For David Brevik, Marvel Heroes is a dream project – no small thing given that he was also one of the original developers of classic Blizzard titles like Diablo and Diablo II. By his own admission, he hasn't made a game based on an established franchise since 1995, when he worked on Justice League Task Force. At a press event held in Gazillion Entertainment's office, he wears a green Incredible Hulk t-shirt (his favorite hero) as he shares his love for all things Marvel.
"I sought out this IP," says Brevik, who is the president and CEO of Gazillion Entertainment. Marvel Heroes is the second game by the studio, the first being the kid-focused Marvel Super Hero Squad Online. Both are free-to-play online games that feature a wide array of established heroes, but Marvel Heroes is markedly more grown up. Like Diablo, it is an overhead action RPG with tons of randomly-generated loot, but with a sizable dose of Marvel lore and characters. It will also be massively multiplayer, making it an interesting hybrid of established MMOs like Star Wars: The Old Republic and the aforementioned Diablo.
Gazillion offered a taste of what to expect in their demo, also playable at Comic-Con, which features Col. Stryker and his Purifiers terrorizing Mutant Town, prompting Magneto to retaliate by taking Stryker hostage. Naturally, the X-men – lead by Wolverine – quickly intervene to defuse the situation, with Scarlet Witch, Hulk, and Iron Man along for the ride to battle both Magneto and various Sentinels. The story is told through attractive looking motion comics drawn by a stable of veterans such as Sanford Greene, with writing by Brian Michael Bendis (New Avengers, All New X-Men).
Brevik hopes to weave Bendis' story – a tale that sees Dr. Doom getting hold of a Cosmic Cube – as tightly as possible into the quest structure as possible. He plans to do that by focusing on quality over quantity in mission design – less 'collect five wolf pelts' and more 'go toe to toe with Magneto to defuse the situation in Mutant Town.' Says Brevik: "We want leveling to be a side effect of the story."
As such, it's a marked departure from regular MMORPGs, including more recent comic-based RPGs like DC Universe Online. Another way it varies is in its exclusion of custom heroes, which means no more running around fighting Magneto with Captain McFirePants. Instead, Marvel Heroes offers a stable of established characters to choose from, each of whom can equip up to four powers from a pool of abilities that grows as time goes on.
In practical terms, it means that even if you see another Hulk or Iron Man running around, they won't necessarily be exactly the same. Your friend's Iron Man might be heavily reliant on a Uni-Beam, and their Hulk might be red instead of green. You, on the other hand, may favor Iron Man's Asgardian Armor (not confirmed, but hey, it would be cool) and Death from Above missile attack. There are a substantial number of possibilities at play, and they are made all the more interesting by the ability to customize costumes with various upgrades using items dropped from enemies.
Interesting as the customization is though, Marvel Heroes doesn't appear to be as complex as, say, DC Universe Online, which emphasizes party roles and other MMORPG minutiae. For some, it may be a major turnoff. For others, it may make for a welcome change of pace – a massively multiplayer game in which it is possible to pick your favorite hero, click through a Marvel-themed story, and vacuum up tons of loot along the way.
Using Iron Man and Wolverine, it was a cinch to carve out a path through the Purifiers and Sentinels, then knock out Magneto. With the benefit of explosive missile attacks that can take out large swaths of enemies, Iron Man can push through almost anything. Wolverine, meanwhile, has an ability that turns him into an adamantium hurricane that allows him to chop up foes in a whir of claws. Suffice to say, even relatively inexperienced gamers should be able to pick up Marvel Heroes with relative ease.
Ultimately, the main draw of Marvel Heroes is, of course, the license, as well as the fact that it's free-to-play (Brevik stresses that while items will be available for purchase, all of the playable content will be available free of charge). Aside from the stable of heroes and the various costume changes, Gazillion is planning on leveraging classic stories (possible hint: one of Brevik's all-time favorite arcs is World War Hulk) like the mid-80s classic Mutant Massacre, as well as newer tales. It will be arriving too late to feature this summer's Avengers vs. X-Men in any meaningful way, but live tie-ins with future events appears to be a foregone conclusion.
For Marvel fans, it doesn't look like a bad way to get immersed in the 'verse. Games like these thrive on their little nods to the established continuity and unlockable bonuses; and with its unlockable costumes and wide array of heroes and powers, Marvel Heroes looks to have plenty of both those things. Given that, and the fact that it will be free-to-play, the latest addition to the pantheon of Marvel crossover games certainly looks like it'll be worth a look when it arrives this year or next.
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