The game is, for all intents and purposes Diablo I or II but with Marvel... Now firstly that isn't a derogatory comparison, like a lot of people I pumped many hours into both of those games ("Stay a while and listen...") and loved them. For me Diablo III didn't hit the mark, but this is much more reminiscent of the earlier games. Another reason it's specifically relevant is that Marvel is designed by the same man who designed DI and DII, so the similarities are understandable!
For me the game felt a lot like the PS3 Marvel Alliance release, or perhaps the later Civil War game, grab your superhero and dive into a world with some quest objectives and some powers... beat up the baddies... Rinse Tights, Repeat.
Where the game worked for me is:
- There is a large opening rosta of heroes* from which you can choose and if you're a marvel fan you'll almost certainly find one you like, and I understand there are plans to bring many more in
- The heroes have a good range of powers which let you play in slightly different ways, and a selection of gear and drops that further customise your stuff
- It's easy to switch between heroes so you can chop and change a bit**
- There's a nice seeming crafting system
- there is a LOT of terrain you can throw / break / smash, that leaves persistent graphics on the dumping ground
- And there are town portals. (They're not called that but...)
- The Free To Play mechanics are 'ground-up' designed***
* Things might change before the game opens properly but on startup I had a choice of (6?) characters from which I could choose one. They were quite a few popular characters, although not the 'heavy hitters' of the Marvel universe (no wolverine / spidey / iron man in there!). HOWEVER the open beta (very cleverly) gave me 2000 credits to spend. With those credits I could buy myself a range of about 18 more characters. They cost between 600 (for the ones I could have started as) - 2000 credits (Iron man!) That meant I could experience the game from two or three characters perspectives. More on that below. Apparently heroes are also 'dropped' as Loot from some quests.
** I only played two but I could switch between them when I wanted to, errantly I didn't note how 'being damaged' translated when I switched, but it seemed to work fine, it also means you can drop heroes in and out in different circumstances if you want to. Where you're up to in the game is set by the player not the character so you can use anyone (you own) anywhere, although as levels get harder that will be less of an option. You can go back and redo bits of the game with the same / different characters if you want to (via the in game justification of turning back time I think, which was a nice touch)
*** A lot of people are still getting used to FTP games. I still hear / read a lot of reviews saying "The game was free but they asked me to pay for X, it's so unfair" which amuses (and terrifies me), until the rise of the free society where we all do what we want and the world works itself I want my mortgage to be paid by making games, so FTP is fine. Some games have introduced it into a 'previously paid for game' and it feels like a bad fitting jumper, just wrong. Guild Wars 2 did it will, and the balance here felt right too. If it stays the same I'm sure many people will buy at least one more hero to play (with such a lovely candy-shop of choice it's hard not to!)
Costumes too are available for purchase, you don't need to buy one but if you want to wear the costume of your choice then you will pay those few hundred credits... And the range of choice is good - if you want Hulk's hulk world costume then it's available, Thor from the movies? Sure... and so on. Iron Man Mark 42 is even available but only if you fork out the $199 for the super-startup pack. I'm sure people will moan, but y'know, it's a free game, can you really moan about something that's free!?
The other thing about the costumes is that they distinguish you from the people around you; your Thing will stand out from the others, and that's useful aesthetically as well as mechanically.
I'm sure you can buy XP boosts and that sort of thing, which I'm not into but if you want it, it's there
I started with Thing and bought Jean Grey (She's also Phoenix) and that meant that I could try a bit of ranged and fisticuffs. Both of these were fun and felt different in flavour and play style, and nicely seemed different from the way other characters were playing also, meaning that if I played more I wouldn't feel like it was just doing the same thing in different colours.
There's an intro mission which teaches you how to play with some nice events in it, a brief bit of looking round Stark Towers (with a few nice cameos such as a box with Loki's helmet in it!) and then an open map. The open co-op worked surprisingly well; it was large enough to accommodate and random events (a mugging, a police baracade being stormed and the like) worked extremely well. I got beaten up and ressed. Everyone bundled into Electro and he was a little easy given the numbers but that sort of balancing is easily addressed. Then it was off into an instanced area that played very well. It was challenging but not overwhelming, and the fun of throwing cars at people shouldn't be undervalued!
The graphics are simple and cartoony, not massively detailed, but it works well for the setting and keeps the game flowing smoothly. Cut scenes are in a comic style and are delightful. The story is written by the man who wrote House of M, so hopefully a winner. Apparently the main baddie is Dr Doom, who isn't a favourite of mine, but is quite a standard villain for this sort of piece. Amusingly it seems to be about the Cosmic Cube (which is what they based the Tesseracht on in the recent Avengers film.) I hope he's a smoke screen for a bigger plot and their site claims to have a lot of story so here's hoping. Voice acting is from people who have voiced the characters elsewhere, but not from the movies)
Controls are pretty simple, left click to move somewhere, (and attack if there's a baddie there), right click to use a power, as you get more powers you can assign them to keys (mapped to asdfg initially). Using a superpower costs 'spirit', but you have some freebies also (punch / kinetic bolt in Thing / Jean Grey's case). Baddies often drop experience / health / spirit orbs which you can collect to top up those bars. New levels mean new powers or improvements to existing ones. Kit brings advances to power / stats.
Marvel Super heroes is out on June 4th.