Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order Review — Heroic Hack and Slash
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is the long-awaited sequel to the MUA and X-Men Legends franchises. Fans have been waiting for this day for years, and they will not be disappointed with what Team Ninja, Nintendo, and Marvel bring to the table with this release.
Before getting into this review for MUA 3, I must admit something: I love this genre, but I have never played the previous entries in the franchise. That means I am unable to compare it to the previous games in the series. I do not know how original fans would feel, but my experience with the game was highly favorable.
Let's start with the plot for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as it is probably the least important aspect of the game. An exploration of different worlds and dimensions in the Marvel universe, the plot focuses on familiar heroes, anti-heroes, and foes alike. Thanos is the big baddy, of course, and there is a rush to prevent him from getting the Infinity Stones. He works with, you guessed it, the Black Order.
Overall, I enjoyed the plot. I didn't go in expecting War and Peace, and I was entertained. It's a mishmash of some of the best characters Marvel has to offer, so it's filled with lots of fan service and entertaining dialogue.
One of my favorite little tidbits throughout the game's story mode is the introduction screens for each of the important characters. It is done in a sort of Borderlands-esque style with a fun description underneath their names, which can add a good bit of humor to some of the more serious characters, like Green Goblin.
Although Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is filled with many fan-favorite characters, it also misses some seemingly obvious inclusions. The choices made for the cast make sense as they are based off some of the more popular characters from the last five to 10 years, but it is missing some notable characters like the Fantastic Four, or slightly less famous but still beloved characters like Squirrel Girl.
At launch, there are 36 playable characters that are mostly unlocked by playing through the story mode, though some of them are unlocked by completing extra missions called Infinity Trials. These missions are basically the same as the ones in the story mode with some sort of twist added, such as "you can only damage enemies with Synergy attacks" or "you need to kill enemies to add time to a countdown clock."
Some fans will be pleased to know that there are currently three DLC packs scheduled for release, which will include some of the more notably absent characters. Other fans will be less pleased to know that some of these DLC characters are likely to be based on characters that are already in the game as NPCs who come along with you on story missions.
Graphically, the game is gorgeous. It strikes a balance between the art style of the comics and the art direction of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even still, it employs its own stylized approach.
Abilities and attacks all have interesting effects. Some characters, who are similar to each other, tend to have abilities that don't look all that different, but stylizations still manage to make the on-screen action hold your attention.
While MUA3's soundtrack didn't particularly stand out during my time with the game, I enjoyed much of the moment-to-moment sound design. Fighting effects are satisfying, and the voice acting is well done for most of the characters. The only issue long-time fans might have is adjusting to new voice characters for familiar characters.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is an incredibly fun experience for fans of the genre, and it is especially fun with friends while playing couch co-op.
Players who are not fans of hack 'n' slash or beat em' up games but still love Marvel might enjoy the game, but players who are neither fans of Marvel nor the genre are unlikely to enjoy it due to some repetitive elements.
The combat's simplicity is familiar, and it's actually kind of therapeutic to mow down waves and waves of enemies. Thankfully, the game has immense replay value, implementing the expected New Game+ mode, which lets players test their skills on a ramped-up difficulty setting.
Although Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3's combat can somewhat get stale, the rest of the game's RPG-style systems keep it interesting by giving you lots of ways to improve your characters and teams, such as collecting and improving ISO-8 crystals, enhancing abilities, and synergizing team bonuses by finding optimal compositions.
The ISO-8 system in MUA3 is based on collecting and earning ISO-8 crystals that will improve characters' stats, modifying either offensive or defensive attributes at the cost of the other, improving a character's ability to tank by drawing in more aggro, and much more. It encourages players to make choices about which crystals to improve, which to scrap, and how they should distribute them amongst team members.
The leveling system also provides a lot extra gameplay. Leveling a character not only makes them stronger by enhancing their stats, but it also gives you points to use to strengthen one of your character's four abilities based on their superpowers.
Choosing which abilities to level first is an important part of the gameplay as you will need to balance your team with a diversity of abilities to properly utilize the Synergy system. This system allows other characters to join yours in using an ability, thus increasing damage to enemies.
Each character also has a set of traits that, when placed on a team with another character who has the same trait(s), enhances a team's stats. Furthermore, each character has a different combat style, role in a party, and set of abilities that must be considered when placing them with others.
One of the most appealing aspects of MUA3 is its multiplayer. Action RPGs like this one are best enjoyed with a party of friends.
Thankfully, the game is very flexible in its set up. You can play it on one Nintendo Switch with a single Joy-Con or you can play it with four players using both Joy-Cons, Pro controllers, or even old school Gamecube controllers. You can play it in couch co-op on the same screen, offline with multiple Nintendo Switches, or online.
- Entertaining enough plot with lots of fun dialogue thrown in
- Tons of characters to choose from with more on the way
- Lots of options for team building and character leveling
- New Game+ and Trials provide extra hours of gameplay
- Great co-op fun
- Combat could possibly get repetitive
- While the plot is entertaining, it is simple
All in all, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is definitely worth consideration, especially for fans of the franchise — or fans of Marvel in general. The game is shallow in some aspects, but deep in others.
It is visually pleasing and well designed in terms of sound. Its story mode is nothing to write home about, but it should entertain you.
At the end of the day, it's just a lot of fun to play with buddies, and that's really what these types of games are all about.
[Note: A copy of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order was provided by Nintendo for the purpose of this review.]