gaming industry) and a Crystal Dynamics helming the project, as high as expectations are set, I honestly believe there’s no stopping this project.

Of course, nothing is perfect, and I am still curious as to how Marvel Entertainment (Disney) will keep Square Enix, such a highly requested studio attached to a project for years to come. Also, there were clearly some visual bugs, performance issues, glitches, game-breaking bugs reported, which is unfortunate but not unexpected on new releases. Nonetheless, nothing I’ve encountered has even come close to make me suggest that anyone should refrain from experiencing this game.

Before I jump into the gameplay, characters, and multiplayer I want to ensure that everyone knows that you cannot purchase any perks, gears, heroes, buffs, or anything that generates advantages inside the game, everything real money can buy is mainly for cosmetics and animations. This means that if you want to skip the grind for those things you can, but people who purchase the standard version of the game can achieve all of the content presented in the game. Hero challenge cards are hero-specific progression cards that consist of forty levels, which give in-game credits, nameplates, outfits, and other stuff. These hero challenge cards will be purchasable for new heroes (they are activated for the original roster), but again they do not provide any advantage in-game.

CAMPAIGN

We are thrown into a fan event happening during the “A-Day”, as Kamala Khan (a.k.a Ms. Marvel), she serves as our peer and as she is smitten, impressed, excited, and humbled by the chance to meet her heroes so are we. She represents us, the audience, as the star-struck fans, and everything she feels, expresses, and sees is designed to reflect how the audience would feel if given the chance to be around the Avengers. While I’m pretty sure if it wasn’t for Sony’s rights to Spider-Man, Peter Parker would fill this role of the new guy, trying to be a hero and play it cool amongst the Avengers, but since they couldn’t use him, they went with a not so well-known, “B-Tier” superhero, and it paid off. I don’t think there was a better way to represent an audience, empower women, celebrate cultural diversity, showcase self-love, self-acceptance, and normalize being an outlier that what they accomplished with Kamala.

The game starts with a younger Kamala Khan in San Francisco attending the “A-Day”, a commemorative date that celebrates the Avengers, and works like a parade/tech-presentation/meet and greet for the heroes. During the event, the Avengers present an experimental energy-source called Terrigen, that was being used to power their helicarrier. Warned by George Tarleton that the source is unstable, they refuse to cancel the presentation, shortly we learn that the helicarrier is crashing, due to the instability. Fire and explosions emerge from the helicarrier and the Avengers jump into action to save the day, but what looked like a failed experiment turns-out to be something entirely different and the heroes are unprepared for what’s ahead. While Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, and Hulk try to defend citizens and minimize the damage they are caught by surprise as the helicarrier explodes with Captain America still aboard. Unable to save the day, and blamed for the explosion, radiation, and Captain America’s demise the Avengers disband.

After a five-year time jump, we learn that people affected by the explosion radiation were given powers while being tagged as Inhumans, and suffering from prejudice as they were different (hello, X-Men? Yes, it’s me, the RECYCLED PLOT DEVICE). Meanwhile, the company named Advanced Idea Mechanics (AIM), now run by George Tarleton and Monica Rappaccini, is tasked with finding a cure for the Inhumans, who are seen as sick and are reportedly dying since the explosion. Through Kamala’s eyes, we learn that they are not so good after all, as they take over Stark Industries proprietary technology, to pursue and bring in Inhumans for “studies”. Being one of the people affected by the blast, Kamala is set to find out more about AIM, its owners, their cure, and what happened to the Avengers. All of that journey starts with some footage that shows the last moments of Steve Rogers inside the helicarrier. After finding this information in AIM’s servers, Kamala Khan sets out to share this new evidence with the Avengers who are nowhere to be found, but a mysterious figure named “Tiny Dancer” nudges her in the right direction.

The story’s progression is based upon the reassembling of the Avengers, this consists of finding them, and understanding how they have been coping with the events of San Francisco and Cap’s demise. I can safely say that if you are expecting full-fledged arcs and character developments for the characters involved, you won’t find it in this thirteen-hour campaign, this campaign focuses on the story and development of Kamala. Yes, the Avengers all get their own moment to shine and present the traits and characteristics that created so many fans across generations, but as owners of the biggest franchise in the world with the MCU, those things were already explored to death, there aren’t any groundbreaking, unique or new developments that weren’t explored already.

