First Impressions: ‘MARVEL HEROES’ Online RPG

Friday morning at New York Comic Con 2012. Mere minutes after proffering a box of donuts to Robert Kirkman at the Image Comics hub, I joined Ron for a bit of fun and games. Ushered into a welcome sanctuary, we sat down for a guided tour of the upcoming PC game Marvel Heroes.

Thrilled to get a glimpse at this free-to-play online RPG, I nonetheless pushed Ron towards the demo rig for the first go. It’s been a while since I’ve played anything truly robust on a PC, least of all with a mouse. Consoles have softened me. Many things have softened me. So I wasn’t feeling hugely confident about pointing and clicking my way through the gorgeously rendered and deeply hostile Raft prison complex with an attentive audience of game designers. Chief among them, the perfectly amiable David Brevik, whose CV includes, among other things, Diablo and Diablo II.

“Let Ron die in fire first,” I thought, folding my arms and leaning in for carpal¬†Schadenfreude. Sadly, Ron did just fine. Even if he hadn’t, it probably would’ve gone okay since the guys from Gazillion were gracious sherpas in our tentative first steps. When my turn did come up, my tuchus was in the seat before both of Ron’s cheeks had ascended.

While Ron started the mission through the complex as Wolverine, we were free to swap from hero to hero at any time with just a few keystrokes. Each character levels up and gains new abilities. There’s also plenty of loot to collect, befitting its pedigree. There was a pair of pants Brevik was especially excited to see turn up in the aftermath of one struggle and he urged me to equip the item. It didn’t change the appearance of my character, but it was a definite boon to my stats. We didn’t have a lot of time to explore the various items and upgrades available, but I was really impressed with elements I saw. The development team’s excitement over introducing new characters into the mix was clear, especially when they started talking about the number of characters they’re allowed to play with over time. Hint: It’s the whole lot of them. Whether they’ll get to the likes of Adam Warlock or Doop, who knows. But the thrill of Marvel Heroes is the opportunity to play and encounter oodles of your favorite heroes and villains and to switch freely between them at any time.

Especially compelling is the potential for cooperative boss battles with friends or complete strangers. We hopped from the private Raft location to a public instance set in shadowy urban area, replete with NPC street toughs and liftable, hurlable cars (!!!). In this area we fought alongside other players enjoying the game from the con floor. Brevik explained that we might encounter more than one Wolverine or Hulk in the public space. It might require some suspension of disbelief on a narrative level, but there’s nothing restricting multiple iterations of the same characters in one place, even with the same costumes. ¬†Playing with friends, you can always agree not to double up on Rocket Raccoons, but in the larger MMO, you can’t impose those same limitations. That might sound a little murky, but consider the alternative solution imposed by DC Universe Online. Everyone is a generic, albeit customizable hero paying tribute to the NPC Batman or Superman or Wonder Woman. In Marvel Heroes, you get to be the original characters. So what if there’s three or four of you running around. Those guys are the clones. I also liked Brevik’s take on it. “You could be a whole team of Wolverines and call yourself The Bubz if you want to.” Now it’s like a uniform for your raiding party.

So, boss battles. We fought a few of them, both in our solo crawl through the Raft as well as in the public space. Ron took on the Green Goblin as Iron Man, dodging pumpkin bombs and maneuvering through thick smoke for long-range attacks with palm blasts. With the help of some new friends on the opposite side of the wall and a newly acquired head-butt ability, I took down Electro in a chaotic street brawl as Ben Grimm. I just wandered right up to the fight already in progress and joined right in. At one point I threw a car at the guy. It was an accident, but a happy one. I can’t even imagine how hairy even bigger battles with multiple bosses might get, but the prospect is pretty damned exciting.

If you’ve played games like Diablo or Baldur’s Gate or Torchlight, you’ve got the general idea of Marvel Heroes. It’s not quite as arcade-y as the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games on consoles, but the aesthetic is quite similar. Pointing and clicking through large scale battles took some getting used to, especially with regard to navigating a boss fight in flight as Ms. Marvel. But I was rusty. And by the end, I was eager to dig into more of the gameplay mechanics and skill sets.

Did I mention that this game is free to play?

Nothing sums it up better than Ron’s proclamation as we exited the booth and made our way back into the crowd. “The staff can never know about this. If we don’t ban them from playing, nothing will ever get done.”

Don’t tell Ron, but I’m ready to assemble the Bubz.

Marvel Heroes is free to play on Windows PC’s. You can register an account on the official website now for a chance to join the closed beta.

Comments

  1. Really looking forward to this. DCUOnline was a HUGE disapointment.

  2. This looks like a lot of fun. Just signed up for the Beta

  3. You had me at the mention of “Diablo”!

    Graphics look nice for a free to play game.

  4. Windows PC only? No Mac?

    The Tiki

  5. I applied for the beta. Really want to play this, but I am disappointed by the lack of a Mac client, but I’m used to that by now.

  6. apparently mac client will be done as they announced on marvel.com a lil while ago, though no set date.

  7. Looks like I got accepted into the closed beta. Sweet.