It’s a strange notion given the absolute pop culture phenomenon of the property it’s borne out of, but Square Enix’s upcoming Marvel’s Avengers game hasn’t exactly been making waves among 2020’s other big hitters. You could chalk it up to franchise fatigue, or a lack of awareness of the game’s publisher or developers when it comes to Marvel fans who aren’t also core gamers. To me though, it mostly comes down to a general confusion about what exactly Marvel’s Avengers is. It’s not for a lack of knowledge – there’s been plenty of material to pore over in the lead up to release – it’s a case of clarity (or lack thereof) in the messaging. That’s why the game’s upcoming beta is a decidedly solid move. It’s content-rich with easily a few hours of gameplay, it’s tuned to speed up progression to offer better insight and it’ll be free for everyone to check out (albeit later than those with pre-orders). What better way to convince an audience that your game deserves their attention than to give them access to a sizeable chunk of it?
Here at WellPlayed, we were lucky enough to have been given early access to said beta to check it out ahead of the launch of the closed beta period and share our thoughts. While timing was unfortunately not on our side (full time jobs be damned!) and we didn’t get the chance to actually play together, regular contributor Adam Ryan and I got together to discuss our thoughts on what we did play over the weekend. Separately. Alone.
Now Adam, the first thing I wanted to bring up as we discuss the Marvel’s Avengers beta is that (at least I assume) we both have had very different experiences with the Avengers franchise and Marvel properties in general. I’ve had little exposure to Marvel comics or the MCU films or anything like that, so I went into this game armed only with a very general knowledge of the universe and honestly not a great deal of hype. Where do you stand in terms of Marvel fandom and what was the level of anticipation for you going into this beta?
Right off the bat(man), I’m a DC fan, but that doesn’t mean that I’m anti-Marvel, far from it. I’m an ardent fan of the MCU and the first superhero I fell in love with as a kid was Spider-Man, so I’d confidently say that I’m keen on Marvel. Anticipation is a tricky one because I was much like you up until a week ago; unsure of what to expect and not overly excited by what had been shown. That was until the latest War Table stream that outlined the beta content, then my expectations began to rise rapidly. Heading into your time with the beta, what were your expectations and were they met?
So going into it I did have the slight advantage of having checked out a media exclusive demo and speaking to Crystal Dynamics’ Studio Head Scot Amos about the game so I had a good idea of the direction the team were going. That left me with questions mainly about the execution, which is where the beta comes in. It’s fair to say I expected something in-between a story focused third person action game and a semi-open live service type deal riffing on the likes of Destiny. That’s pretty much exactly what it feels like too, although the dichotomy between the two ideals is even more rigid than I thought it would be, at least in the content I played. It almost feels like two different games, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing but something I found quite jarring. I guess my biggest takeaway, and I’m sure we’ll expand on this in a moment, is that it doesn’t quite nail either of its directions. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though, what did you think of the first few ‘story’ style missions?
Yes, the Destiny parallels are very clear in certain areas for sure, but we’ll get to that. The handful of story missions available were enough to grab my attention, that’s for sure, especially in terms of plot. The Golden Gate Bridge opener is treated as a tutorial, which it definitely should be as we’ve all seen it a million times, but the proceeding two missions where you take control of Kamala and Hulk give you a bit more of an insight into what the campaign will be.
For the most part I enjoyed what was on offer here. The difference in combat between Kamala and Hulk showed that there will be a lot of variety and the slivers of narrative given are intriguing and left me wanting to know more, so it was effective in that regard, I’m just not too sure if I’ll continue to stay invested as it did get a bit repetitive, even in that short amount of time. What’s your take on this portion of the beta?
Kamala is not only the perfect avatar for the player, as she reacts to things in-game the exact way I would in that position, but she is also the most fun to play…
It’s certainly a bombastic and very action-packed intro, but my god is everyone aside from Kamala and Hulk super dull. I can see why they’re the stars of the bulk of the introductory missions. They’re both incredibly fun to play in their own ways, which can’t be said of the rest of them in my eyes. Maybe it’s just because you don’t spend as much time with them initially, but they just didn’t stand out as much from a gameplay perspective. Their particular sections in the opening felt a little clunky as well, especially flying around the tiny combat areas as Iron Man (I got booted out for flying too far away on more than one occasion). That said I think it’s fair to say people will find their favourites among the core crew. Mine is definitely Ms Marvel, though.
From a story perspective Kamala definitely works incredibly well as the game’s protagonist. She’s basically a massive Avengers geek, she writes fanfic and everything, so playing as her in a game made for Avengers geeks makes for a great perspective. She’s also a ton of fun to play as with her ability to stretch and grow, letting her wreck house with all the strength of Hulk while being nimble and able to swing around like a certain Spider-ed Man. It’s honestly a crime that she’s not front-and-centre in all of the game’s marketing. Do you have a favourite yet, Adam?
I completely agree, Kamala is not only the perfect avatar for the player, as she reacts to things in-game the exact way I would in that position, but she is also the most fun to play by a country mile. The flexibility in movement, the juggling in-air combos and the stretchy traversal are all spot on. I wasn’t sold on her before the beta, but having played it now I think she should hog as much of the spotlight as possible.
