I remember watching for this game as news hit that Marvel was making an MMO. At the time Diablo 3 was still new and the controversy of needing to be online all the time and the Live Auction House were fresh, hot, and scalding. You either loved the game or hated it, and usually all the hate came from these two issues combined. So obviously with half the people who bought the game seriously upset with it, the search for alternative Diablo-style games was on. At the time, I was interested in this title, if only because I could imagine what an Isometric RPG could do with that universe. But at the same time, I don’t do betas much anymore. You could say between Transformers Universe and Darkspore, I’ve been let down way too hard just in how they ran, so I generally wait for the full game now. As such, this game fell to the wayside for a while.
When I did play, I decided I was going to run with Black Panther, and did for about a week. At that point, I found out one of my all-time favorite characters were being added to the game: Venom. And with that I walked away. You see, I was really very early in the story line when this happened, and I wasn’t walking away disappointed. I was walking away with a promise to myself to return when Venom was available and I could play through the game as a new experience from Symbiotic eyes. We have not been disappointed….
Story: Dr. Doom has big plans for this world, and he plans to achieve them through the use of the Cosmic Cube, an object of such power that there are many races across multiple dimensions that would choose to take it out of human hands and hide it from everyone and everything for the safety of all. He has already beaten the Watcher with it and now he has found other potential risks to his plan. He needs a smokescreen…
From here, the game will open up with you controlling your chosen hero as you make your way to a Shield prison for super villains called “The Raft” where a breakout has just occurred. Agents of Hydra have just unleashed several of the Marvel Universe’s most famous villains such as Doctor Octopus, Venom, Electro, and MODOK and frankly, Shield is overwhelmed dealing with all of it at once. It’s up to you to help them capture these classic villains so order and safety can be restored to the people they now threaten.
From this rather generic beginning plot, you will follow and fight the devastation, not so much caused, but instigated Dr. Doom as his master plan unfolds and he unveils the pure epic scale of what he is doing and why he really needs to be stopped. The tail weaves around several classic villain organizations within the Marvel Universe, allowing the game to keep a single plot and yet live up to being a rather large piece of Marvel and to that, I have to tip my hat.
However, that is not to say the story is complete. In fact, far from it. The ending of Story Mode will leave you at a cliffhanger, and while I understand this was done to place the ending into the beginning of your major raids, this is a disappointment. It would have been a better feel to end the written plot completely and then give these raids their own plotline, since they do not really follow one themselves.
Graphics: Those of you who played Diablo 2 back in the day will feel right at home with the way this game looks, which will be a common theme through most of the elements that make up the game itself. For those of you who do not, Marvel Heroes 2015 is an isometric game in which the camera will focus to keep your character at the center of the screen. However, unlike the previously mentioned title, everything in this one is rendered as 3D objects thanks to being powered by Epic’s Unreal 3 engine.
The result of this is a rather well polished looking game, complete with the option to zoom in to get a descent looking amount of detail in your hero and any character in close enough vicinity to them when doing this. Some characters will look better then others and the detail in unmasked faces suggest this was clearly not the main way the developers expect you to play, but it is a nice touch to show off finer details of costumes to friends or just seeing a character you never saw before
And those are probably the only times you will want to do this since, unfortunately, this is not a game that will offer much in the way of visual customization. Once you pick your hero, there is little you can do the show them off short of buying new costumes. Occasionally you will find yourself with a piece of gear that will add an effect and if/when you get your hands on cosmic items, they will occasionally do something cool in the battlefield with an effect to show it off, but that’s about the extent of free visual customization here. In my time playing through the plot of this game, I have gotten one unique item with a purely cosmetic effect among the things it does… and as I write this I haven’t seen it go off yet.
Still the look of the game is clean and no matter how much is going on on the screen, runs almost as smooth as silk. Network lag does cause an occasional pause, but that is an issue we will talk about later. For what this game pushes the engine to do, it handles amazingly well. Especially towards the end of the game, when at times you can not see the floor between you, a handful other players a hoard of at least 30 enemies on the screen at once, and all the specials every character can spew out on their opponent. This is not exaggerated, but the game chugs on without so much as a complaint for the most part, getting a little choppy only in the biggest raid areas.
Even the interface, as inspired by Diablo titles as it is, also takes it’s own high-tech looking approach that ads to this general feel of the game. While in combat, all the important details such as your currently equipped powers and to what buttons they are equipped as well as your health, current level progress, and whatever your character's power source is will all display neatly at the bottom center of the screen, letting you see quickly where you stand and what you can do about it. All other options you could need are either a mouse click to one of the 8 icons in the lower left or tabs on the left and right sides of the screen or a hot-button press away. It is very clean and effective, although I do wish those icons were more self explanatory. Still, these are small details since you will probably only want to work with them when the action calms down, anyway.
