Greetings, fellow gamers. I have been playing that new game everyone is talking about.
So, yeah. Avengers is out for folks what payed the early access tax. I just recently got my house in Final Fantasy XIV after playing for close to a decade and in my delirious, dehydrated euphoria I found myself buying it after reading that it was basically going to be Destiny-esque. That's kinda it. This was not a particularly anticipated release for me. I was not onboard the hype train. I had heard of it, of course, from simply following industry news, but I am just going to assume there are and were people way more passionate and informed about this game than me.
So that being said this game has also been under some shroud of mystery for a while. That much even I knew. Well into last year this was a real Firewatch situation. Turns out it's an online mmo-lite like your Divisions and Destinys and the like. Once that information came to light all the other questions were then unlocked to be asked. How did you play it? What was the progression? Was there item level? Will there be raids? Are there mechanics? Etc. Some of those questions were answered or teased in developer blogs but a lot of stuff has been left for folks to wait and see. This is something that I'm sure would confuse and anger folks. For someone like me it more or less just made me interested to open up the box and see what was inside.
So... Perspective reveal time. A little bit about my personal interactive media tastes to help you decide how much you're willing to respect my opinions.
Long before "Games As A Service" and "Live Service Games" were the hot new game design trend gamers loved to hate I was one of the fools who pinned my flag to that train. For a little over 20 years now (oh god why is time?) I've been one of those people that you might know better as "the consumers ruining gaming for everyone else". The MMO player. The persistent online multiplayer gamer. I've got what the game doctors call "The Sickness".
I just... I like the long slow grind. I like the endless (until the game is shut down forever) progression and updates. It's just something I like. I could probably spend a lot of time trying to piece together why I would rather run the same dungeons over and over again for two years until the next expansion adds a whopping 8 more and then keep on doing that for a decade or more... Do I play other games? Sure I do. I do love me some of those video games. Do I put a lot of time into these "other" games? ...Uh... Usually not if I'm being honest. Sometimes I finish them if they're really compelling... But usually I just end up focusing my time on whatever MMO I'm playing that year.
So let that give you an idea of the kind of person I am and the things that I personally like in games before I end up talking about my early interactions with Avengers.
Straight up off the bat I'm just going to say this. If you are not a person like me who knows they enjoy this type of gaming experience... The fact that this is Marvel probably won't change your mind about it. I'm not telling you not to try if if you've never played an online multiplayer loot grind and raid boss battler game... But go into this knowing that this is basically designed in the MMO style. It is a game that is designed to have new story and gear and quests added over the course of several years.
Now, let's get my incomprehensible train of thought to leave the station...
Sorry... I wasn't paying attention before. What kind of game is Marvel's Avengers, again?
It's basically Destiny or The Division. It's like those kinds of games. Online and co-operative focused with xp levels, gear with random stats of increasing power as your character grows, repeatable missions across varied locations, enemies and bosses with telegraphs and mechanics to learn and react to... Etc. Etc. The main difference being that this game is more of a melee focused brawler. Think Diablo but in a third person, over the shoulder context.
Oh. Well if it's one of those games how is it structured?
In the six or seven hours I've played so far the game seems to work like this: There is a story focused single-player (mostly) campaign that tells the primary story of the game in it's current state. Once you've completed that campaign you roll into what is called The Avengers Initiative which is basically the endgame content/everything else. If you're familiar with Final Fantasy XIV by any chance I would say the "Reassemble" campaign is basically the MSQ and "Avengers Initiative" is what you do once the MSQ is done and you're at level cap.
The story campaign is highly cinematic and emphasizes exploration and drama while also including "the game" where you punch things, level up, and get loot. Character progression between the two "modes" isn't separate. They're not particularly separate game modes despite how they're laid out in the menu. All it basically does is give folks the option to skip the story and jump straight into Engaging With The Treadmill.
I've not done it yet myself because they warn of spoilers by doing so but since they let you jump into it immediately I imagine the content scales to your level if you skip the story and that the high level endgame content will essentially just be locked behind a gear score at that point.
Anyway... Basically it seems like you pick a mission, choose whether or not to partner with human players or use AI partners, then go to a place. In that place you punch and shoot things, collect loot, find treasure chests, and engage with damage sponge bosses that do things that you have to recognize and react to so you can win the game. Some missions are short and in enclosed spaces. Some are long and are in bigger open exterior locations. I've done mixes and matches of all those types so far. When you complete a mission you usually get a completion reward in the form of gear you can equip to make the numbers go higher.
There are also other specialty types of play that I have read about but have not done like a single player gauntlet tower where you have to use all of the heroes you have to try and beat it. Once a character dies you switch to another and you see how far you can get. (This by the way is kind of a cool idea and I look forward to trying it). They also announced today something that they did not call a raid but it totally is a raid.
