This post is brought to you by Marvel Heroes and the illusion of depth. (That’s a pretty good pitch.)
The whole jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none concept shows up when I played Marvel Heroes. I paid the $20 for 2 day early access and a different character, Rocket Raccoon. I’m not one for day 1 access, as I have yet to see a single game launch smoothly (GW2 and Rift come close though). For sake of argument, day 1 was last Wednesday and it has been a “soft” launch of sorts readying for the 4th.
Marvel Heroes is an action RPG but more of the loot piñata variety, akin to Diablo and Torchlight. In contrast, DCUO and Neverwinter are clearly RPG MMOs with action elements. Given my play schedule, as much as I love the second type, I really only have the time for the first one. Looking at Steam, I have way too many hours into Torchlight 2, which turned into my go-to game after the D3 shenanigans. I like the concept of random dungeons, random loot and comparing gear for a slight advantage. I had 3 Outlanders, just to try out different builds. A glaive build might need a wholely different stat, talent and gear spec than a poison build. I did the same in D2. D3, well you didn’t need a new character what with the slotting and the way gear worked, you couldn’t swap anyways.
Back to Marvel. You get a choice of 1 of 5 characters to start, and they give you another free one (random) after 15 minutes of play. After that point, any character you want has to be either purchased with cash or found as a super-mega-rare drop. And the drops are player bound, so no 3rd parties farming here. From a cash-stop perspective, I get that. You’re essentially given access to all the content, for free, with 2 character options.
Here’s what you get in the game right now. You get a single Act with 8 chapters (+prologue), enough to get you to level 30. Once you finish those 8 chapters, you run daily/group quests for the remainder at a massively reduced experience rate. This is very similar to Diablo 2’s end game I suppose. You get a form of gambling with the crafting system (which requires materials). This is more or less Path of Exile’s crafting system – which I think is awesome. You get 1 weapon slot and 3 gear slots. These have traditional stats but also can boost your powers. These are reasonable stats too, where an item 10 levels above isn’t necessarily better. So the complete opposite of Diablo3. You get costumes to change appears. Medals that provide a passive boost (more damage, stuns, etc…) that drop from bosses and 2 artifact slots that provide passive boosts as well but scale with level. I have one that increased ranged damage by 30% (which is crazy powerful if you think about it). That content is good. It’s free too, so that’s a great deal. There’s no real “end-game” but there never really has been in ARPGs loot piñatas. D3 and Torchlight 2 have tried (I rather like T2’s map works and replays).
You end up with a rather linear path of progression that is identical for every future character. Gear upgrades become the way forward.
On to heroes. There are currently 22 characters, each with 3 “talent trees”. I’d love to say there was some depth in those trees but I’d be lying – 5 or 6 choices per tree. I’d also be lying if I said there was some semblance of balance within a character or between them. Some skills are drastically superior to others and some other skills seem to do nothing at all. If I said you could deploy a turret to assist in fighting, the default answer is “cool, a bit more DPS”. In actual fact, that turret is more like a tank since it fires once every 2 seconds, can’t track a moving target (everything is moving) and somehow manages to taunt enemies. Captain America, for those who bought him earlier since he’s “sold out” now, is a one person wrecking ball AND tank. It makes it less fun to be in an area or in a group and you realize that your character is drastically underpowered/overwhelmed while other characters are breezing through. I thought we were all super heroes?
The irony of all this is that even with the shortcomings, the game is fun. It might be immersion breaking to see 4 Hulks on screen but it sure as hell is fun to see them all jumping on Venom. It’s fun turning a corner and going “12 guys there, what to do? Charge!” It’s fun comparing two pieces of gear, with completely different stats to see which style best fits me. The designer in me is screaming “why did you make this system work this way” and the gamer in me is screaming “I love that you made this system this way”.
I think I’m screwed.