Goblin, cats, and ninjas, oh my!
The video game Marvel Heroes 2016 recently added Iron Fist, Black Cat, and the Green Goblin as playable characters. Two of these had previously appeare din the game as first level (read: easy) bosses, but Iron Fist has been a long-desired character from the community – but may be hard for that community to handle.
Newsarama had the chance to play with the new characters and see how they stack up with the rest of the roster. Marvel Heroes 2016 Lead Designer Ryan Collins spoke with us, going through both the recently-added characters as well as who’s to come in the popular game series.
But first – evaluating the new characters. How did we do it? Here are our rules: play each character only to Level 15, so not to get too committed to one character, plus time constraints. It’s also pretty much the right point where the characters have gained enough powers so you can start customizing how you want to play them.
Ms. Felicia Hardy is the first boss of the game and easily taken out. You meet her in, what else, a bank vault and proves to be not the greatest of challenges. Black Cat’s fighting mechanics are on par with Daredevil, but Collins compares her more to X-23.
“For Felicia, some people were really surprised by her because she’s not the A-lister that some people might not have expected or this X or Y popular character,” Collins said. “So I saw an opportunity to do something a little different, a character that most people know, but a bit of a curveball. We got the chance to do a trap-based character and there’s not a lot of those in the game. She came out of a discussion where we were talking about what characters could have a fun and unique playstyle and I also really wanted to do something from the Spider-Man universe.”
Her first level attacks are “Cat’s Claws,” “Land on Your Feet,” “Explosive Trap,” and “Quick Getaway,” with Level 2 unlocking “C’mere Kitty,” a grappling hook attack which draws your enemies closer. Black Cat also has a passive defense mechanism called “Nine Lives”. It’s a backup plan for when you’re defeated. If you have enough of these, you gain an extra life so you can get out of your current situation and returned to life with 9% of your current Hit Points. That might not seem like a whole lot, but paired with “Quick Getaway,” it’s enough time to back away and regroup for a hot second. “Nine Lives” is quite handy during the Midtown Patrol mission.
Black Cat plays similar to a Rogue class in Dungeons & Dragons, or how Daredevil was in the first Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Her “Land on Your Feet” attack is a good example of that. That attack is very vital, allowing her to dodge and perform a radial attack with her whip that can wipe out lesser goons pretty easily. Sticking with that attack will do you serious good in the end. “Quick Getaway” activates Felicia’s stealth mode for a few seconds that allow for a, you guessed it, quick getaway. Each level of that only goes up by a 0.1 seconds when you level it up, but sometimes that’s all you need to slip out of a bad time. Also, when she’s in stealth mode, she has special abilities you can hit that do tremendous damage, but you have to get “Quick Getaway” to a certain level when you even have time to nail one. It’s tricky, but completely doable.
Black Cat is fast -- super-fast. Her attack speed and movement start off already pretty stellar. Add that to faster attacks such as the “Whip Crack,” which is a more concentrated attack than “Land on Your Feet,” and takes out enemies efficiently. The big problem with Black Cat is that she doesn’t have a lot of passive abilities that add to her defense. She primarily requires really good armor to back her up in case of tight spots. She actually doesn’t get her first passive ability, “Cat Suit,” until Level 22. Though it comes later in the game, but “Bad Luck” at Level 12 is an excellent booster for her. You can toggle it on or off and it uses Felicia’s probability manipulation powers. It increases your dodge, critical hit, and damage rating, giving you that extra oompf when you’re whipping the taste out of Hydra goons’ mouths.
“I think she has a good flow, which I think is very important to her,” Collins mentioned. “As much as she uses her whips and traps, I wanted Felicia to have this responsiveness and feel that you get with her agility. She’s not flipping off everybody’s heads so fast, but you’re able to get in, get out and get moving.”
“Explosive Traps” or “Gas Traps” are clumsier and aren’t as direct because their range was lacking and weren’t as fast as her whip attacks. They did do heavy damage though, but Black Cat has a solid formula of hit, hit, hit, flip, hit, repeat. She levels up the fastest out of the three, getting to Level 15 barely before the end of Act 1, whereas Goblin took what seemed like forever.
