Avengers Design

All looters have one purpose, make imaginary numbers go up through random drops, allowing for access to content that provides larger numbers. In some games, this is an inverted pyramid, where more content gets exposed as you get larger numbers, in others it’s a more narrowed view of options. In the MMO space, it’s often just raids. In the action genre, it’s rogue like dungeons. In shooters, it tends to be a mix of group focused content – probably due to the fact that consoles run the show.

Drops

Avengers manages drops in three methods. Completing a mission draws from a pool of items. Opening chests (which themselves have quality markers) drop gear. Finally, enemies drop items with higher odds on tougher opponents, like completing a waypoint. Let’s run through a good example.

Day of the Remains is an Inhuman mission that you eventually access in the main campaign. You can replay it, with a recommended power level of 25. You can certainly run it earlier, but you’re gonna die a lot! The mission has an chance for a chest at the start, a bunker with up to 4 chests to the left of the first waypoint, another bunker with up to 3 chests at the 2nd waypoint, 2 chests in locked rooms at the 3rd waypoint, and another chest near the main road (where you can rescue an Inhuman). My best runs have 12 chests and you never need to fire a shot. If you do end up fighting, then then 2nd, 3rd and 4th waypoints will all drop a few items (5 or so) and you get something for killing the 2 adaptoids at the end. If you need experience, then run the waypoints (<10mins). If you only need power levels (gear), then skip it all and focus on chests (~3 mins). I’ve run all the mission types, this is really the most efficient way. From start to end it takes less than 3 hours to reach 50/130.

Missions

These all focus on the concept of way points. If you skip one, then the next one won’t spawn. In the more open-world spaces, you’ll find some optional things to do – either a chest to get, an inhuman to free, or a tough enemy that guarantees a drop. In the tighter quarters, you only ever find locked chests.

The waypoints themselves focus on specific activities. A capture/hold event, destroy specific things, kill all enemies, kill elite enemies, or kill a specific target. In the open world, you have things between you and the objective that you can ignore. In the tighter spaces, the waypoint is often behind a console you need to interact with, behind a mess of enemies. Hives are “the” end game activity and you want to skip as much “trash” as possible to get to the next objective. Super advantage to flyers here, to a crazy degree. Major disadvantage to Hulk as he’s so big and gets stuck on stuff.

There are some missions that mix and match this stuff. The boss missions have you outside, then inside for a bit, then back outside for a large fight. Vaults have you outside trying to find the front door, then the rest is a mix of capture/hold mechanics against waves of enemies. They can vary in duration from something as low as 3 minutes to closer to an hour. It’s really great to have that level of variety.

But, not all things are created equal. Drops (as above) need triggers. If there aren’t chests, then you need a lot of waypoints. If a mission only has 1 waypoint and no chests… well you’re not going to get much out of it. Enter Hives.

Hives

I mentioned how action looters tend to have rogue like dungeons, and Avengers takes this as a foundation. Regular Hives have 8 floors to clear, and 1 waypoint to start the activity. You can die, but you restart a floor. Chests can spawn in the “trash” space between waypoints. For now, all Hives take place in the same building-basement tileset, which only have a dozen or so layouts. There’s less random here than say, Diablo 3.

Each waypoint will drop something, though there isn’t one that has better stuff than another. You can get a great drop from the first one and junk all the rest. They don’t take very long, maybe 10 minutes to clear.

Mega Hives are different. These are 48 floors (6 groups of 8 floors) where the entire squad needs to have power level 130. All 4 characters. In theory, this is a great incentive for multiplayer. The weird mechanic here, and only here, is that if you die you swap lead characters. All 4 characters die and you restart from floor 1. Each floor takes ~2 minutes to clear. In the best of cases, you’re here for 45 minutes. You don’t lose any of the gear, but you lose all the progress. And that final completion has guaranteed chance to drop an exotic (the best quality level item). The concept here is really solid, it’s that in practice Mega Hives are just too damn long and for most people you’re better off not playing with other people… AI companion deaths don’t count.

Load Times

This is an annoyance, as any waypoint trigger from a console generates an elevator cutscene. It doesn’t last long, maybe 5 seconds, but it really breaks the flow. You’ll get 2 of these for almost every Hive floor. It’s dumb, full stop. I am not against some loading, in particular for boss arena fights, but when you’re spending 20seconds in a corridor between loading screens, it makes you question why any of it exists. This is aside from the speech intros to every mission, which are not skipable. This effectively “raises the floor” of load times, so that you don’t end up zoning in and half the team has cleared most of the content, or has already moved to the next loading screen. Bigger areas would help a lot here, though I have to assume this is a resource issue in zone design.

Moving Forward

The core here is really quite good. The concept of Vaults and larger Hives seems ripe for interesting runs. They would need some additional tile sets so that it isn’t the same walls all the time, which is certainly some work but the assets are already mostly there. The space and underwater tile sets are underused to a crazy degree, and would be awesome here.

Having a way to modify gear stats, similar to Division, would be a huge relief from the stat waterfall currently in-game.

More content is certainly going to be nice to see. There are only 4 repeatable bosses (Abomination, Taskmaster, a giant spider tank, and a flying airship). MODOK, Super Adaptoid, and Monica are all campaign-only bosses. I wouldn’t say boss fights are a highlight, but it would be cool to have more variety. The whole “we can clone anything” gives a ton of room for this to work. Other mission types would be great too, Tachyon Rift is a nice change of pace.

The group content is going to need some big thinking hats to work out. I’m somewhat optimistic here given the extra time they took to deliver the Kate Bishop and the quality delivered. I guess a lot will depend on the AIM Secret Lab stuff and where that goes. If it works, then hopefully that gives incentive to play with other people. D3, Destiny, Division, Monster Hunter – they are all better with other people. Right now, there’s very little reason to do so here. Better superhero synergy would be one step. Better rewards with humans playing another. Tweaking the death penalties (it shortening Hives) could work. Seems like there are so many GOOD and BAD examples that it’s weird that Avengers took a middle ground path. Feels like this was a single player game with MP bolted on. Lots of good here, just needs a couple more pushes. So far, the pushes all appear to be in the right direction, which is great to see.

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