Sound: When it comes to the how it sounds, Marvel Heroes 2015 is a bit of a mixed bag, and in an odd way you would not expect. For starters, the music is absolutely beautiful, fitting a world where super-heroes and villains of all shapes and sizes exist. It is large, it is dramatic, and it feels like it’s setting the tone before the battle to end all battles, and that is just during the login screen! Sadly, there isn’t a lot of music variety as you play, but it never lets up the mood, so you can take that either way.
The sound effects, on the other-hand are actually fairly varied, and with good reason. With all these meta-humans running around and all the tech used on both sides of the battle, there has to be sounds to cover slicing, hitting, electrocuting, shooting, throwing energy, setting things on fire, slamming things around, or even just flat out eating the opponents… and this is not a complete list. There is a ton that can happen out there, and the sound effects adapt to that admirably.
And finally, we get to the voice acting, and depending on the characters you like, this will either hit immensely well or miss terribly. For me, the cut scenes were generally very well done. One or two characters were a little over-cliché (it’s a super-hero game, you don’t expect at least some?) but overall it was entertaining and true to the characters involved.
Unfortunately I can not say the same for the banter you can initiate on your own OR randomly occurs when playing. Playing Venom, I got the vibe of a character that they decided needed to talk more then they knew what to make him say. As a result, his lines, while well executed, went from what we would expect with him yelling about how he needs none of these people or taunting Spiderman very specifically, to doing things I would never expect of a “loner” like trying to convince others to become like him and merge with a symbiote of their own… or even resorting to “I can do that too” comments when hearing about the powers of some of the villains you fight. It seemed strangely out of character half-the-time and I really hope it was an unfamiliarity with one character and not a need to give everyone as many lines as Deadpool got to be “fair to the players.” (Hint to any dev making a Marvel game: NO ONE needs to talk as much as the “merc with a mouth.”)
Gameplay: Marvel Heroes 2015 is an MMORPG, if one of the least traditional games in the genre. As mentioned in the graphical section, you will play the game from an isometric perspective that will be familiar to anyone who has spent any time in a Diablo or Diablo-Clone game. In fact, if you have played that franchise, I could probably just label this one of those clones and call it a day. But that would be a disservice to everyone else, so let me explain.
You will start this game by selecting your character. Currently there are 47 characters, but for your starting selection, you will have access to a handful of them and once you pick one, they are YOUR starting character. To get the others, you either need to unlock them in-game or pay for them in the built-in store. Since the game is a “dreaded Free2Play” title, this is one of the places where they make most of their money. As a result you will have to grind a LOT of time if you expect to get enough of the in-game currency used to unlock a character (called Eternity Splinters). Or, you can do like I did if the character you want to play isn’t a starter and buy them. For a single character, you can expect to around $10-$15, so if you go this route, I would recommend considering this the price of buying the game. (In my case, I bought Venom.)
Each character has their own set of stats and 3 “skill trees” representing the powers they can traditionally gain, and you will get points to add to these trees as you level up by fighting enemies and completing missions. Unlike most RPGs of this kind, however, you will not be limited in where you put these points based on any structure so much as what ones are open to you to upgrade as well as the current point cap your current level offers you. While this does limit your building in the immediate, the game is generous in items to reset your build. You will get items to do this practically once a week just for logging in. In addition, if you want to start over while using nothing, you will have a second build you can start at any time from scratch using all the points you have. You can get up to five of these, but the extra three are sold to you like the characters. Annoying, but considering everything else you get around this idea for free, highly forgivable.
In addition to these powers you will eventually gain access to two other systems, Synergy and Omega. Each of these unlock as you level your character and grant access to custom tweaks, and each uses their own points to upgrade. Synergy is going to be the tree that aggravates, however, as those “points” are other heroes leveled up enough to use it. When you open this panel, it will list 10 heroes including the one you are playing that are “linked.” Each one when active in this tree, grants all the heroes in it some small power, letting you combine them to boost everyone. The catch is that in order to combine their powers, you need to own and have leveled each hero you want to do this with. Again, unless you like to grind away, you will need to drop a descent amount of cash to get anything good out of this grid.
Omega powers, on the other hand, are gained through collecting Omega Cores in the game, which you can then use in a much more traditional set of trees to custom enhance your hero as you like. You will need to move up the tree from powers you have already unlocked as you would normally expect for trees in any of these kinds of games. The only restrictions once this unlocks are based on events your character has been involved in. (For example, if you get involved in a super-natural event mid-game, that unlocks access to one of these trees).
As for combat itself, it is fast, simple, crazy, and completely customizable. You will use your mouse to click where you want to go and who you want to target for the most part, while certain keys on the keyboard will use the powers you have selected as you fight your way through waves and waves and waves of enemies, complete with wandering and staged bosses as your adventure progresses.