Black Cat is the easiest to build and straightforward to customize. If speed is your thing, give her a try, but try to avoid gang ups early on until you can equip some decent armor.
Next up is the Green Goblin, Marvel Heroes 2016’s 56th playable character. Eagle-eyed players will remember Green Goblin as the final boss of “The Raft” level and he’s easily taken out. You’d think the former leader of the Dark Avengers would be a harder target, but he’s easily dismissed and forgotten. So how does he take as a character? Not too bad, but still a few tweaks might be taken into consideration.
“Goblin was interesting because we were thinking about who is the most iconic Spider-Man villain we can do, besides Venom,” Collins said. “I would say Venom is number one and Green Goblin is number two. That’s nothing about the movies or comics, but more in terms of branding. How many times are you at a convention and see a Venom-symbol shirt or hoodie? I think I personally own at least three.”
Collings points out that the Green Goblin has helped the heroes before with Dark Avengers and the Thunderbolts, but the character has never fully made the switch to anything resembling a hero.
“He’s beat up villains so I thought he was a jumping off point,” said Collins. “Not to mention his playstyle is so much fun.”
Speaking of playstyle, when you first play Green Goblin you might notice that his movement speed is tremendously slow starting out. He’s on his glider the entire time, so going at the heart-racing speed of three seems counter-intuitive. Now, you do get something called the “Nitrous Boost” later and it speeds you along, torching your enemies as you glide past them, but it drains your Spirit at an astounding rate starting off. Your first attacks are your “Razor Bats,” “Pumpkin Bomb,” “Impaling Boost,” and “Goblin Gunner.” It’s a solid set to start with all of them having a good range for attack so not a lot of melee weaponry.
That being said, once you hit Level 11 and attain the “Glide” movement the character becomes more natural. You’re able to glide around (as the name implies) dropping bombs on fools without losing any Spirit. Also, your speed improves as well and it just feels so much fun and should be an instant slot in your arsenal.
“We tried to put in ‘Glide’ earlier, and it could probably stand to be put in even earlier than we wanted,” Collins noted. “Once you’re at 60, you’re super-fast, being able to do some crazy stuff.”
What’s interesting is the ability to combine attacks with the Goblin. Take for example if you detonate a Gas Pumpkin, you can let it sit and do it’s poison damage or you can light the aura of smoke with “Nitrous Boost,” which does additional fire damage to all the goons in the surrounding area. It plays into the fun fact that Osborn is a chemist, so of course he’s going to have some powers you could combine. Not too many characters have that sort of characteristic in the game. You can build Goblin up in three different categories: Madman, Bag of Tricks, and Glider.
All of the traits are trademark Goblin through and through. The different types of Pumpkin Bombs and how you can use your glider as a weapon is great. The “Wing Clip” maneuver is one of the better moves. It’s a radial attack that packs a lot of damage and isn’t as unfocused as the “Goblin Gunner.” Now, while the “Goblin Gunner” works just fine when you’re going after a group of enemies or are focused on a boss, but the Wing Clip is more versatile in how you can execute it and good for those tight situations of being surrounded.
“I was very excited on how he turned out. I think we’ll do some tweaks post-launch,” Collins confirmed. “I mean none of our characters are ever done. Ever.”
Iron Fist came out in late December, but he warrants a conversation now because he’s such a deep character for a player to master. Collins has some advice for those who want to try Iron Fist starting out.
“I wish we had a difficulty on characters in terms of how easy it is to play them and build them in-game, because I would put him as ‘hard’.”
Iron Fist is probably the most difficult character that players will come across because there’s so much customization that can be done; honestly, its borderline exhausting on deciding how you want to play him.
He comes with several martial arts styles, each with their own buffs and passive elements. There’s Crane, Leopard, Dragon, Tiger, Champion of K’un-Lun, and Serpent. You can switch between styles at any moment, which transforms Danny’s animations. In the time allotted, Newsarama only managed to get to Tiger, but Leopard is incredibly useful. Iron Fist is somewhat similar to Moon Knight where he doesn’t really come into his own until the much higher levels. The “Chi-Burst” attack, which you get at the beginning, is the perfect sort of attack for this kind of character. Though later replacing his K’un-Lun strike basic attack with the Fury of Five Forces that you get at Level 10 is a better strategy.
