Despite having only recently arrived on PlayStation 4 – it’s in open beta with a full release on both PS4 and Xbox One next week – Marvel Heroes has actually been around for quite some time now. The game celebrated its fourth birthday earlier this month, having originally launching on PC back in 2013. In that time it’s undergone several makeovers, as developer Gazillion Entertainment continually create new ways to play. Drawing from every corner of the Marvel Universe (both the films and comics) there are a wealth of locales to explore and characters to interact with.
Marvel Heroes Omega is very much an extension of this strategy, bringing the Diablo-esque RPG to consoles and an even wider audience. It’s a great fit and those who fondly remember games like X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance will feel mostly at home. That said, its transition to PlayStation 4 and Xbox One hasn’t been flawless. There are a lot of progression systems at work here that can detract from the dungeon crawling and from charming more casual players. Still, Marvel Heroes Omega is one of the best free-to-play titles on console and is bound to please comic fans looking for a quick dose of superhero action.
On the surface, Marvel Heroes is pretty straight forward. Whether in a group or riding solo, you’ll explore a network of open areas, beat up bad guys, and expand your loot haul. While you can adopt a freeform approach and engage in a variety of activities, there’s an overarching story that helps guide players from one location to the next.
It’s not a great plot by any means, though it helps tie together the various Marvel legacies. With so many characters on show, there simply isn’t room for carefully reworked origin stories or any kind of complex intrigue. Instead, it acts as a greatest hits anthology, weaving in iconic characters and places, even if they are just cameos at times.
The biggest attraction, of course, is the heroes themselves. Currently, Omega offers 38 playable characters cherrpicked from a patchwork of Marvel properties. It’s a great selection all-round, combining mainstays such as Spider-Man and the X-Men with more nuanced characters like The Punisher, Moon Knight, and even Blade.
Each has their own unique pool of powers, attacks and traits, inspired by the Marvel comics. For example, Rocket Raccoon can summon Groot to his side, place traps, and unleash a salvo of explosives, while the Hulk can leap into the heart of battle, tearing into enemies and causing powerful shockwaves.
The longer you spend with a character, the more you’ll level them up, unlocking new abilities and talents. These can be combined and tweaked to create various play styles for your hero. Having spent hours powering up my Iron Fist, I found myself experimenting with various loadouts that would affect his combat performance. While raw damage is always appealing, I found that some builds would allow me to self-heal, inflict poison, or focus on a wider attack range. For those who really want to drill into the game’s roleplaying mechanics, there’s a surprising amount of complexity. At the same time, those wanting to button mash with as little number crunching as possible can totally do that too.
No matter where you are or what you’re doing in Marvel Heroes, there’s always a downpour of loot flooding the screen. As with levelling it up, equipping gear gives you even more ways to customise your hero. Again, sifting through this mass of items can be as easy or taxing as you want it to be with both simplified and in-depth explanations as to what bonuses each piece of gear can yield.
The only downside to the loot system is the lack of visual customisation. A level one Wolverine fresh out of the tutorial zone will look identical to one that has a thousand hours of playtime under the belt, which is a slight disappointment in the wake of the customisation seen in Injustice 2. Unfortunately, it’s something we’re never likely to see, especially with premium costumes available to buy.
As with any dungeon crawler or action RPG, you’ll often find yourself slipping into autopilot. Having put together a particularly lethal loadout, I could blitz every combat scenario with the same power combo, obliterating mobs without taking a hit. While Omega’s endgame content and trials can put up a challenge, your first run of the story will be a cakewalk.
Of course, playing as part of a team helps to inject some dynamism into the combat. By having people to coordinate with, you’ll instinctively think more about the powers you’re using instead of standing in one place, hammering away at the controller. That said, forming a superhero squad with strangers is pretty much a no-go. Without a group-finding tool, players will need to create a public sessions and manually invite others within their proximity. It’s a slow, finicky process and one that gets in the way of players enjoying the game together.
Unlike most free-to-play titles, Marvel Heroes Omega doesn’t hold anything back. You can see everything the game has to offer, reach max rank with your characters and unlock the best gear without spending a penny. It’s a great move by Gazillion and one that helps to unify the player base regardless of how much money they’re pouring into the game. There is a marketplace stocked with premium goods, though these are mainly cosmetic items and shortcuts such as experience boosts. Heroes can also be purchased though, like most goods, there’s an option to pay with in-game currency too. Trying to access this content for free requires some grinding, but I found the payouts to be more generous than in most F2P games I’ve experienced.
It’s still early days for Omega. Although the PC version of Marvel Heroes has been around for years, the console exists as a separate entity and one that’s only now exiting beta testing on 30th June. Whether or not it succeeds in the long run hinges entirely on how Gazillion continue to support and change parts of the game to better suit this new audience.
While there’s a huge amount of content to play through and it’s all for free, the game’s surrounding features are in need of some work. Demystifying more advanced systems, streamlining progression between multiple characters, and helping players better connect are just a few areas Gazillion ought to review. However, as it stands, Marvel Heroes Omega is great fun with the potential to expand in all kinds of interesting directions.