On January 19th, the biggest ever update to Marvel Heroes was pushed live. There were countless changes made to the game, with pages and pages of patch notes to skim through for those wanting every detail. As someone who is familiar with the game, I was able to parse them easily. However, I figured that many people who had never tried the game or those who had fallen off in the past might be curious about the update but be unable to understand the details. As such, I thought I’d take a crack at highlighting the biggest changes made to the game, using simple language and explaining what they are and why they matter. I’m far from an expert at Marvel Heroes, but I think I managed to distill the most important points of this update into a more manageable form.
Hopefully it helps some of you better understand the update and gives you enough information to decide whether or not to give it a(nother) shot!
Movement Power Change
Movement powers (short moves like dashes, teleports, etc.) now have charges instead of consuming the hero’s primary resource. Most heroes get 3 charges and a recovery cooldown of 4 seconds per charge, but some heroes, especially those focused on movement like Nightcrawler, have lower restrictions or can even lower them further. Travel powers (long moves like sprints, flight, etc.) now have a windup time of about 1 second before usage, and their speed has been lowered by a considerable amount.
What Does This Mean?
The game now feels a lot slower than it used to. Many players got very good at spamming teleports or dashes and avoiding 95% of the conflict in any given map, instead just running directly to the bosses over and over. While many encounters can still easily be skipped, especially with travel powers, overall time per map has increased by a decent amount. The travel powers feel noticeably slower but are still quite useful, maybe more useful than movement powers now due to their lack of restrictions.
Skill and Talent Revamp
Players no longer need to spend skill points on abilities to unlock them or level them up; instead, all powers unlock via level-up and are always at their maximum scaled power. All heroes now have two skill trees instead of three, with some skills removed or consolidated into other places. The third tree has been replaced with a talent system. Each hero has default passives that fit them thematically. There are also five tiers of three talents. As each tier unlocks (via level), the player can choose one of the talents to be active. These can be switched at any time out of combat with no cost. There is also now only one usable skillbar, with eight potential slots.
What Does This Mean?
It is now a lot easier to try any skill a hero has, as all you have to do is slot it onto your bar. All abilities unlock by level 30, except for the hero’s ultimate ability which now unlocks at 60 (was 52). The talents offer a good variety of potential playstyles, depending on the hero. Some heroes have talents that force hard decisions in what abilities can do, especially when interacting with one another. Other heroes have clear “top-tier” choices for many of their talents. A few have poor variety or even talents that feel mostly useless aside from adding a bit of damage. The single skillbar places a hard limit on which skills can be used in any given encounter, although this only really impacted the high-level players who utilized multiple bars to juggle skills for maximum DPS.
The Infinity System
The Infinity System replaced the old Omega System. Instead of earning Omega Points while gaining XP as a max-level hero, the player now receives Infinity Points. There are six categories in the Infinity System, and you earn a point in each category in succession as you fill the XP bar. The various categories are themed around certain attributes, such as physical strength or speed, and points can be spent on boosts to various stats and procs related to those attributes. The end result is a much simpler, if limited, system.
What Does This Mean?
The Omega System was a confusing mess, especially to new players, but it offered a lot of potential for unique builds. Due to the sheer number of categories to slot points into, there were a lot of strange condition-based slots that could create entirely new playstyles for creative players. The Infinity System, while much easier to wrap one’s head around, is astoundingly simplistic. All of the buffs offered are very plain and predictable, with clear winners for highest DPS being quite evident. For a new or lapsed player, however, it’s a much more accessible system that still offers some endgame progression for max-level heroes.
Some heroes, particularly the older ones, had fallen into a state of unplayability due to outdated designs. This update tried to bring every hero in the roster back to a playable state, making each hero viable again. Certain heroes, such as Iron Man, got entire overhauls of their skills, animations, and even gameplay mechanics. Some heroes feel entirely new and different, much more in line with the more modern heroes’ design. Even heroes who didn’t get fully overhauled received changes in nearly all cases, with new/revamped skills and small tweaks to even out their potential. Many older heroes also got a visual upgrade to be more in line with newer models.
What Does This Mean?
Every hero on the roster should be fun to play now. While player taste still obviously plays a role in enjoyment, no hero should feel limited or broken after this update. Most heroes seem to have a variety of options to deal with situations, with skills tailored toward AoE clearing or focused boss damage as desired. Heroes who felt stiff before, such as Nova, now have animations that flow more naturally. At this point, no matter who you choose to play (or randomly unlock), the experience should be a fun one, and you should be able to clear all of the content without having to over-optimize your gear.
The Fighting stat used to be crucial for every hero in the game, as it increased the base amount of damage all of their skills did. This has been changed to be different depending on which hero you play, with each hero valuing primary stats based on what fits him/her thematically. Each primary stat has also been shifted slightly in what it provides, promising to give some benefit to each hero--even those who don’t prioritize that stat. Artifacts (essentially jewellery) and Uniques (the highest tier of gear) have also seen sweeping changes, which are meant to fit better with the new stat changes. + to skills on gear has been removed from the game entirely.
What Does This Mean?
All of these stat changes mean that gear that was previously best-in-slot for a hero may not be anymore. Since all heroes now value different primary stats, and since many pieces of endgame gear were changed to reflect these updates, it’s entirely possible that old characters with optimized items may have subpar gear now. Anyone coming to the game new, however, will likely not notice any difference. The removal of + to skills is quite huge, as endgame players used this stat to greatly boost damage on given skills. As such, the overall damage of players has gone down significantly at the moment, despite boss health and damage not being scaled accordingly. Future high-end items and rescaling are expected to come in the future.
There are a ton of other changes I didn’t feel like I needed to go into as much detail with. I’ll list some of them here in a quicker format:
An added difficulty slider instead of areas that scale by level.
A revamp of early story missions, with new cutscenes and areas.
Simpler crafting recipes for unbinding items from a hero.
Removal of many crafting recipes, particularly those to earn credits by trading unwanted gear.
Separation of core and costume slots, preventing the need for multiple costumes for different builds.
Changed health kits from a consumable item to a set hotkey with a cooldown.
Overhaul of the quest tracker UI, with options to track more things like achievements.
My Overall Thoughts
The overall reaction to these changes has been mostly negative, particularly from those who have been playing the longest. It’s understandable that there would be some backlash, since this update very radically shifted the meta of a 3+ year old game that players had grown used to. While it’s hard for those dedicated players who were comfortable with the game’s previous state, many things needed to be revised--Marvel Heroes was a stagnating game that rarely posed any challenge for hardcore players. Until more detailed discussion and criticism can be levied towards these new systems, however, it’s hard for me to see most of these complaints as anything other than the knee-jerk reactions of those fearing change.
With so many things about the new endgame up in the air, and with Gazillion’s less-than-stellar track record at updating things in a timely fashion, there is some legitimate worry for the balance of the game long-term. At this point, it’s hard to tell if the new challenges are legitimate and able to be overcome with a change in strategy or if they are tuned more around making maps take longer over being more difficult. Until the new endgame items come out and the final updates get tweaked and added to live servers, it’s hard to tell how the overall speed and flow of the game will end up. I do think, however, that new players will see a much smoother experience overall. And for those of you who have poured time into Marvel Heroes in the past, I encourage you to give the new systems a shot before you dismiss them outright.