Marvel fans, if you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to be your favorite superhero, you should buy Marvel’s Avengers. This has more-or-less fulfilled every dream I’ve had about what it would be like being Thor or even Iron Man. But it’s not going to end just there. Early datamines of Marvel’s Avengers have established that they’re likely rolling out even more superheroes. I’m talking Black Panther, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, and really, any character thus far featured from the MCU.
It’s obvious Marvel’s Avengers wanted to do something entirely different. Surreal is the only word to describe the joy it has been playing as the six superheroes. With a single-player campaign focused on the infectiously positive Kamala Khan, an at-your-pace online multiplayer mode (the enemies scale to your level so there’s no rush), and tons of unlockable items, Marvel’s Avengers is trying to be successful as both a single-and-multiplayer game.
Developed by Crystal Dynamics and Eidos-Montreal, and published by Square Enix, Marvel’s Avengers released today for PS4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC. Now, we already previewed Marvel’s Avengers where I mentioned that this is the only big Marvel product out there given the filming shutdowns due to Covid-19. As a result, the game really stands out in that it’s being marketed everywhere. What is odd is that it actually excels in both its astounding gameplay and fun story campaign. Where it falters is in bridging the two ideas together.
About Them Good Old Days
Marvel’s Avengers kicks off with a catastrophic event known as ‘A-Day’, where an accident just outside of an Avenger’s convention in San Francisco unexpectedly turns many of its denizens into dangerous Inhumans: superpowered individuals, who unlike mutants, are artificially created. With the death of Captain America, coupled with a scathing testimony in court by Bruce Banner, the Avengers are disbanded and blamed for the A-Day catastrophe. As a result, Tony Stark has all his assets seized by A.I.M., the corporation whose goal is to make humanity safer by hunting down every inhuman on the planet.
The story is mostly told from the perspective of Kamala Khan (played by HBO’s Kathreen Khavari), a Muslim American whose absolute love of everything Avengers has her placed at the heart of A-Day. Like many Marvel stories, Kamala’s journey is about surviving prejudice and finding acceptance, having become an Inhuman herself. Not unlike the new Spider-Man movies, Kamala follows in the footsteps of other Avengers before her as she slowly becomes a hero in her own right, becoming a key member in the Avenger’s resistance using her fists of stretchiness!
Now, Kamala’s journey features the introduction of many beloved Avengers but focuses mostly on Bruce Banner and Tony Stark. Voiced by Naughty Dog veterans Nolan North (Uncharted) and Troy Baker (The Last of Us), much of the story focuses on the trio’s attempt to reassemble the Avengers together. It’s a surprisingly fun character performance between a Nathan Drake sounding Iron Man at odds against a reluctantly parental Bruce Banner. Where a sulking Hulk/Banner does his best Joel impersonation by playing mentor to a teenage Kamala Khan.
Crystal Dynamics are the same developers of the remade Tomb Raider games, so the team knows how to make a good single-player campaign. This one should only take around 12 hours to complete. However, a little bit after Iron Man gets his trademark suit, the game’s tone shifts away from linear campaign to incorporate more of the mission quests meant for multiplayer. As a result, the middle parts of the single player game are blurry in terms of the campaign’s story timeline. I was also disappointed on how less developed the other characters were outside of Kamala, Bruce, and Tony. Since the trio’s journey against A.I.M. seems to be the focus of the story.
In this conflict, we see A.I.M.’s chief scientists operate using procured assets taken from The Avengers (including Stark Industries which explains all the iron robots). A.I.M has the support of a mysterious shadow government and is led by two scientists. First is Monica, Bruce Banner’s ex-girlfriend and A.I.M.’s ambitious second in command. Then there’s M.O.D.O.K., whose real identity I’ll leave anonymous though it’s obvious who it is early into the game’s story. In terms of villains, I think M.O.D.O.K. was a one-dimensional misstep as he’s little more than what you’d expect from a comic book villain. As for positives, there’s a good amount of ambiguity and manipulation at A.I.M. Enough to justify them as a threat worth fighting against on the game’s various missions on the war table.
The Table of War
The War Table is the primary access point to every map and mission for both campaign and multiplayer mode. It also hosts training missions featured in the Chimera Hellicarrier’s HARM room, which is a great way to learn how to use every character’s different combat mechanics. Atop of this, every in-game character has its own individually focused campaign mission accessible via the war table.
There are two War Tables featured in the game so far (there may be more over time). One at each faction outpost. To confuse matters even more, because the War Table features so many missions (some of which refresh over time), the storyline in the campaign mode doesn’t always match the available missions. This means that some of the identities of the people being rescued, and their subsequent teleportation, are not explained. At least, not until you unlock the Inhumans storyline (which was really confusing). In fact, I’d even go far as to say not to try side-missions on the War Table until you unlock the fourth character spot and obtain Black Widow.
