Reviewed on the PlayStation 4
3 years ago, Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics teased a project with a small trailer indicating the demise the Avengers. It was specific and moody, it was exciting. Since then, anticipation were high until its first gameplay reveal trailer – although the game looked solid, character design and feel of linearity slurred within the gaming community. After much early feedback, Crystal Dynamics listened to the fans and altered some distinct looks. The game is finally here and dozens of hours later into the main core of the game, here are my thoughts on what I think is a great, but flawed prospect of what’s to come.
Fantastic Single-Player Campaign
During early interviews, Crystal Dynamics revealed how the game is designed to be a co-op centric looter that lets the player alter their heroes so drastically, that every hero would be distinct. In my mind, I wondered how the main story would play out with 4 of my friends. To my disappointment, the main campaign is separated from co-op play. The decision for this was because the narrative for this game wouldn’t work, or share the same impact if 4 players progressed through the story together.
As much as I was dismayed by this, I can not deny how magnificent the story campaign is, from start to finish, the attention and detail put into the characters and gameplay really puts this game up high with the likes of Naughty Dog’s Uncharted series. It is personal, amazingly voice acted (aside from Troy Baker’s Bruce Banner, dude is so melancholy at odd points of the story) with a bunch of explosive set-pieces. You will follow Kamala Khan, an Inhuman who was affected by the Terrigen energy explosion during A-Day – 5 years later, the Avengers are disbanded and the new AIM corporation is trying to find a solution to cure the Inhuman disease by ratifying martial law and sending drones out to identify potential mutants. Very X-Men’y yet true to the comics as this game has you collect a bunch of them through the campaign and co-op missions.
With each mission you progress into finding Kamala’s true strength while also bringing the Avengers back together to fight against the tyrannical AIM. Most of the campaign is focused on revealing your gameplay loop in a progressive manner, but layered on top of that is really well acted cutscenes and in-game moments. Your main antagonist is Dr. George Tarleton, the man behind the new energy source, and one who becomes MODOK. By the time you make it to the end of the campaign you are reminded that this is just the beginning.
The Woes of Co-Op | Gameplay Mechanics
Once you are done with the roughly 6-hour campaign, the game introduces Warzone, a co-op centric mode where you will be looting with friends while taking down baddies. Here, you are placed in wide areas to explore as you head towards your main objective. There’s a lot of enemy types to fight as some phase in and out of your way to hit from behind, flying drones, shielded giants called Adaptoids and many more. With 15 enemy types, you are bound to utilize all 3 of each heroes abilities.
But, even with the large enemy types, that is not enough to help this games lack of variety within their co-op space. There are quick missions like Drop Zones, longer Faction missions and explorable Vaults missions. Get use to them, you will be on repeat with these types for dozens of hours before you dive into the more endgame stuff like Villain Sectors and Hives. Yet, serves as no real excitement aside from the initial first time experience as each of the missions mentioned before are essentially the same EXACT thing, with very MINOR distinction between them. This is a real problem as this game has you grinding for loot for hours before they become viable. Trust me, the capitalization is not just for drama.
Loot plays a central role in building your heroes as each item range from common to Exotic. As of right now, the only Exotic you can obtain is your Major Artifact, which serves as a way to give yourself a major damage buff for 5 minutes. Each gear is rated in star level, as 5 stars is the best stat roll you can get based on the elements you are grinding for. Speaking of elements, these are what’s available in the game: Shock, Gamma Poisoning, Cryo Freeze, Pym Shrink (my favorite,) Plasma Burn and Cosmic Ionization. Each of these elements has distinct affects on enemies, for example Gamma Poisoning damages enemies over time poisoning those around them, and when defeated sends out a gamma explosion. Shock can stun enemies faster giving you a higher percentage for critical hits – all of these elements can be combined to give you all sorts of debuffs. It is surprisingly dense and I really appreciate the work Crystal Dynamics put into this.
Each hero has 3 skills and a power called Intrinsic, which plays as a counter mechanic with added hero specific bonuses. For example, when countering with Thor, he can also activate ODINFORCE making him invulnerable for a few seconds alongside damage boost. Same sort of thing for the rest of the heroes. The abilities are what separates them – Kamala is basically the healer of the group; when you level up high enough to unlock mastery skills, you can heal everyone and even resurrect them from a down state. Iron-Man plays as a defensive hero as he can form a protective bubble that can damage enemies inside of it. Playing around with each heroes skills can be really fun and surprising.
Issues with Cosmetics and Separation from Loot
Alongside the prospect of loot and gameplay mechanics comes the desire of making each of your heroes look as unique to your style as possible, and this is where the game starts to fall short; in order to obtain different looks, you have to find Cosmetic blueprints scattered around randomly place SHIELD chest in the world, or by completing missions with 100% ratings, you’ll have a chance of obtaining one. This is a major grind as it can take anywhere between 2-15hrs before you obtain one blueprint, and worst of all, it’s highly repeatable. Each character also has a battle pass feature called Challenge Card. Here, you complete challenges to earn points towards the battle pass to earn cosmetics. It’s a simple idea, and it doesn’t have an expiration date – however each of the Challenge Card cost $10 for post-launch characters. Sure, you can earn the necessary credits within the current heroes cards to use towards new cards, but to obtain them can take weeks to months depending on the player.
The idea of separating your look from the loot you earn is a strange one and really disconnects the sense of progression. This is also coupled by cosmetic microtransactions as you can use real world money to buy exclusive Legendary cosmetics from the marketplace. I think this is a major miss on Crystal’s part as this is a key element into making Marvel’s Avenger greater.
Decent Social Hub
Like many live-service games, social hubs are one of the focal points of the experience – Chimera is the place you’ll go for your intermittent dose of cosmetic creation and loot buyin’. Here you will find vendors for new gear as well as cosmetics that rotates on a daily basis. Alongside that, there are point contacts for specific factions that request you to complete daily and weekly bounties. This is standard format for games like this and it is very welcoming.
Glitches and Bugs
Now, it is surprising to me to find bugs in a game that is meant to be high profile – it is complex by nature given that the game is high-level in production and really dense with stats; but still, with Square Enix AND Marvel helping with the development of this game, you’d think they would be more meticulous, no?
Nope. This game started off as a big fat mess – matchmaking was entirely unplayable, characters clipping through world maps, enemies clipping behind walls and puzzle mechanics disabling itself preventing progression in missions – certain cases players couldn’t complete campaign missions and had to wait for a fix. Now, Crystal Dynamics were rapid with their response as 3 patches rolled out in its launch week, but still doesn’t take that sour taste out your mouth….yeah, I’m looking at your Bethesda. At the time of writing this, I still have friends who are adamant in not touching this game because of the glitches, and they were really excited it.
Exciting Prospect of What’s to Come
Given that they promised years of post launch content and characters – I look forward to seeing more of this. But as of right now, the state of Marvel’s Avengers is a faithful rendition of the universe flawed in areas that could have been rectified with a little more work in original content. This game could have used another 6 months of production.
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