[NYCC 2012] Preview: Marvel Heroes is MMOre than I expected
After playing the recently released Kinect demo for Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth, my expectations for Marvel video games were lowered quite a bit. So when I went to New York Comic Con for a hands-on demo of their new action-MMO, Marvel Heroes, I went in blind, assuming it was going to be another poorly licensed product. Boy, was I wrong.
Marvel Heroes is like Diablo turned into a free-to-play MMO. That name-drop isn't for nothing either. This game is being developed by Gazillion Entertainment, whose president, David Brevik, famously helped develop both Diablo and Diablo 2. Marvel Heroes wears that pedigree on its sleeve, combining a tried and true loot fest with a massively multiplayer model.
Players choose from one of 27 different Marvel heroes, each with a variety of unique powers. Brevik, who sat in during the demo, considers each of the heroes a character class unto themselves. While it seemed that they could be grouped into archetypes (flying, ranged, etc.), characters like The Hulk displayed the variety the game offers. He could lift and toss objects in the environment and leap to any point on the screen with a sort of teleport/ground-pound.
There are no limits on the number of new heroes Gazillion can add to Marvel Heroes either. Not only do they have full access to every Marvel character, but they even have a Marvel writer bringing his talents to the project. Brian Michael Bendis, a writer whose work in the Marvel universe is some of its best, has crafted the basic plot of the game and is overseeing all of the game's writing.
In terms of basic gameplay, Marvel Heroes falls into the mouse-click heavy territory of games like Diablo and Torchlight, with additional powers set to key-bindings. Players will collect colored loot in the form of new costume pieces that add buffs and differentiate your version of Wolverine from the rest of the pack. As they level up, players can spend their points on new abilities or improving existing ones.
It may sound run-of-the-mill, but the ARPG trappings are aided by the game's ambitions elsewhere. After all, this is an MMO too, a social aspect that neither Diablo 3 nor Torchlight 2 can offer. For some, it will make Marvel Heroes really hard to put down. After all, why stop playing an addicting loot fest when there are sure to be thousands of potential friends to play with. Brevik told me their current build of the game featured instanced zones where you could bring groups of up to five players, but assured me that the number could easily increase before release.
Those whose only exposure to Marvel is in movies like The Avengers may find characters like Rocket Raccoon and Squirrel Girl baffling, but will still find some familiar faces and situations to enjoy. In the brief demo I played, I ran around as Iron Man on a mission to recover the Cosmic Cube (a.k.a. The Tesseract) from Dr. Doom. The coincidences to The Avengers movie plot, Brevik assured me, were completely unintentional; more of a happy accident than a conscious decision.
Marvel Heroes is currently in a closed Beta, with no release date at this time. Still, this free-to-play MMO is one to look out for. Let me put it this way: If the words "free," "Diablo-esque," "Marvel," and "MMO" combine to form liquid-hot awesome in your mind, you're probably going to want to check out Marvel Heroes. Putting it another way, I don't even really play MMOs or Diablo-style games, and I'll be getting my hands on this one as soon as it's available.