As mentioned in the graphics section of this review, everything you need is available at the bottom of the screen where powers you drag-and-drop from the powers tree are placed on letters on your keyboard as well as the left and right mouse buttons. In addition if you feel you need a few configurations of skills available, there are 10 of these slot-sets, each hot-keyed to the numerical row on your keyboard. Nor are you limited to just putting powers there (although these will be the majority), as you can also place one-time use items like health-kits as well. Above this, you will have two green bars. The divided up one is the total XP you are at before your next level while the solid one is a closer zoom on the bar you are currently looking at.
Finally you will have your health and “power source” as the circles on the left and right respectively. I have to use quotes because just like Diablo 3, each hero has their own different source which can behave differently. In the case of Venom, his is is called ichor and is basically the material the symbiote he wares is made of. It is finite and does not regenerate. Rather, he has to use specific powers in his power tree to restore it (often at the cost of health, which over time does regenerate). Each character will have their own balance to work with which may or may not be similar.
In addition, this being an MMO, you will not be going it alone. Every main area in the game is open to every player, allowing for massive amounts of heroes running around along side you, helping you with the odds. The only exception to this is when you go indoors. At this point, you will do one of three things: you will enter a new instance of the indoor area, you will enter a instance of an indoor area with a very small amount of heroes in place (basically autopartying) or you will enter your party’s instanced area. You still will likely not fight alone, but the volume of players with you will be reduced greatly so as to allow the more dramatic moments (like story based bosses, for example) to stand out and be more about you and those you are actively playing with rather then those who are just around.
The only down side to this is despite how epic the game gets (especially for the last two boss fights of the story) there is really little challenge. As I write this, I have finished the story and nothing in it has been able to kill me so much as once. Things get a lot more intense at higher skill levels and when doing challenge zones, but it would have been nice if the main story actually put up enough of a fight be more then a threat that MIGHT get you at the very end.
Bugs: Unfortunately, my experiences with this game have been far from smooth. There haven’t been a lot of different bugs, but a few in particular have been more then common enough to risk ruining a night (or early morning on the weekends) session or three:
- Lag: Simply put this game, while designed as an MMO, is not optimized well for one. You can expect the game to “pause” for a few seconds often, and while it wont break the game for you, it will annoy you.
- Graphical Issues: Unlike the lag issues in this game, this one is a lot more serious. For many people it will come as the game crashing, while others it will freeze. Yet others it won’t load at all. For me, when I hit this issue, it appeared like a lag-spike that never ended on it’s own (no joke, I once let it sit for 5 minutes in this frozen state) until I decided the game was frozen and tried to bring up Task Manager to fix it. I have had this occur as rarely as once a week to as often as 3 times in 10 minutes and the only way I could reduce it occuring was to have Steam verify the game, suggesting for me the cause was a bad download of either a patch or the initial installation, or I have been lucky so far. Reviewing the forums suggests either could be true as there is no one defined reason for this to occur (except it seems since version 1.42 to be much more common with NVidia cards then AMD ones).
- Dropped Instances: This happened a few times, though thankfully fairly rarely. If you join a party (even automatically) who is in an instance and they leave, there is a good chance you will be shoved to a loading screen and back into the tower as the instance is taken offline. It’s rare, but confusing when it happens as you are left wondering just what did happen.
Overall: To say that Marvel Heroes 2015 is not a fun game would be a flat-out lie. It manages to take everything about Diablo that made it fun, work it over with Marvel flair, and come back as something that really would be worth anyone who’s a fan of the original game’s time. And while it does fall into some of the F2P traps, it does so rarely enough so that you can enjoy it free or as a pretty cheap game (depending on who your favorite Marvel Comics characters are). But at the same time, the game’s story-mode is really easy and in total it would be very easy to sink a lot more cash into this game then you intended.
With this in mind, I would recommend anyone who enjoyed the old Diablo games (or even some of their clines) give this game a shot. It’s more of what you liked back then, and may be just thing to play enjoy with a few friends now. If you’ve never played that kind of game, this could give you a cheap/free look into how the genre is, and for that, it’s worth taking the time to play. But if you hated the gameplay of Diablo/Torchlight/Path of Exile/any other game that plays like this, you are definitely barking up the wrong tree with this game.
Source’s Listed System Requirements:
- 2.2 Ghz dual core processor
- 3GB RAM
- Nvidia 8800/ATI HD3800/Intel HD 3000 with 512MB VRAM
- Windows Vista/7/8
- 30 GB hard drive space
- Broadband Connection
- AMD Phenom II 6X 1100T (6 core) processor running at 3.3 Ghz
- 8GB RAM
- Nvidia Geforece 760 GTX with 2GB VRAM
- Broadband Connection
- and Windows 7