Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Marvel Heroes

It's been awhile since I've actually reviewed a game here so this post should be a refreshing change of pace for both my readers and for myself. Furthermore, this game was released actually quite recently so for a change I won't be boring you all with my ramblings about stuff that's nearly twenty years old which nearly nobody cares about anymore.

Normally I avoid MMO (Massive Multiplayer Online) games like they're the Black Plague for what I believe are very good reasons (though I'll not bore you with my ranting of those reasons right now) but recently I've started playing an MMO that I'm actually having some fun with: Marvel Heroes.
Though I dislike MMOs I was attracted to this game because it's also one of my favorite types of games: free. Usually such games come with some sort of strings attached or (like the plethora of browser-based games that I must endure endless advertisements for) simply are too generic for me to waste my time trying to play. However, Marvel Heroes is a full game that's playable from start to finish without ever forcing the player to spend any real-world money and furthermore without forcing the player to join some kind of multiplayer party.
Some of you are likely skeptical, so let me explain this a bit further; there is indeed what you could call a catch and in fact there are actually two or three such catches, but they in no way hinder a person from playing the entire game for free if they wish to do so. At the beginning of the game your choices of which hero you can play are limited to something like half a dozen; more heroes can be unlocked and added to your roster as you progress through the main storyline. This limitation of the initial roster is where Gazillion Entertainment will hook fans of the most recent Marvel box office hits who are too impatient to wait for their favorite characters to appear at some random point in the game. For example, Iron Man is not among the heroes that are initially playable but for a mere 1450 G one can pay to instantly unlock this character. What's a "G"? The current conversion rates are pictured below:
So, for something like 15 USD one can unlock the famous Iron Man. Not really all that expensive, I suppose, but it's at that point that the game has stopped being free for the impatient Iron Man fan. Furthermore, if you're really impatient and have some real-world cash that you simply must get rid of, you can go straight to the Marvel Heroes Store on the official website and pay the minor sum of 199.99 USD to purchase a pack containing every hero in the game. (At the moment that would be 21 heroes in all, but it's my understanding that once this is purchased it will automatically update every time new heroes are added to the game in the future.) Oh, and lets not forget the multitude of costumes that can be purchased for each hero.
It should also be mentioned that these Gs are not earned in-game; the currency used with NPC vendors and the like are called "credits". Still, all that spending of real-world money to buy Gs to purchase characters and items in the game is as far as I can tell entirely optional, so as long as I can be content to play as Scarlet Witch in her original costume I'm going to continue to refer to the game as being free. My ultimate goal is to unlock and play the entire game as Squirrel Girl.
While signing up for the game, downloading it and installing it are all in fact free, here I should probably warn any interested readers of one initial annoyance that I had with that entire process. Regardless of your internet speed and bandwidth, the downloading and installing part of the process will likely take an entire day and maybe then some as the Gazillion Entertainment servers feed you the data at blazing speeds of up to 600 kbps. (I actually started playing the prologue portion of the game when this process was only 50-60% complete, but I was unable to progress into the first chapter of the story until after I had left my rig on overnight to complete the installation.) Fortunately (as far as I can tell at the moment) this is the only time that you'll be held up in such a manner. After the game is fully installed you can play all you want for free... unless of course you lose your internet connection or worse you're one of those folks that gets charged by your internet provider according to usage; in these cases the game will likely be 11-12 GB of wasted space on your hard drive.

So, what's the gameplay actually like? While it's more dynamic and enjoyable than browser-based free games like Wartune or Tynon that practically play themselves, players who prefer games with intricate plots, open sandbox environments and lengthy conversations with NPC characters will likely be disappointed with Marvel Heroes. However, players like myself who occasionally like to hack 'n' slash (or bash 'n' smash or blast 'n' burn) their way through endless hordes of enemies will likely enjoy this one. First of all, you never really die in this one; when you're defeated by an enemy you simply get zapped back to the last waypoint you've unlocked or the last HQ you've visited. There's also a handy gizmo called the bodyslider which lets you teleport from an area back to the HQ to sell all your excess stuff and otherwise take a breather and then return to the exact spot you had left. Like most such games, you'll advance by earning experience points through defeating enemies and completing mission objectives, along the way collecting increasingly beneficial inventory items and maybe even occasionally unlocking a new playable hero. Unlike in your average experience-point-driven RPG where said points are automatically added to your experience pool, in this game you pick up said points in the form of yellow orbs that are dropped by defeated enemies or found in special chests in special areas. Each time a new level is gained the player also gets two skill points that can be distributed to increase the character's special abilities and unlock new more powerful abilities. You can also sell excess gear to vendors back at HQ, buy new items and even work with Ant Man to craft new elements that can benefit you by being used to create elixirs or to simply add a nice glowy effect to your cape. Since it's a MMO the various missions that make up the storyline are all repeatable, including the boss encounters, so when you do add new first-level heroes to your roster you can always go back to familiar areas to level-up and maybe even find some things that you had previously missed. On the side there are also daily missions of various difficulty levels, Survival Challenges and of course PvP arenas. And of course you can always team up with your buddies to go on a rampage through New York and a number of other popular locations taken straight from the Marvel Universe.
How will this game perform on your system? Let's take a quick glance at the system requirements:
I'd say that if you have a computer that was assembled anytime in this millennium you should be able to run Marvel Heroes well enough. I haven't seen any outrageously high-resolution textures or models in the game thus far and the main drain on system resources seems to be the lighting effects associated with most of the special attacks (and visual effects that one can optionally have attached to one's costume). With my video setting at the default medium (as seen in all these screenshots) I've only once or twice experienced a very brief minor FPS hit when battling sub-bosses like Electro or Venom alongside about a dozen other heroes with enemy flunkies running all about as well.
The video settings have been made either very easy or very restricted, depending upon one's point of view. As you can see in the image above, there's only one slider that controls everything from lighting and shadows to anti-aliasing by switching these things either on or off depending upon where the slider is set among the five presets. For gamers who are accustomed to fine-tuning such settings via a variety of options this might be something of an annoyance but I've yet to find it detrimental to the game as a whole. If I had to guess, I'd say that such a system was likely devised to accommodate console gamers who aren't accustomed to having much control over such things and thus never needed to be concerned with them.

I should probably mention here that at the time of this posting I have no intention of joining any teams of super heroes. There are some of you who I've met on the internet that I think I'd actually enjoy playing this game alongside, but in the end such an alliance simply would not be fair to you due to my sporadic gaming habits. By this time next week my eclectic interests are likely to be focused upon something entirely different and it would be unfair of me to leave my team hanging just when they need me to help defeat Doctor Doom and I'm instead off playing Hexen or something else from bygone days. So please don't take it personally if I reject your invitation to join your League of Badass Heroes; as I've said I normally avoid MMO games and this is actually one of the reasons why. I like the friends I've made on the internet and I'd hate to lose any of you over something silly like the fact that I left you hanging somewhere in the Savage Land while I went off to play Morrowind.
Anyway, at the moment Marvel Heroes is serving as a nice break from my usual shooty or slashy games, and since it's (almost) entirely free I'd recommend it to anyone inclined to play such a thing; you really don't have much to lose with this one but time... and 199.99 USD if you're one of those impatient sort of gamers that simply must have it all and have it right now.

So until next time, True Believers, game on...

1 comment:

  1. My favorite online slots are based on Marvel Comics. Fantastic four or X-Men are the best.