Hands-on with Marvel Heroes' combat, events, and crafting

Handson with Marvel Heroes
This has been a hard year on mice. Diablo III, Torchlight 2, Path of Exile, and now another click-fest is in the works: Marvel Heroes. This new free-to-play addition to the isometric family will put you in the shoes of classic heroes such as Spider-Man, Iron Man, Hulk, Storm, Wolverine, and many more from the Marvel roster. Just when my index finger was starting to forgive me!

To better understand how much danger my mouse and finger were in, I traveled down to Gazillion Entertainment for some hands-on time with a few of my favorite comic wonders. Is Marvel Heroes is bringing more than just tights to the table?

My trip began with David Brevik, president and CEO of Gazillion, giving me a brief overview of the game. Marvel Heroes is an online action MMORPG based in the Marvel universe. In fact, almost every aspect of the game is designed from the comics and movies fans have grown to love. Character costumes are replicas of those on the pages, and a few have been designed from the actual models used in movies like The Avengers. The game's chief writer is also longtime Marvel writer, Brian Michael Bendis. "We believe we're creating the Marvel MMO fans have been waiting for," says Brevik.

Characters

According to Brevik, MH will be releasing with over 20 playable characters. For my adventure, I chose to electrocute henchmen with Storm and stroke my ego with Iron Man. Each hero has his or her own unique skills and three skill trees that reflect iconic powers. For instance, Storm can specialize in lightning, wind, or storm based attacks. The team tells me that most of the skills were designed to mimic the powers seen in comics. Iron Man can spec into the Death from Above skill, which has him fly into the air and crash to the ground in his standard three-pronged pose.

MH also allows players to swap between characters whenever they're not in combat. I found out quickly that Iron Man looked really awesome but didn't quite fit my caster playstyle. After a brief menu-click and a few seconds of standing still, I morphed into Storm. I was able to switch between any character on my account at nearly any time, although I had to be careful to select a hero of appropriate level as each hero must be leveled independently.

Handson with Marvel Heroes
Playing the game

MH plays just the way we've come to expect from the isometric style. I was immediately at home with a few skills on the asdf keys, consumable health packs, and the spam clicking we all know and love. However, there were some fun additions. During a panicked run from a legion of aliens, I accidentally clicked on a car and Storm heaved it into the air. I tossed it directly at the incoming swarm and watched it explode and flatten nearby enemies. My immediate reaction? I have to do that again. The environment has more destructible elements than any isometric I've played in the past, and that is perfect for a game with Hulk.

The combat zones of MH allow anywhere from 25-50 players at a time. I ran into a few solo players and a couple of groups smashing and blowing up everything that moved. Seeing players on the battlefield was incredibly refreshing, and MH's new social tab made it easy to see what other players were nearby for grouping.

Events are by far the best part of combat zones. For example, Green Goblin showed up while I was helping a group of players take down waves of alien-like creatures. He began to cackle and chuck pumpkin bombs in all directions. This was not a simple flavor event but a truly difficult boss encounter requiring a large group of players to work together. When one of us died (and many of us did), that player entered a downed state from which players could attempt to revive him amidst all the carnage. This feature made me feel as if death was a mere flesh wound when I was grouped with a team of other heroes.

A later event caused a massive beast controlled by Mole Man to blast up through a construction zone in the city. A quick word from the villain and the beast dropped back down into the ground, leaving a large, empty opening to a new zone. I dropped down into the caves and into yet another new area further along on my chase after Mole Man. Brevik told me that these events are going to be a frequent and common part of MH.

Instances are also a big part of the game. The most difficult bosses can be found in these party-only zones, and when I say difficult, I mean holy spandex, that guy just one-shot me. My group and I took on Kingpin in an office at the top of a corporate skyscraper. While he was relatively tame on his own, at health intervals he began summon additional villains to help him. The last minutes of the palm-sweating battle had the group fending off Elektra and Bullseye at the same time.

Handson with Marvel Heroes' combat and crafting
Crafting, costumes, and more

Crafting in the game is a mix of Diablo II's Horadric Cube and Diablo III's merchants. Players have the option to donate gear to vendors, which helps them level up and provides them better merchandise or crafting recipes. When you find all the components for a recipe, the Forge NPC will build it for you. Some items take a few seconds to make, but Brevik mentioned that high-level recipes might take up to 24 hours depending on the quality.

Players can also use crafting to add more attributes or power upgrades to their cosmetic costumes. The team showed me how Cyclops' classic look from the '90s cartoon was turned into not just a nostalgic throwback but also a piece that made his optic blast more powerful.

Throughout my experience it was evident that Gazillion is dedicated to bringing Marvel fans an experience that places them in the shoes of their favorite comic heroes. Every small detail is a tribute to the history of the comic franchise. Even the cutscenes have beautiful comic-inspired art to guide the player through the story. In my brief conversation with Bendis himself, he told me that he "wants to make players feel invited to enjoy the content, heroes, and Marvel as a whole." So far, things are looking good.

Massively's not big on scored reviews -- what use are those to ever-changing MMOs? That's why we bring you first impressions, previews, hands-on experiences, and even follow-up impressions for nearly every game we stumble across. First impressions count for a lot, but games evolve, so why shouldn't our opinions?
This article was originally published on Massively.