Well if it's like Destiny what's with the characters? Don't you usually just build a single character and have alts?
So funny enough Destiny was likened to Diablo with guns when it hit the scene. In a lot of ways I feel like Avengers kinda brings things full circle back closer to Diablo, in that you don't make a single character. There are premade characters with defined abilities and personalities. If anything I would describe the heroes in Avengers like different character classes. I only have access to Hulk and Ms. Marvel at my point in the progression and I did a hologram training dealie as Iron Man. Hulk seems to trend towards being a self-healing tank, Ms. Marvel being a sort of evasion DPS, and Iron Man has a higher number of ranged attacks and can fly. Each of these characters levels up independently and has their own gear drops. Loot does not appear to be shared between the characters as far as I can tell, though there is a loot locker of some sort that I haven't fiddled with yet. This might change in the endgame. The characters also have talent trees a la World of Warcraft, with points you can spend as you level up. These give you new abilities and passives and the like. There are quite a few of them from what I can see.
The catch with this particular game though, and something that may be The Rub for folks, is that you cant have a team full of Spiders Man. Now I've only done a single mission that had a multiplayer partner and there were only two options for characters, but since he picked Ms. Marvel I had to be Hulk. This might irritate people. It's just how it is. This is why I'm writing this for y'all. So you know these things going in.
So you mentioned boss mechanics. I like the dance of death in my mmo raids. Does this game actually do that?
So again, grain of salt, I've only really fought two encounters that I would describe as MMO style bosses so far but yeah, from what I can tell. One of them, the first one, was kind of just a damage sponge that had a frontal cone flamethrower while adds spawned in to get you. It was mostly just about not being in front of the dragon and managing the adds. The second encounter was a group of five various enemies with different ranges of attack. At one point a group of enemies that self destruct when killed spawned, so you wanted to be careful burning them down to avoid just blowing up by ulting them all at once.
Is there some sort of in-combat resource management to do with your character?
Actually yeah. There is a meter that is kind of like MP for an ability that does specific things. It builds when you attack the enemy and drains when you use the associated skill. For Hulk it increases his defense and regenerates HP on attack, for Ms. Marvel it gives her perfect evasion and increases her damage. These sort of work as active mitigation and buff states that you want to manage so you maximize their usefulness. Think of them as personal cooldowns. There are also skills that literally have a timer cooldown on them that do various things like self-heal, taunt, and nuke. The game also has active dodging, aoe markers to avoid and a dodge/counterattack mechanic based on timing and telegraphs.
So what's the deal with this monetization I've been hearing about, then?
Okay. This part is going to be mostly just math. I'm gonna just lay out the numbers and let you decide how you feel about them. I know this is a hot button issue but it's something that I'm far more tolerant of. Since Everquest I've been accustomed to spending something approximating $40 for each expansion on top of $15 every month in addition to any other fun extras on the side I felt like having. Extra item purchases outside of these things have been a bit of a more recent phenomenon, but are also not unfamiliar to me. Final Fantasy XIV has offered $18 costumes in it's cash shop for some time now so... That's the place I'm coming from. Again... I'll just put the math on the table and let you decide.
The game is a $60+ buy in like most modern console/pc games of it's ilk. You buy the base game or you buy the fancy editions that come with extra stuff. Do you want the collector's statue? You know how this goes. Of particular note in this regard is the Playstation Exclusive Digital Edition or whatever it's called that costs an extra ten dollars, comes with some pre-order goodies, and also ten dollars in cash shop currency. If this sort of thing is important to you, that seems like the one to get... If you're on PlayStation which... Well let's just say platform exclusive content still sucks and still is a thing. *defeated shrug*
Beyond the buy in there is the Other Stuff. Future game content has been declared to be Free For All, meaning new expansion content and characters will be available for everyone when they are patched in. Part of me still expects to see paid expansions like your Shadowlands', Shadowbringerses, and Shadowkeeps but we'll see. This means that the monetization is focused on cosmetics. This manifests in two ways: The Marketplace and character specific Challenge Cards.
The Marketplace is what it sounds like. It's a store that sells cosmetic items for cash money. You're looking at stuff like $7 to $14 for character skins, profile banners for a buck, and emotes for $2.50 to $10.00, give or take. I just kind of took a quick sampling of what is currently available. It appears that there is a front page of the Marketplace and a page with character specific collections. The front page has a timer, implying that things will rotate in and out. The character specific page does not, so I'm not sure if that stuff will rotate or not. It it worth noting that these are not straight cash purchases, they are purchased with a currency you buy *with* cash. I make this distinction because I have played some gacha games that, if you'll pardon my editorialization, are bullshit, which have a currency you buy with cash and bonus currency you earn with purchase... But then items that you cant use the bonus currency on, only the paid currency... And items that you can't use either on but have to just buy as a direct purchase.
