10 June 2013

Watering Hole #1: Marvel Heroes

Our first stop along the trail this week is the newest kid on the block, the recent superhero release Marvel Heroes.  Honestly I'm not really going to have a lot to say about this one because despite the fact that it is a game that I really wanted to like... I don't.  I spent quite a bit of time with the game since its 4 June release, and I have to say that it was basically just one disappointment after another.  I'll try to come up with a few "nice" things to say, but in general there just aren't many positives in my opinion.

Failure to Launch

The problems with Marvel Heroes start right from the moment you try and download it.  To get the client directly from Gazillion, you have to agree to also install some malware third-party software called BitRaider.  Now I tried to do a bit of hunting on Google to see what this thing was all about.  I assumed it was something along the lines of Pando Media Booster, which is another favorite of free-to-play games to save their distributors on bandwidth.  Suffice to say I went with the other option of playing the game, using the Steam version of the client.  I know, Steam is just malware of a different sort, but it is the "devil I know," as opposed to the devil I don't, so I didn't feel it was any added risk.  Any game that requires you to install additional software gets a thumbs down in my opinion though, so Marvel Heroes started off on the wrong foot before I even booted up the game.

Then there is the cash shop.  Just as a disclaimer, I never intended to spend a dime on this game, no matter how fair the cash shop was or not, so bear that in mind as I discuss this.  But frankly, I haven't seen a more blatant rip off in a game marketed mostly in the US/Europe.  Yeah "nickel and dime" and "pay to win" cash shops are the order of the day in Asia and other markets, but in the US they tend not to do so well.  Marvel Heroes seems to be trying to break that "mold."  Their shop is an unabashed cash grab.  In fact the whole game feels like nothing but a cheap ploy to cash in on the recent popularity of Marvel franchises like Spider Man and Iron Man.  (Iron Man is the most expensive character to unlock in the shop currently.  Coincidence?)  You essentially get two heroes for free, one when you first start the game and one when you finish the prologue.  I ended up with Daredevil (by choice) and The Thing (after prologue.)  You can supposedly get heroes as drops, but I'm guessing that is exceedingly rare as it has yet to occur for me.  I did get a costume as a random drop, but with twenty something heroes, the odds of a costume drop matching one of your two "free" heroes is similarly small, as it was in my case as my costume was for Rocket Raccoon.

So you get into the game, you finish the prologue and end up in Avenger's Tower, and begin the game proper... and realize that the game itself just isn't that much fun.  It is a fairly standard ARPG Diablo clone, but even with Diablo 3 failing to live up to expectations, it is still far superior to Marvel Heroes.  Everything about the game is just lackluster... from the attacks and animations, the skill trees, the gear system, inventory management, etc.  Nothing about the gameplay is much better than "meh."  For example, crafting materials do not stack, which means your very meager inventory space fills up even that much more quickly.  There is no auction house, so if you do end up with a costume for a hero you don't own, you can't even efficiently swap it to someone who can for something you can use.  The MMO elements of the game feel generally useless and unnecessary.  The game would function fairly well as a single-player ARPG with optional co-op like what Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2 already do.  Forcing people into common areas where fifty versions of Storm are all trying to kill the same batch of nameless thugs is just silly.  It's unnecessary.  Basically there was no reason to make this game any sort of MMO aside from the cash in aspect.

Light at the End of the Tunnel?

Does the game do anything well?  Yeah, sort of.  The story is actually fairly interesting.  I'd rate it a bit better than Torchlight 2's story overall, but not on the level of Diablo 3.  Say what you want about Blizzard, they still really know how to present a story when the chips are down.  Their cinematics are still second to none.  But Marvel Heroes does tell a fairly engrossing story, for an ARPG at least.  It does make good use of its source material.  That's pretty much the only positive thing I can say about the game though.

Aside from that, I really cannot recommend the game, nor can I say that I will be revisiting it after this week.  It really only appeals to two kinds of people... diehard Marvel fans and diehard ARPG fans, and even those two groups would be best served elsewhere.  For the Marvel fans, the egregious nature of the cash shop and the immersion shattering common zones would remain offputting.  For the ARPG fans, there are just much better games than this one.  "But Marvel Heroes is free-to-play" you say.  Yeah but a free bucket of manure is still a bucket of manure.  If I really want to play an ARPG, I'll load up Torchlight 2 for a very modest price.

So this vagabond is going to gladly hitch up his pony and mosey on down the trail to his next watering hole.  I don't know when (if ever) I'll head back to this one.  It was a singularly unrewarding experience. 

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