Doubling down on Collin’s thoughts, Iron Fist is not made for beginner. He’s definitely made for a more knowledgeable player with deep game mechanics, and even though he’s 98% melee attacks, he isn’t just your ordinary fighter.
“When you’re able to get up there and get to your customizations, and get more carte blanche with some things because he has all these modifiers on how you can do these attacks.” Iron Fist actually has a lower number of attacks with 16, when usually most characters come with 20. However, due to his stances, each attack has different reactions. “I would say that post-launch, he’s gotten the most number of changes only because we wanted him to be complex and not just another brawler. He’s not for everybody, much like Punisher isn’t for everybody, but there are types of players that he’s perfect for. In this late in the game though, he’s a character we had lots of fun with.”
Collins also spoke about the upcoming wave of characters that are going to be added in this year: Nick Fury, Beast, Black Bolt, Elektra and Angela.
“With Elektra, you can kind of get a sense of the scale we’re doing in terms of characters who are totally human. Now, she did have some mystical powers for a bit, but for the most part she’s on the human part of the scale.” Collins mentioned players won’t see as many “Area of Effects” (AoEs) but more single target effects. “Her powers are going to be more melee centric.”
When Collins got around to talking about Black Bolt, he mentioned the scale of how powerful he is in the game.
“Black Bolt is obviously going to be a fun one to do, what with his power set. Although I will say if you’ve read any of the recent Uncanny Inhumans stuff they actually portray his powers has having visual beams and such.”
Collins mentioned he’ll have some really powerful AoEs that will allow players to destroy thugs really quickly, but he doesn’t have a lot of trademark abilities that focus on one person.
“He’ll still be good at that, but we try to keep these characters in the same band of powers.”
Switching gears to Fury, Collins mentioned there’s going to be some old-school spy tactics in his arsenal.
“With Nick Fury you’re going to see some S.H.I.E.L.D. summoning, some L.M.D. action, some of his crazy gadgets like jetpacks, the needle gun, all the goodness from the classic Steranko days, as well as some newer tech and weaponry. Probably some movie-inspired stuff as well because how could we not?”
Angela was the character Collins seemed the most excited about.
“Talk about keeping up with current comics, right? Growing up reading 90’s comics, I don’t think this is something I ever expected. She’s just awesome. She has the two blades, but she won’t be like Elektra, all stealthy, but more warrior-like. We really haven’t gotten to do anybody in this style just yet.”
With Beast, Collins said that he’s one of his favorites so far and he’s so versatile with offensive and defensive attacks.
“I’m so excited for him! He’s going to be very bombastic as you’d expect I’m sure he’ll go crazy on people, but his designs are on paper right now so we’re figuring what mechanics we can do with him right now, but his designs aren’t as locked down as others.”
Collins mentioned that while he was going over the voice recording of the character that Beast’s costumes each have him looking different.
“He definitely doesn’t have the Squirrel Girl problem where he has only a few costumes.”
Speaking of costumes, Collins described the costuming decisions for Marvel Heroes 2016 is a multi-tiered one.
“We have a system where we look at our art director and producer and I look at a list of the characters who haven’t had a new costume in a while, who has the fewest, who has the most popular. So we look at that list and we pick out a certain amount every quarter. It’s important for us that the fans get these choices, no matter how poorly or greatly they sell. Then we decide which characters and have a meeting and argue and discuss who gets prioritized. Is there something we can tie into, so we go to Marvel and ask what they think, so it’s a collaborative process that goes through many stages.”
As for what other characters Collins would like to see in Marvel Heroes 2016 as it nears the triple digits, he has a few suggestions for his bosses.
“I would love to do Agent Venom. We just did him as a team up and had such a great fan reaction. He brings just a lot of great visuals to the table, so I would love to do him. I would love to do Wasp, I think she would be awesome. With this year, we’re finishing up the original X-Men line-up so I think sometime it would be great if we could finish up the original Avengers line-up. I would also like to do Gamora. I think those would be my three picks just based on who I would love to see as a fan and what the game needs as a fan. What we’re going to do, is a completely different discussion.”