As an ensemble game, the writers make excellent adjustments to pack enough emotional moments, conflicting ideas, and stances in what is a short campaign. Honestly, this game feels like a cinematic experience with some QTEs, impeccable cutscenes, and even loading screens that portray the feeling of being one of the crew, you’re guaranteed to be immersed in. Without giving any spoilers, there are enough twists and turns, villainous plots, character development to make this a solid introduction to a game that has the opportunity of expanding upon its lore as long as a player base exists. Don’t get me wrong, this is not Civil War, Winter Soldier, Iron Man (2008), Black Panther, or the Infinity Saga, but it’s simple and solid, pushing for a story arc that feels like playing a comic book rather than a movie. It accomplishes what it sets out to, and introduces an entertaining brand new gaming universe. (MGU — Marvel Gaming Universe?)

I won’t be diving any deeper into the story, as I want this to be as close to a spoiler-free review as I can. But, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics do an amazing job of mixing unique gameplay with the boss battles and heroic moments. All villains inside the campaign are extremely fun to battle out, with unique movesets that require the player to think fast and adapt, make sure to thoroughly enjoy those moments, as epic as they are, they are few and far apart.

GAMEPLAY

Coming into this game I was absolutely convinced that this game was going to be extremely generic, pawning off the combat system of God of War, and the Arkham games. Fortunately one of my greatest fears for the game, just being a copycat of other titles, became the source of unlimited joy. I personally felt like all the make-believe scenarios and moments I had once created with plastic toys when I was ten-years-old were brought to life. The carefully crafted skills, animations, takedowns, audio effects, and voice lines for this game, ensure that the characters personality shine through during the gameplay, and I couldn’t help but feel astonished.

I personally felt like all the make-believe scenarios and moments I had once created with plastic toys when I was ten-years-old were brought to life.

Beware though that this is an RPG and once the campaign is over, you’re going to be facing what is the make or break factor for your enjoyment of this game: the grind. The progress in this game is very slow and will force you to replay various missions, repeatedly in search of gear and experience. Given that repetitiveness is at this game’s core, all the impact of the unique gameplay and design will fade-away fast as you perform the same combos, and attacks for the millionth time, I’m still having fun, but know that if you don’t enjoy RPG’s, grinding, crafting, and really putting time into developing your own strategies, and builds you WILL burn out quickly.

The endgame is where the game actually begins, and the pursuit of optimal builds, and developing squad strategies for the AIM secrets labs, Hives, Elite challenges is where fans of RPG will find more satisfaction. While the campaign is enough of a reason to play the game, if you are not keen on what I mentioned above, be mindful of your purchase. I highly recommend you try it and give it a shot with friends, as challenging as it is, its progression is very rewarding.

Through the story’s natural progression you will get a better understanding of what each character’s strength is, you will need to play a lot more outside of the campaign to fully understand what each of them is capable of. I would go as far as saying that combat isn’t fully understood until you reach max level with each character. While gears, skill points, and load-outs can change the gameplay to a certain degree, it is clear that each character has an optimal way to be played. At lower levels, and easier missions anything can work, but when approaching truly endgame challenges and scenarios for the Epic, and Legendary gears, I can personally say that having a well-rounded squad, a game plan, and the proper loadout to minimize the modifiers and enemies is essential for victory.

ENDGAME (No Pun Intended)

Once there’s no story to tell inside the campaign titled “Avengers Reassemble”, you still have the “Avengers Initiative” portion of the game to explore. I can’t lie and say that this second part is as satisfying story-wise, but still, the game does a great job of moving the narrative forward slightly. As little story as we get here, there’s still enough left in the tank to justify the newly introduced missions like Villain Sectors, S.H.I.E.L.D vault missions, Hives (and their Elite form), and the Secret Labs. Here we meet Maria Hill as she tries to re-establish SHIELD’s presence, reinstate the Avengers as heroes, and uncover what happened to Nick Fury, the plot serves only as a tool to avoid the game ending abruptly and you being thrown into an endless cycle of repeating missions without any rhyme or reason. Yes, that is what happens essentially moving forward, still I’m glad they made the transition easy to embrace and understand.

