An MMO based on the superheroes of Marvel Comics has been a long time in the making. Marvel Universe Online was announced quite a long time ago, and then unceremoniously cancelled a while after. That failure wasn’t enough to keep Marvel from trying to break into the potentially lucrative MMO-space, as they’re trying again with the new free-to-play game, Marvel Heroes. I had a chance to check out the game at PAX East and play it for a short while.
The first thing that anyone will notice is that, yes, this is a Marvel MMO, but not one where you create your own character.The demo on the show floor had a limited selection of available heroes, but the full game promises a huge range of heroes from the popular comic universe. Everyone from classics like Captain America and Iron Man to more eclectic choices like Squirrel Girl and Rocket Raccoon while be available. This has the somewhat strange result of seeing multiples of the same iconic characters all at once. My first impression is that this isn’t really a game to be played for its story, and if you keep that in mind it was actually kind of a delight to see three different Thors slamming lightning at a T-Rex.
For my play through the demo I went with Thor, sporting the above costume that he currently wears in the comics. Immediately upon entering the game world, I noticed the unique art style the game uses. I found it to be somewhat reminiscent of Star Wars: The Clone Wars with maybe a little bit of comic book style tossed in, I guess.
The demo took place in the Savage Lands, basically Marvel’s own Jurassic Park. The X-men’s Blackbird jet crashed there, and Thor was in it for some reason, and for another unknown reason Beast needed him to fight a bunch of dinosaurs. Whatever, it didn’t really matter, because I was able to throw Mjolnir at a T-Rex and I really can’t ask for more.
Actually playing the game, I cannot overstate how similar it is to Diablo. Now, I might be going out on a limb here, but that might be because the creator of the Diablo series is a lead developer on this game. Movement and combat works by clicking at a location or enemies and just going to town on them with that clicking. There are also special abilities, kind of curiously bound to the ASDFG keys. Once I got over the confusion of having my abilities there, I really got into a groove and started really enjoying smashing away at some dinosaurs with the help of some other players as three different Wolverines.
As far as I could tell, that was pretty much the extent of the MMO features for this game. I have to stress that, of course, this was just a demo at PAX, and none of the dungeon-like instances or PVP areas or anything like that were available, but just walking around the world felt decidedly singleplayer. Additionally, unlike a lot of other MMOs, namely World of Warcraft, you couldn’t just walk across the border of one zone at any given area and be in the next zone. Instead there were distinct ways to progress from zone to zone, again, just like Diablo.
Because of the short nature of the demo, I wasn’t able to see what is probably most of the game. What I did see, however, I really enjoyed. The combat was simple but enjoyable, the art was brightly colored and vibrant with characters from one of my favorite universe, there was a lot to dig. If you’re looking for a free-to-play RPG to scratch that Diablo itch, look for Marvel Heroes this June.