When I first picked up Diablo 3, after years spent in the depths of its predecessors and siblings, I felt like D3 managed to distinguish itself from sufficiently from D1 & D2. The third installment had taken its cues from modernized, post World of Warcraft game design, clearly. Vital elements were designed very differently, although they were still the same elements that constitute a brilliant time sink of an action RPG. The changes were met with some ire from hardcore D2 fans (what sequel isn’t). Yet overall, the general architecture of the games was the same.
On paper, everything looked the same, but it clearly wasn’t.
Torchlight is a favorite branch of this particular genre, and there it became clear how much the little things matter in creating a unique offering. It was the façade, the flavor, that made all the difference. The same goes for Marvel Heroes, and you can bet your oversized clicking finger that the flavor here is tastier and more addictive than In-and-Out and Five Guys at once.
All the parts required to build this kind of experience are here in Marvel Heroes.
The randomly generated environments are present, even more so than in Diablo. The loot is given a great variety as each item only fits one of the twenty heroes available, with more heroes to come after release. The stats are there, the plethora of unique foes, beautiful environments, the complex abilities choices fleshing out interesting heroes to encouraging various strategies. There is great variety in hero type and customization options. The gameplay is precise, engaging and diverse. The story is written Brian Michael Bendis. It’s perfect, really. Everything this reviewer could possibly hope for in this particular genre.
Simply put, this is Marvel’s Diablo 2.
More than an imitator, Marvel Heroes has what many found lacking from Diablo 3: David Brevik. The lead designer for the first two Diablo games, Brevik surely had the experience to create something new and revolutionary. Instead, he took Diablo 2 and perfected it under a modern Marvel mask. It appears to me rather obviously that this is Brevik’s work as the game has the exact same flavor as Diablo 2, despite the vastly different aesthetic. The team around him surely kept a steady focus on Brevik’s vision, and have delivered a sublime experience with a special bonus: f2p.
All hail the free-to-play model!
Not to mention being highly lucrative for the developer, the free-to-play (f2p) model draws in a much larger audience than the standard sales model as there’s no cost upfront. Being given access to the entire game (with one free hero of your choice) is an incredible gain for any prospective player, and encourages play up to the point where the player wants a new hero. From here, you can choose what you want to spend in order to unlock the heroes you want to play: money or time.
Anyone can download and play for free with the initial free champions. Subsequently, players can unlock new heroes, costumes, XP/item find bonuses, pets and more through a standard microtransaction model, or through various bundles at $20, $60 and $200.
While many see microtransactions as a way to suck cash out of existing players, the free-to-play model allows for a buffet of sorts: only pay for what you can eat. You can have a blast grinding and farming your way to the level cap of 30 without spending a dime for the experience. Being able to pick up a costume here or a hero there when it suits the player is a powerful thing. Some purchases, like storage tabs in your S.T.A.S.H. (Stark Armory & Supply Hoard), are more necessary than, say, access to exclusive daily missions or crafting materials. But the game refrains from the pay-to-win structure by leaving the power of the heroes themselves reliant on the extensively statistical items that drop along the way.
Initially conceived as an MMO, Marvel Heroes plays more like a straight action RPG with a few social elements imported from MMOs such as players being able to run into strangers on the overall maps, with many single instances for players to run alone or with friends. Elements such as World of Warcraft-style instances and perpetual worlds with people busy at play all around you are a bit of a break from the traditional formula. Although I’d enjoy a single-player experience, this addition isn’t ruinous and many will enjoy the social integration. There are larger world events one can stumble across, and the diversity derived from random encounters in the world with different players is uniquely appreciated here in Marvel style.
Simply put, there is no reason not to give Marvel Heroes a go.
If you already know that action RPGs aren’t your thing, why are you still reading? If it is your thing, but Marvel isn’t your flavor, all you’ve lost is a bit of time and disk space. If it is, well, say goodbye to your free time and hello to a superbly crafted, vast time sink of an action RPG with a great cast of heroes and much more content to come.
Marvel Heroes Reviewed
Introducing Marvel Comics' Diablo 2! With a story by Brian Michael Bendis and design by David Brevik, it's a sublime action RPG wrapped around the beautifully addictive free-to-play model.What Our Ratings Mean