A super first year for Marvel Heroes
In a game focused on super heroes with super powers facing super villains, you wouldn't expect a birthday bash to be just ordinary, would you? Of course not; it should be super! Gazillion agreed: Marvel Heroes just wrapped up its mega month-long first anniversary celebration this past weekend. From multiple buy-one-get-one-free offers to plentiful buffs and boosts to 365 birthday gifts for each player, the event was filled with festivities fit to bear the "super" moniker.

The celebration itself capped off a year of growth and expansion for the action RPG; the Marvel Heroes of today is not the Marvel Heroes that players logged into back in June of 2013. Even before the big release of Marvel Heroes 2015, which kicked off the anniversary festivities on June 4th, the game had already evolved quite a bit. How has it changed over the last 12 months? Let's take a hop, skip, and super leap down memory lane for a look.

Expanding the roster

Like the heroes who populate it, the game has grown in power beyond its more humble beginnings. When Marvel Heroes' doors were thrown wide open, there were only five free starting heroes for players to choose from. Now one year later, the initial selection has increased to 11 heroes, including fan favorites like Captain America, Human Torch, and Storm as well as lesser-knowns like Rocket Raccoon.

At one time, there were only 16 other heroes available for purchase, for a total of 21 heroes overall. Over the past 12 months, new heroes have been added to the store regularly, raising that number to 24 and bringing the total number of playable heroes to 35. And not all of those heroes have been famous X-Men like Nightcrawler and Gambit or even Loki and The Invisible Woman. Die-hard fans of Squirrel Girl or Moon Knight can now play either -- or both -- of those heroes as well. Heck, you didn't even have to choose a hero; come 2014, players could even decide to play super-villains instead! Other additions included Emma Frost, Luke Cage, and Psylocke. The first hero of Marvel Heroes 2015, brought into the game just over a week ago, was Silver Surfer.

Expanded customization

With all those additional heroes, you need additional costumes! Over 100 new cosmetic costumes have been added to the game since launch, and the availability of enhanced costumes has more than quadrupled (from two to nine). Some costumes even allow certain heroes to switch genders, like turning Hawkeye into Kate Bishop and Black Panther into Shuri.

Player customization was further expanded when gear slots jumped from eight to 19. The number of ways you could trick your hero out and emphasize certain skills and abilities increased significantly with the addition of insignias, rings, artifacts, relics, and more.

Expanding features

New heroes weren't the only addition to Marvel Heroes. The past year has also seen many new features introduced to the game intended to enhance the play experience. One of the early changes was the replacement of hero tokens as rare loot drops with eternity splinters, a lootable, stackable currency that allows players the chance to purchase new heroes without using the cash shop.

In November, players were treated to endgame content with update 2.0, which introduced Asgard, and a new PvP mode. It didn't stop there: Legendary quests, prestige, Bovineheim, and more were also added throughout the year.

New modes were added as well. Midtown (a very happening place for XP and loot for the over-level-20 crowd) opened up a general area for players whereas the S.H.I.E.L.D Holo Sim training day simulation mode opened for single heroes or duos. In April 2014, players who elected to take advantage of the new team-ups system could now have a side-kick come along for their adventures. Starting last month, players were treated to new story vignettes in the form of One-Shots. These episodes are stand-alone incidents that can be experienced outside the standard storyline.

Advanced systems, which were non-existent when the game launched, blossomed as the months wore on. Special login rewards, the Synergy system, and achievements were all instituted in the first year. On top of those, the inclusion of blessings, runewords, enchanting, and unique upgrades bolstered the crafting system by literally tripling what players could create.

Marvel Heroes
2015 in 2014

As much as that list contains, it isn't the entirety of the Marvel Heroes updates -- not when you include what has transpired since the second year fired up on June 4th and Marvel Heroes 2015 was released. This new season brought with it more advanced systems with the Omega system (which allows players to buy various advancements), daily shared missions (touted as better than legendary quests), and secure player trading (can we hear a hallelujah!). And there are more hero changes than you can shake a super stick at!

Perhaps the biggest news of 2015 is the introduction of raids! Billed as "the first large-scale raid feature for an ARPG," the raids offer players the MMORPG experience of bringing together a larger group of players in order to take on extremely difficult challenges. The two raids (Hellfire and Brimstone, Overseer Slag) come in two difficulties, and the normal mode must be defeated before the hard mode is unlocked. Raids will offer special achievements.

Because of the implementation of raids, other systems were also reworked to make team and raid composition easier to manage. The team buff system was overhauled, breaking buffs into five categories (accuracy, dexterity, power, constitution, and toughness) with two ultimate categories (empowered and unbreakable). Power scaling has also been unified more. Couple that with more power points and a higher cap on item ranks and players have much more customization available on their builds.

Getting in on the fun

Obviously, there is much more to Marvel Heroes now than there was a year ago. And as this year progresses, there will no doubt be many more changes and additions to the action RPG. Even if you missed the big anniversary bash with all its extras, you needn't worry that you missed out on all the goodies; Marvel Heroes has a track record of in-game events that reward players. So it's never too late to take a turn as your favorite hero (or villain) and smash, blast, shoot, or websling your way through some comic book adventures in the Marvel universe. Just pick up the free-to-play game and give it a go! You can also get a sneak peak and hear what CEO David Brevik says about upcoming things in our latest livestream.

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.
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