That shit sucks. That's the kind of thing that bugs me, truth be told. All real money purchases in Avengers are bought with one currency that also isn't some weird moon math. 1 currency = 1 penny. It's simple as that. And this is important because...
Of the Challenge Cards. You may know them under a different name though... The Battle Pass (!!!)
Okay. So this seems to be the thing generating the most heat recently. I looked at what is currently in the game and what has been declared for the future and I've done the math for the curious. I'm so sorry.
Every hero in the game has a challenge card which works a lot like a battle pass as seen in other games. You earn points by doing daily and weekly tasks and as you earn points you gain levels and each level gives a reward. The rewards available are not time limited so unlike Fortnite they won't disappear in a few months. As the game is at launch there are no paid Challenge Cards. All six characters that come with the base game have their cards already available. Future characters will have their reward cards available for 1000 Credits ($10.00) each. So the character does not require a purchase, the Challenge Card does.
So what comes in the Challenge Card? I have looked at Hulk and Ms. Marvel and their cards seem to offer the same types of rewards at the same levels so they are directly equivalent. Just... You know... Hulk doesn't get a pretty dress, sadly.
Each Challenge Card, when completed, contains:
- 8 Profile Banners
- 1 Finishing Move Animation
- 7 Character Skins (Which do not as of yet appear to be available in the Marketplace)
- 6 Emotes
- 7 Packs of Upgrade Materials for Gear (The same materials you get in game as loot from chests and whatnot)
- 1,500 of the in-game vendor currency (I haven't unlocked any of these vendors so I don't actually know how much that's worth or how much you usually get during play)
- 1,300 of the paid currency (Which is equivalent to $13.00)
They have also said in a blog post when you complete a Challenge Card you will earn 1000 Credits of the paid currency but nothing in the game seems to say that as far as I can tell. Maybe this will only be the case for future characters. I guess I'll find out when I fill out these initial characters.
In terms of how fast you can complete them it seems like you can earn 6 points doing daily challenges and 22 points for the weekly challenges. This means you can complete a Challenge Card in a little under a month.
So that's the Challenge Card system peeled all the way apart. Them's the guts of it.
And that's about all the major things I thought to hit in this enormous brain barf of a post. Before I close out I wanted to at least make a few remarks about some less... Mechanical things.
- The presentation is surprisingly good. The attention to detail in the environments was unexpected. As I told my husband this game was clearly touched by artists. From the Disneyland-esque vendor booths at Avengers Day to the (unnecessarily legible) fanfiction on Kamala's corkboard, this thing was touched by creatives who have heart. On that note...
- The acting is way better than I expected. The facial expressions, body language, and subtle vocal ticks that surround the usual character talking to another character stuff is very good. Everyone comes off as incredibly human
- The screen shake was not as bad as I thought it would be (though it can be adjusted in the options). I remember seeing a streamer complain about the camera shaking to accentuate the action on screen and, as a viewer, it did look pretty intense. Playing the game though... Didn't bother me at all even without turning it down. Maybe they adjusted the top end from the beta feedback? I dunno. Wasn't that bad.
- What was and is bad though is the rumble. Good grief. Maybe I've developed baby hands but the rumble on PS4 for this game was TOO MUCH. My hands were practically numb by the end of the tutorial. Sadly that option does not have a slider. It is binary. I would love an intensity setting for this, please. Playing without rumble is a little weird but the default is just too intense for my brittle bones.
- The framerate isn't as chunk as I've heard. Granted I'm playing on PS4 pro in 4k, which pretty much locks the framerate at 30ish give or take a few. I guess I expected a late gen PS4 game to be more of a "Whew... Man... We're making these things work beyond their means" kind of game.
- So far I've only encountered one major bug but I seemed to figure out what triggered it and was able to get around it. Besides that I've had no other major issues. Smooth launch so far.
I guess that's all for now. Again... Sorry if this was an eyebleed mess. I felt compelled to share my experience since I've seen a lot of confusion out there as to what is contained within this game and I hope that this might help clear things up for folks on the fence or curious.
Thus far I'd say if you liked Destiny or The Division and want to see that from a different perspective and action style, this might be up your alley. As with those games, however, only time will tell. I'll be sure to check in as I progress further and see if this ends up being a "Wait... This is all there is?" sort of situation like we've seen in the past. Thus far, however, I haven't seen the seams that I saw at launch for those other games. This one feels different somehow, and I'm hopeful. I'd like this to be A Good One of Those at launch for a change. What a novel concept that would be.
Also I suppose if folks have any other questions they're welcome to ask them in the comments and I'll see what I can do to answer them. I'm already in the coal mine, anyway. May as well use that canary.
Also also I've started a PSN Community thing called Squad Fulla Hulks so if you're playing and want an easy-to-access friends list of Giant Bomb adjacent Avengers players on PS4, look it up on the console and join in!