Rocket Raccoon vs Donald Duck
Disney Infinity 2.0 has big plans. The original may have been relatively successful, attracting millions of players and holding its own against the established might of Skylanders, but arguably lacked a little bit of pizazz and a sense of the epic. Thankfully, few franchises can bring the epic quite as comprehensively as Marvel comics, which is now neatly under Disney's purview.
Let the crossover commence! Rocket Raccoon, meet Thor, Stich and Donald Duck.
Avalanche Software brought two new Infinity 2.0 playsets along to Gamescom this year, showing off the new Avengers and Guardians Of The Galaxy campaigns. On the collectibles front, the new line of toys are much more solid and sturdy than their predecessors; feeling impressively weighty and hard-wearing. The new Venom and Hulk figurines are utterly enormous, almost twice the volume of previous figures, while the level of detail is seriously impressive when it comes to the new Rocket Raccoon and Stich models. Shame they'll be standalone, really, as opposed to included in the starter packs.
Stitch, Tinkerbell and Donald Duck (the latter of whom has access to his hammer a huge amount of reality-defying objects to throw in authentically angry fashion) join the new standalone characters, but in terms of playsets, the Guardians Of The Galaxy set will naturally require its own canonical figures. Star Lord and Gamora headline in the starter pack, taking the starring role in a combat-heavy campaign that sees you blasting your way out of familiar locations (such as Nowhere), shooting up hordes of foes and taking down Necroships with well-thrown explosives. The action has been tuned up and feels much more responsive now, in response to feedback from the original, while the new story has the direct blessing of Brian Michael Bendis.
Each character now has a skill tree, which is saved to the NFC chip and means that everyone's character feels unique rather than variations on a theme. Heroes can assign skill points to passive buffs and signature skills taken from the comics and films, naturally focusing on Star Lord's rocket boots and gunplay, while Groot can extend his limbs to smash through legions of massed enemies. He won't be able to turn them into a kebab, though.
The stock characters are fun enough, but Marvel is so full of interesting and crazy crossovers that it would be a shame to waste them. Each playset is stuffed full of 'crossover tokens' to collect, which unlocks mini-campaigns with their own canonical storylines. Case in point, Star Lord can collect Iron Man tokens that grants access to an entirely new mission for Tony Stark with Sci-Fi trappings. A whole new mess of Teamup Discs will be introduced into circulation, which summons an NPC Marvel character to fight alongside you including Guardians Of The Galaxy's Yondu, while Event Discs bring unique effects from different story arcs and comics into your match.
Lola the flying car? Nick Fury's air strikes? The freaking INFINITY GAUNTLET?! Yes, they're all yours to (ab)use.
In contrast to the Science Fiction shenanigans of the Guardians Of The Galaxy playset, the Avengers playset presents us with an utterly enormous tract of Manhattan. You're free to roam this enormous patch of real estate from the sewers to the top of skyscrapers, whether using Spider-Man's webslinging or freely flying with a full degree of freedom and no energy restrictions as Nova. It feels like a huge breath of fresh air compared to the original, a real and genuine upgrade that provides room to move. And beat up legions of Symbiote-infested thugs, naturally. Hopefully the finished article will present us with plenty fo interesting events and asides to fill the space, though.
The Toybox side of things has also received a significant upgrade. Realising that only a tiny proportion of players were actually uploading their own creations as opposed to downloading content, Avalanche has added a whole suite of automation options to take the busywork out of it. NPC builders, each of which has a theme and adorable design based on Peter Pan's lost boys, can be plonked down into the level and tasked with doing their own thing; creating treehouses, Agrabah buildings, cityscapes and other structures until ordered to stop. They'll all intertwine and interact, leaving you to tweak the details.
'Creators' also help take the stress out of placing racetracks and buildings; just designate an area to be a particular building material and lo, it is done, as skyscrapers suddenly appear by themselves. Slap down a racetrack starting line and an entire twisting track winks into existence within a few seconds. Naturally you're still free to fine-tune and edit the results as you see fit, but it really does make creating your own content a lot quicker.
We're finally able to design our own interior environments too, by placing down a doorway that acts as a warp portal to a warren of rooms and corridors ten levels deep. You're free to design and decorate this enormous space however you please, populating it with characters, tongue-in-cheek decor such as Tron arcade machines and even creating your own multi-stage RPG of sorts by assigning dialogue, logic and teleporters to carry players along a story.
We're excited to see what both Disney and legions of fans can create once Disney Infinity 2.0 hits shelves. We'll probably have to wait for 3.0 until Star Wars joins the party, but until then, the Marvel menagerie should be more than enough to tide us over. Avengers... assemble! And now we're all standing up.
Stay tuned for our interview with producer Jason Moffitt!