Not now, Kamala! I’m Team Working
There’s a spoiler warning before starting the multi-player Avenger’s Initiative mode. However, that spoiler is mostly just a handful of cutscenes and story twists you’ve likely figured out an hour into the game. Multiplayer mode continues the storyline right after the finished campaign. Immediately, you’ll notice daily quests that you can finish for in-game credits and rewards (which you should do because it’s one of the best ways to farm those). You’ll also want to finish daily faction challenges for faction points, as the better standing with a faction, the better items sold at their respective faction’s shops. Atop of all of this, some of these multi-player missions give assets that can be converted into the fabrication machine for rare armor on the Chimera.
Now, before beginning online missions, it’s probably best to familiarize yourself with how the equipment system works. It’s also good to learn all the in-game maps during the single-player campaign because multiplayer has the same buildings, loot locations, spawning points, and Shield cache locations. Likewise, for efficiency on level-grinding online, it’s oddly better to pick levels with lots of item chests such as vault missions. You should also farm the ‘Stark Realities’ and ‘Our Town’ missions to guarantee unlockable Shield vaults when possible.
I say all of this because online-play seems to really be meant for two things: farming quickly (in which case you should know the game already) and playing with friends for fun (which in this case means doing whatever you want). Likewise, if you’re looking to play online keep in mind that enemies scale and that even the best legendary equipment gets outdated. At least, until you reach a character’s highest level.
Have At Thee With My Skill Trees!
What’s amazing about the skill trees in this game is that you can customize them any way you like depending on preferred playstyle. Take Iron Man for instance. You can focus on ranged abilities and fly around blasting away like a fighter jet, or you can focus on special abilities for a Hulk Buster build. In the Beta, the Hulk Buster seemed like a glorified Hulk impersonation. In the fully unlocked version, it can utilize upgraded lasers, rockets, and more. You can even change tactics mid-battle by utilizing adjustable skill points in the specialty and mastery level trees. As each skill at that tier allows you to pick one of three perks that you can change whenever you feel like. The only inaccessible battle features are the game’s instant takedowns, which you can only unlock via in-game shop or character cards.
Some Assembly Required!
I know this sounds controversial, but I believe Marvel’s Avengers intentionally made their superheroes visually unappealing to encourage the purchase of skins. This seems awful until you realize that the in-game economy is actually really light and not at all pay-to-play. The truth is, because of the in-game leveling system, it’s not necessary to grind and level up legendary equipment. Resources are often found in abundance in this game and any unused equipment (which there’ll be a lot of) should be broken down into components. This includes any unused/under-leveled armor. In fact, every skin and item the shops have to offer is meant for your enjoyment with friends and affects gameplay in no real fashion.
Most importantly, every character has a challenge card of 40 unlockable rewards. You can collect new ones over time as each card has unlockable in-game credits, resources, takedowns, and skins. To unlock each card, you can attain reward points from 2 daily quests and 2 weekly ones with a one-time optional re-roll each day. And while there are 5 challenge points needed to unlock a single card’s rewards — for a staggering 200-point total per character — you can actually farm up to 64 points a week. Cards are also forever in your inventory, so you can finish it whenever you like.
The Design is a Smash
If there’s one selling point to Marvel’s Avengers, it’s that the design is thoroughly impressive. The battles are astonishingly vivid and the combat is well-thought-out. Likewise, campaign levels are remarkably stunning and take place in icy tundras, desert outposts, and even gravity-less space stations. You’ll laugh at every original line of dialogue crafted when standing next to a different avenger at base. You’ll also laugh when you see things like Kamala caught in a gravity well going full-on inflatable arm flailing tube man. Atop of this, photography mode can screenshot every Avenger in detail. I even personally screenshotted every image featured in this article.
Now, each mission in the game has a linear objective but can also feature side quests such as rescuing operatives, scouting for a location, and finding loot. Every level is designed where you’ll also need to solve puzzles, hold checkpoints, or destroy items while attempting to finish a mission. Once you’ve played enough of the game, most of these challenges are easy to remember a few hours in.
Where It May Falter
The sandbox environment is easy to memorize, which is great at first until the game starts to feel repetitive. Three days in and I can solve just about every puzzle and find every hidden vault in minutes. The Warbot missions, is likewise, the same featured in the Beta. In fact, almost all of the multiplayer bosses feature the same mechanics, whether it be a giant A.I.M. machine, Taskmaster, or Abomination. Atop of this, most bosses can be defeated rather easily using long-range snipers from afar like Iron Man or Black Widow. The campaign fights that do feel the challenging only do so because it breaks the game’s long-established rule mechanics, often by putting heroes in provocative situations. Finally, though there were some glitches, I’d wait a few weeks for patches as they were mostly cosmetic. Issues such as Iron Man’s head floating in a room or a hairless Kamala cutscene.
Best Consumed in Small Doses
Marvel’s Avengers turns a childhood dream into a reality by letting us fight as our favorite Marvel superheroes. Like candy, the game is an incredibly fun treat best consumed over time and in small doses. Its only drawback is in the game’s own midlife crisis as it can’t seem to focus on what it is: a single-player campaign or a multiplayer ultimate inventory alliance.
Final Verdict: 3.5/5
Available on: PS4 (Reviewed); Xbox One; PC; Stadia; Developer: Crystal Dynamics; Publisher: Square Enix; Players: 1-4; Released: September 4th, 2020; ESRB: T for Language, Mild Blood and Violence; MSRP: $59.99