Developer: Gazillion Entertainment
The tagline that the Gazillion Studios team, would like us to take on board for Marvel Heroes is: “Marvel meets Diablo on Steroids.” Considered the President of the company is one David Brevik, co-founder of Blizzard North and creator of Diablo and Diablo II, we’re inclined to take notice.
This upcoming action MMORPG would be a tempting enough prospect for fans of the genre and the world’s most iconic name in comics. Consider this though: the game will be free-to-play. Sure there will be optional micro-transactions, but you’ll be able to play all the way through the game without spending a dime. “We’re aiming to create the highest quality free-to-play game ever made,” ambitious, but there’s no denying the potential.
Brevik displays an infectious enthusiasm for the game: “I specifically sought this project out; it’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while. The heroes and their powers fit really well into a Diablo-style game. Not only that, but there are things that these heroes can do that have never been done in an action role playing game.”
The devs are clearly on the offensive towards the competition too: “You play as the Marvel heroes themselves. In other Superhero MMOs you kind of make your own character – Sparkly McGee and Firepants Joe. And nobody knows who Firepants Joe is right? So here you get to play as the big guys.” It’s a sly dig at DC Universe Online and that game’s philosophy of creating your own badly dressed flying abomination. Playable heroes include all the top names such as Spider-Man, Wolverine, Thor, Deadpool and many more.
Ok, so there’ll be no flying around here, thanks to the grounded nature of the heroes, but the top-down isometric viewpoint would make such frivolities pointless anyway. Besides, do you remember how slow and awkward the flying was is DCUO? No more of that thanks.
When asked if there will be a cameo from Stan Lee, as per all the Marvel movies, the team laughed and replied with “we haven’t talked about it yet and that’s all we can say at this point.” I think we can take that as a yes.
For the story, Dr. Doom has gotten his hands on the Cosmic Cube -or the Tesseract if you’re coming to the Marvel world via the recent Avengers movie. Shouldn’t these heroes have that thing safely locked away by now? Locations revealed so far include the X Mansion, Mutant Town, the Savage Land and Fort Stryker.
Famous Marvel super-villains won’t be limited to scripted boss encounters. Some of them pop up at randomly generated intervals. Expect to see the likes of Dr. Doom, Magneto, Toad, Blob, Madame Hydra amongst others.
The Marvel credentials of authenticity are running strong throughout the game’s DNA. The story is by famed author Brian Michael Bendis and the game will feature an hours’ worth of motion comics to animate. Usually a cheap replacement for cutscenes in most games, but given the source material and the high quality of the images, it’s fair to say they look damn good. Gazillion have been granted full access to the music from the animated TV shows too, which should add a large degree of warming familiarity for fans.
Gameplay is what you’d expect from a title with such a heavy Diablo influence. It starts off simply enough though so it may well attract players new to the genre, even more so as it’s free. Also, Gazillion are aiming to optimize the game to run on low-spec machines.
Mouse clicks control movement and basic attacks, while the SDF keys are for your assigned special attacks that will need to recharge to stop you spamming them. Playing as Wolverine featured lots of slicey melee attacks, some close and others leaping towards enemies.
Public combat zones will feature other players and special events will take place where players can team up to take care of a new threat. Today I played the game with three other European journalists in one of the game’s early stages. While we all chose different heroes, it’s good to know that we could have all chosen the same one if we wanted and with lots of costumes available from the years of various iterations of the characters. With the weak enemies not really requiring any teamwork, it wasn’t long before we all dispersed to root around the levels and grab some loot or even move onto new areas separately. Any loot that does appear onscreen though is unique to you, so there’s no need for everyone to greedily dash towards every drop.
During my hands-on Magneto turned up for a scuffle and provided a simple challenge although it took a while to whittle his health bar down thanks to my other three team-mates still taking care of business with enemies in the previous area. Look, I was Wolverine; he doesn’t play well with others, ok?
This fight took place in Fort Stryker, which featured plenty of metal objects for Magneto to use to his advantage as he focused on drawing large pieces to him in a dangerous swirling storm. Once he’d absorbed enough he would send out an energy sphere to entrap me, requiring me to batter my way out. That’s about as complicated as it got, dashing in for a few attacks before backing off to a safe distance to avoid the blast radius of Magneto’s area attack.
Sadly, our time was up after this fight and we won’t get to play the full game until some point next year. A beta will start soon though and the game is looking very polished already, especially as a free-to-play title. If only more F2P titles were this ambitious.