Hulk was similarly fun and I never got sick of picking up goons to use as a makeshift melee weapons. His special moves weren’t as exciting, but the power clap never got old. Yeah, the rest of the roster fell a little flat in comparison, though the flying was satisfying in the more open areas. I do enjoy that they all feel unique though; I think that’s important when playing in co-op. How did you like the inclusion of the gear and skill systems?
Okay so this is where it all started to lose me. I’m all for a good RPG/loot-em-up experience, but opening up Marvel’s Avengers’ suite of character menus for the first time is a massive slap in the face with icons and text and numbers all over the place. It’s the kind of nerdy micromanagement that I know I’ll grow to love, and so will anyone who enjoys things like Destiny or The Division, but my concern is with the broader audience. I can see gamers and Marvel fans who’ve never touched these kinds of games being incredibly daunted by the sheer number of systems in place.
Ignoring the UI itself I’m also not quite sure about the gear aspect. It works just fine but I also found myself completely ignoring the greater intricacies of the gear I was picking up and just slapping on whatever had the higher Power rating. That’s a hard thing to judge from a beta though, especially because they’ve accelerated all that stuff to give people an idea of progression. What are your thoughts on that? I feel like you played a little further into the War Table content as well so how did that go?
Absolutely, I feel like there’s a bit of a disconnect there. Superheroes and gear systems aren’t two things that you would usually associate with each other, but in saying that, I got way too invested in these aspects while completing the War Zone missions. Like you said, I’m a bit of a sucker for micromanaging and it’s solid here, so it’ll come down to personal preference. The different skills that you’re able to choose from are unique enough that you’ll be able to find your own playstyle within your favourite character as well, so that’s much appreciated.
Outside of the narrative missions there are also War Zones (large missions with multiple objectives) and Drop Zones (smaller, bite-sized missions). These two are great fun if you just want to smash shit and punch bad guys. The game is like Destiny the most here in a good way. Dropping into a semi-open world map and bounding around as Hulk, blitzing through groups of AIM agents feels great and with a team of four it will be a blast. The only other element of the beta that we haven’t covered is the HARM room, did you put much time into this horde mode-like portion of the beta?
Marvel’s Avengers Closed Beta and Open Beta dates:
PS4 Closed Beta (Pre-order for access): August 7 to August 9
Xbox and PC Closed Pre-order Beta, and PlayStation Open Beta: August 14 to August 16
All Platforms Open Beta: August 21 to August 23
Yeah I’m loath to keep making the comparison but those War Zones really do feel like Destiny’s Patrol Zones, don’t they? Again, not a bad thing at all but certainly not something you’d think to see from a big AAA superhero game. Hopefully it pays off for them. I did dabble in the HARM room stuff, it definitely works as a warm-up for the proper missions but it’s not something I’d spend a lot of time doing. Horde/wave modes aren’t really my bag, unfortunately.
Something I did want to cover off before we call it a day though, is the cosmetic side of things. For the beta we had a tidy little stash of currency to pretend-spend in the cosmetic store on things like skins, emotes and profile dressings. Did you splurge on anything in particular? And what are your thoughts on that whole system?
Yeah the HARM Rooms are fine, that’s about the extent of it. If you want to try a new character then it’s helpful, but I don’t see it as a selling point that’s for sure.
There’s no chance of me passing up the opportunity to wear Kamala’s Ms Marvel outfit, so splurging was the only option. As for the system itself, I do have some concerns/issues. Superheroes have countless iconic looks and fans will definitely want to own them, so putting a paywall in the way does feel a little rough, but I understand that it’s the world we live in now. As long as it stays cosmetic only (and ignores the allure of loot boxes) I think it’ll be fine. Overall though Kieron, would you say that you’re excited to come back to Marvel’s Avengers? Did the beta hype you for the full release?
It does immediately feel a little icky, right? But it’s also the lesser evil in a lot of ways because they’ve pledged to support the game through free updates over its entire lifetime, including new story content and new characters, which is cool.
At the end of the day I don’t think I’m any more hyped for the game, per se, but I definitely have a better understanding of what it’s going for and although I have concerns about how many different elements they’re trying to cram into this one game I’m optimistic. I think as a platform for a future of video game adventures in the Marvel universe it has potential, even if this early look feels a tad focus-tested and derivative. Kamala Khan rules, though, and if I’m going to dive into the full game on release it’ll be purely to see more of her story and smash some AIM baddies with her giant fists.
Any final thoughts, my friend? Are you suitably sold on this game?
If you had asked me whether I was keen for the game a few weeks ago I would have easily said no, but the beta has done a lot to change that. I wouldn’t say that I’ve done a complete 180 on it, but I will be playing on day one now. Kamala as the lead was a great choice and her personality and gameplay will keep me interested no matter what, but the promise of multiplayer fun with a few mates has me excited as well.
For sure there are some aspects that could do with a little more time in the oven, but it looks as though the game will only improve over time. Oh and if they could include Dr Strange and Silver Surfer as playable characters that would be grand, please and thank you Crystal Dynamics.
Marvel’s Avengers releases on September 4 for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC