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Marvel’s Avengers- Heroic campaign with multiplayer grind

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Players reported that after the June update, Marvel's Avengers started displaying their IP addresses

There has been some confusion around Marvel’s Avengers for a long time: What kind of game should Crystal Dynamics’ superhero project be now? How will the co-op gameplay work? And does a loot system even make sense for the Avengers? The past beta weekends have already answered a few of these questions. The whole picture is now available in the full version, which owners of the deluxe edition have been able to play since September 1st.

Basically, Marvel’s Avengers consists of two quite different components: a classic single-player campaign that is completely story-based, and a multiplayer part that is reminiscent of Games as a Service title like Destiny or Anthem. In this review, we’ll discuss both elements separately – simply because they are so different.

Everything about the campaign: More story than expected

It was known that Marvel’s Avengers will also have a pure single-player part, but it is surprising how extensive and elaborate the story is actually staged. With almost 15 hours of playtime, we are offered a full campaign that could also have stood on its own. It’s much more than just a brief history introduction or a rough transition to online mode.

In the 16 big story missions, we are not only introduced to the six playable heroes one by one. We mainly learn more about the villain MODOK (abbreviation for “Mental Organism Designed Only to Kill”) and his tech-savvy fascists from AIM (Advanced Idea Mechanics), but also about the many conflicts that simmer within the Avengers group. More than just wrestling the supervillains, Marvel’s Avengers is about the reunion of Iron Man, Hulk, and Co.

Reunion because we’re entering the darkest point in Avengers history. A new scientific achievement is to be presented to the people of San Francisco during A-Day, a kind of holiday in the spirit of superheroes. Suddenly the city is under attack and the Avengers fail to prevent the worst.

The hero’s famous helicarrier crashes and kills many people, including Captain America himself. This destroys the ship’s main reactor, which is fired by a Terrigen crystal, and releases Terrigen nebula – a substance that turns certain people into mutants called “Inhumans”.

After this event, public opinion turns and the Avengers are blamed for what happened. The team falls apart, falls apart and ultimately goes into hiding. In the five years that followed, the aforementioned AIM organization came to the fore, which only continued to stir up hatred of the Avengers and also suppressed the Inhumans. This is where Kamala Khan steps in.

Lovable heroes

Even if the story of Marvel’s Avengers actually, well, revolves around all Avengers, with Kamala Khan we get a real protagonist and identification figure at our side. The teenager is not only a gigantic fan of Captain America and Co., as an affected Inhuman, she also gains superhero powers herself. Now it is up to her and her rubbery extremities to track down the members of the Avengers and to convince them to fight together again for the good cause.

Kamala leads through the story very well because as an outsider (and fangirl) she can easily provide the player’s perspective. She finds her own chemistry for every Avenger and it is easy to take her to the heart. But the rest of the troupe and even the antagonists are all interestingly staged and I was invested in the story right up to the end and wanted to know exactly how the characters will continue.

The developers at Crystal Dynamics take their time for the campaign and give us the opportunity to get to know each hero in a series of dedicated missions. Until the end, the focus remains on Kamala and her understanding of what it means to be an Inhuman and to have the feeling of belonging. Marvel’s Avengers campaign is surprisingly human and even if there are of course many big action spectacles spread over the season, there are also often calm and touching moments.

Good missions vs. bad missions

When it comes to campaign gameplay, Marvel’s Avengers doesn’t always strike the right note. The different story missions consist either of separate campaign missions, which do not even exist in the multiplayer part, and the warzone missions, which we already know from the beta. The qualitative difference between these parts of the campaign is noticeable and unfortunately not that small.

The pure story missions offer linear level sections that are built solely for the campaign and its dramaturgy. Most likely, Marvel’s Avengers is reminiscent of big action adventures like Uncharted 4 or the younger Tomb Raider parts. This is where the signature of the developer Crystal Dynamics can be seen most clearly. The gameplay shifts from exploration to platforming, from casual conversations to smaller fights, and from cutscenes to boss encounters.

The campaign offers a lot of variety in these moments and often looks like a stand-alone game that is included with the rest of Marvel’s Avengers. But when it’s your turn to go to a Warzone mission, the direction changes suddenly. Here we get a foretaste of the multiplayer part, which for the most part only consists of fights. The story is barely advanced and it is just a matter of completing the primary objective while fending off the relatively uniform robot army of AIM.

Combat system with one-stop action

And unfortunately, it’s the battles in Marvel’s Avengers where the game runs out of air the fastest. The impression from the beta is also confirmed in the finished game. Although each of the six heroes has ten different talent trees, some of which also unlock new attacks, most of the battles escalate into monotonous melee combo happenings. The takedowns, which can impressively eliminate dazed opponents, are nice to look at, but are repeated far too often.

The fact that the fights in the game almost always feel the same is underlined by the six playable heroes themselves. For example, despite their different abilities, Black Widow doesn’t play much differently from Hulk. Light attack combos are followed by heavy attacks here and there when shields need to be broken, and even in long-range combat, there’s not that much of a difference between Thor’s hammer throw or Kamala’s rubber fist.

A spark of uniqueness comes into play solely through the movement of the heroes. While Iron Man and Thor fly through the air, Kamala and Black Widow can swing through the area. As soon as it comes to a fight, however, it only plays a subordinate role and in the hectic chaos of action, the crowd of opponents is mostly blindly thrashed.

While special abilities like Iron Man’s laser-from-the-chest beam are also individual, long cooldown times mean that the standard attacks make all the difference. In the campaign missions, however, the battles are only one element of many, and it is easier to accept a lack of variety. In the rest of the game, on the other hand, the question quickly arises as to how long-term the action-packed, albeit quite monotonous, battles can really motivate, especially in multiplayer.

Loot, level and more

In terms of character progression, the campaign already offers everything that makes up the core of the multiplayer missions. In addition to the classic levels, which the heroes reach by collecting experience points and thus unlocking skill points for the talent trees, there is the much more important power level. Similar to the Gear Score of The Division 2, we increase the general equipment value by finding and creating new loot items.

However, these mechanics are hardly really decisive for the campaign. The loot with the highest level is created, the rest is scrapped in favor of resources and when there are enough of them, the equipment is upgraded. Since we are constantly changing the heroes in the course of the story anyway and the missions increase in difficulty rather gently, these points can largely be ignored.

However, the problems behind it quickly become clear in the multiplayer part. You can find out more about this in our separate assessment, which goes into more detail on the Games as a Service mechanics and examines Marvel’s Avengers for long-term gaming fun.

You have to be four Avengers

The multiplayer part of Marvel’s Avengers works very differently than the classic story campaign. If you select the menu item “Avengers Initiative” at the beginning of the game, you will even jump to the end of the main story and get a brief outline of what is happening in the story. But the story is really only marginally now.

The only important thing here are the co-op operations that we can complete with up to three other players or three more of our own AI heroes. The process is always the same: we switch between five different regions of the world and our Avengers Helicarrier, which also serves as the hub world, via the operations table (which we also activate in the campaign). There are then several mission types to choose from in each of these regions.

Multiplayer kit for beginners

However, although there are a number of different types of online missions, mission structures are repetitive. Real differences between the missions can be found more in terms of scope and story components. Most often you will be in the so-called Warzones, which were already playable in the beta. Warzones are spacious areas that can be explored freely and offer both optional and mandatory mission objectives.

Sometimes we have to protect shield agents, sometimes we have to break into an AIM system, but always compete against the not exactly varied robot army. Above all, however, with regard to the optional targets, which are displayed as question marks in the area, it quickly becomes clear how much recycled content is in Marvel’s Avengers. Repetition is the order of the day here.

Every now and then there are locked buildings that can only be opened using pressure plates or activation points. These must first be found before the reward behind the door starts. Ultimately, however, there are only three or four ways in which these points are hidden in the game world. So if you have played a handful of missions that take up about 25 minutes in the largest variant, everything will look familiar to you very quickly.

Wait a minute, haven’t I been here before?

The fact that the missions feel interchangeable is reinforced by the modular character of the level design. Each region has a specific climate zone and a number of mostly AIM-typical buildings. The latter are mixed up a bit per mission and equipped with other opponents, and the new mission is finished. Often there were even several (different) missions in a row during the test in which I had to explore exactly the same areas.

The villain sectors and the shield bunkers, which offer a boss fight or a kind of horde mode, provide a bit of variety. But here, too, the handful of bosses from the campaign are warmed up and combined with waves of opponents that also offer no surprises. In the “iconic mission series”, which tell little stories about a certain hero, nothing new happens in a playful way, but at least there are a few story snippets to get hold of.

Where the pacing was still right in the campaign and battles with story and exploration alternated, 90 percent of the multiplayer missions are fought in almost identical environments. If you want to keep your motivation here permanently, you have to concentrate on building and improving your heroes.

More moves, more fun

The character progression in Marvel’s Avengers is not tied to a main character, but is distributed among all six heroes (available for launch). Each Avenger has its own hero level, which fills up with the accumulation of experience points. There are – very classic – for defeating opponents and completing missions. Depending on who you prefer to play, you’ll have a level 50 Thor and a Level 6 Hulk on the team.

For every level up there are skill points that can be invested in twelve different talent trees. Here new melee and ranged combat combos can be unlocked or existing skills can be improved, for example over a longer duration of the effect of buffs. As a result, the heroes’ available move set grows over time, which actually makes the fights more interesting later in the game.

Much more important than the hero level is the power level, which describes the overall strength of the superhero. Similar to the power level from Destiny 2, the power level is made up of the individual power levels of the findable loot items that opponents drop or end up in our inventory as mission rewards. Unfortunately, the loot system is anything but interesting.

Loot without feeling

In my beta conclusion, I already described the loot system as unsatisfactory, unfortunately, nothing has changed in the finished game. The fact remains that the equipment remains almost invisible beyond its power level. Attributes such as power, bravery or ability are also improved, but their meaning is difficult to understand and in the end everything ends up in large statistics pools such as close combat rating, defense rating & Co.

The better the items, the stronger the hero. But that’s about it, because a difference cannot be seen or felt when we exchange objects that have been put on. This is not least due to the partly abstract character of the loot, which often remains unclear what it is supposed to represent. With Hulk there is just one “component” that shows his chest as a picture. So what should I expect from this gear?

In the game itself, however, there is quite a lot of loot to be found, always in the usual rarity levels. Collecting and investing still has a bit of charm, but the great satisfaction of finally having received a legendary weapon or epic armor is completely absent. This is also because the loot has no influence on the appearance of our Avenger superstars.

Superhero fashion show with waiting time

Anyone who wants to individualize Kamala, Iron Man and Co. is completely dependent on ready-made skins that are collected from the comic history of the Marvel heroes. The outfits can be unlocked in a variety of ways. Sometimes there is a skin for leveling up, sometimes we can have the “patterns” found analyzed in the hub area and thus make new, cosmetic items available. Most of the time, you can get the most out of the Battle Pass-style challenge cards. Each hero has his own of these and we can bag rewards depending on the level we have completed.

However, progress only works by completing daily and weekly challenges that require specific activities. Overall, it takes quite a long time to progress on the challenge map, which is a bit of a hassle. It is faster via the dealers in the game who also sell outfits. But despite the end of the campaign and intensive excursions into the multiplayer part, I still don’t have the money for a single, legendary skin.

There are also microtransactions in Marvel’s Avengers. Via the marketplace, we can buy special outfits, emotes or name tags (a kind of decoration for the hero profile) with credits. Credits are Marvel’s Avengers’ premium currency that can only be purchased with real money. So it all remains cosmetic. In view of the tedious work of getting cool skins the normal way, the monetization intention is still very important.

I enjoy playing games, and gaming is a passion of mine. Among my favorite games are Tears of the Kingdom, GTA, and Cyberpunk.

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