After complete exploration of the two “campaigns” or storylines, players are tasked with the mission of grinding gears and leveling up their heroes for the Hives, and Secret AIM Labs. Currently, gear power levels are capped at a hundred and fifty, while hero levels are capped at level fifty. For those who are confused, I’ll clarify (while getting a little bit deeper into the game) that the maximum gear drop is a hundred and thirty, with ten extra levels being attributed to the maxed out upgrades for gear, and the last ten associated with the “Major Artifacts”. Take my word for it, upgrading your major artifact to max level is going to be an immense task, and it will probably take you a couple of days, as its main leveling resource is most commonly found within daily and weekly faction challenges.

Further exploring the subject, there are two factions, the S.H.I.E.L.D one, and the Inhuman one, each one of them has a representative that gives out daily and weekly missions, as well as the Villain Sectors. All missions give out resources, gears, experience, and progress your hero challenge card, they are your main form of leveling up, upgrading your gear, and dropping resources for purchasing items on their respective vendors. Each faction has its own vendor, who sells gear, artifacts, emotes, and resources. My personal tip is that you shouldn’t worry about buying gear, because the resources might prove extremely valuable for maxing out endgame gear.

After all, is said and done you will be left with finding a squad to take on the toughest challenges, farming credits, patterns (that unlock skins), gearing up, and leveling your heroes to face the endgame missions. It’s worth noting that building a character revolves around more than leveling gear and heroes, at the endgame you need to keep track of the attributes that each gear provides, as well as what perks they possess. There are countless perks, but the main stats are might, precision, proficiency, valor, resolve, resilience and intensity, together they compose the four attributes that the heroes: Melee, Ranged, Defensive, and Heroic. I won’t get into detail here as not to drag out my review, but there is an in-depth development to your ultimate builds, that provide endless possibilities to you and your friends as you pursue the hardest challenges in the game.

CONCLUSION

Marvel’s Avengers is, at the end of the day, a great RPG. Not a ground-breaking one, not one of a kind, but nonetheless an extremely refined and gratifying version of the RPG’s we came to know and love. Yes, the game right now suffers from bugs, limited enemies, bosses, and raids, but what RPG does not encounter these barriers? The difference is that Marvel, Square Enix, and Crystal Dynamics are committed to providing continuous development (for free), which puts this game in a position to have countless improvements and expansions that improve and better not only the experience but the lore surrounding it.

It’s hard not to be impressed, especially because this game is more fun than it has the right to be. What we got with Marvel’s Avengers is a very pleasant surprise and a game that shattered expectations. Drawing in impressive numbers as the most played beta for the PS4, over 28.5 million hours played (with the game in early release), and roughly 5 million players already, it’s hard not to have immense confidence in the future of the game.

As someone who wants to review content for a living I’m not able to simply state this game is perfect, in fact, it is far from it. It takes a short trip to Reddit, or any gaming website, to identify the divide between gamers surrounding this title, and honestly, a lot of their complaints and concerns are justified, but none of them can justify passing this game up. Yes, this does feel like a project still in development in some regards, but that’s what a game as a service usually feels like. Crystal Dynamic is doing a great job communicating, replying, and listening to the community and their input, if you want to be extremely skeptical, yes maybe all this support is just because of the release, but I chose to be hopeful and believe this game will only push forward and maybe become a one of a kind endeavor.

As a fan though, I highly recommend this game. I honestly begged all my friends to experience it, and all of them were caught by surprise and impressed as well. I can’t wait for the moment where I can jump into a session and be one of earth’s mightiest heroes with my friends. At the same time, I couldn’t be happier that this game turned out to be what I always dreamt regarding an Avengers Game, I am sincerely grateful they took a bold approach and were brave enough to promote and create such an ambitious project.

The same ambition that once made me an unbeliever, now shaped me up to be one of the project’s most optimistic fans. Hoping this game crosses generations, transcends expectations, and explores some of our favorite comic-book arcs, I cannot finish this review with anything else than by saying, take the gamer inside of you, grab your friends, your fandom, your childhood dreams, and Assemble.

5/5 Slices

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Special thanks to Felipe Riera, for always helping me out and letting me bounce ideas off of him. For a more in-depth look at character gameplay breakdown check his stories out!

I can’t imagine my life without movies, videogames, music, live events, books, comics, TV shows and pizza. I review it all on a unique 1 to 5 pizza slice scale.