Marvel Heroes Omega delivers some fantastic action and an addicting loot gathering loop that should appeal to fans of Diablo-style gameplay. Even better however, is the rich universe that Gazillion Entertainment has to draw on here, with a huge list of characters, plenty of villains, lots of powers and a variety of systems to back everything up. I’ve sunk tons of time into this title already, and I know it’ll be getting even more hours out of me in the weeks and months to come.
I used to be quite the MMORPG addict in years past – I couldn’t even
wager an accurate bet on the amount of time I sunk into World of Warcraft, but when you add my time ranging from games as old as Dark Ages of Camelot to newer titles like The Elder Scrolls Online and plenty of Final Fantasy and Guildwars in between – this is a genre that has a tendency to a major time sink for me.
We had a chance to preview Marvel Heroes Omega about a month and a half ago, and I had a very favorable impression back then despite some minor bugs and expected growing pains. It was evident that this was a game that had a great deal of polish already, and a tested formula that had built up a sizable fan base on the PC in the form of Marvel Heroes 2016. This is not a straight port of that game – there are some differences in content as well as some of the systems and how the UI was implemented. After all, having a mouse and keyboard is a very different experience than mapping as much functionality as possible to a controller, but to their credit the developers have done an excellent job of streamlining their systems and setting the game up for success on the console platform.
Movement with a stick is pretty natural, though it sometimes takes a little getting used to when targeting opponents. Some abilities have a stickiness to them that can make your character lunge towards an enemy (I play a lot of Wolverine, who is a melee/dps beast), while at other times when you get into a cluster of enemies your abilities are trying to target someone who is actually behind another baddie, creating a situation where you might not be hitting whom you expect. However, with a little time, the movement and attacking becomes pretty natural, and it is interesting to see how a melee character can feel so incredibly different from one who relies primarily on ranged attacks, like Cyclops. Many characters have a blend of close and ranged abilities as well, such as Psylocke, another one I use quite a bit. One of the greatest strengths of Marvel Heroes Omega is the variety of powers that helps to make characters unique from one another, despite similar styles of play.
Choosing which skills you want to use is also pretty effortless using a controller. Face buttons serve as your primary abilities, but additional ones can be accessed by using a trigger that brings up a secondary menu. As your character progresses, additional abilities are learned and it is pretty easy to map which skills you want to use to whichever buttons you would like. Since the majority of your time will be spent participating in hectic action, it is great that Marvel Heroes Omega manages to make combat so accessible. One area where the controls can still be a bit fickle is the inventory management. It makes sense, the way it is laid out to a circular menu from an accessibility standpoint, and there are some subtle quality of life options such as ‘donate all’ by using a trigger + face button, or when you are in one type of equipment and want to shift to another using triggers – they all work, but they took me a little getting used to. Honestly, I don’t have a better solution – I think Gazillion has done the best they could with this aspect of the game, but this is one area where the controller versus mouse/keyboard combination feels a bit bulkier.
This is an action-RPG that in many ways feels like a spiritual successor to the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games (you can read my reviews on both parts one and two if you like – but if you’d like the short version: I am huge fans of those titles and in many ways Marvel Heroes Omega felt a little bit like coming home given the number of hours I sunk into those aforementioned titles). You have a mostly top-downish view of things, with brightly colored characters that don’t have the greatest level of visual detail, but certainly are immediately recognizable and using their various abilities is a treat. While Marvel Heroes Omega is not the most technically amazing game visually, the style absolutely fits the comic book aesthetics and manages to handle a lot of action on the screen with little to no slowdown in my experience. Sometimes your character is simply walking through the environment, but the majority of the time you have multiple enemies trying to do you in. There were times I had Wolverine sprinting past clusters of Hand ninjas and Hydra agents, only to finally stop and take on nearly two dozen enemies while other players would jump into the scene as well. That is a lot of movement, explosions, laser fire, sound effects, character quips and more, and the engine handled the relentless activity pretty well. I did notice some drops in performance throughout the beta and upon release, where it simply cannot hold onto a straight 60fps at all times, but it is not a frequent problem either.
Progression is one of the biggest hooks to be had here, and it is an addictive one. For starters, you have the loot cycle, which is no doubt pretty familiar to fans of MMOs or games like Diablo. Stuff drops all of the time, and your character has a variety of equipment slots (head, weapon, boots, belt, torso, etc), so there is a constant drip of new goodies to try on. Do you sacrifice some health for the ability to regenerate life on hit? What matters more to you – higher defense or offense? And of course you’ll pull down gaggles of gear that you can sell/donate back at the hub locations later. In addition to the gear, you have leveling gains as well. At certain level intervals you unlock new abilities and their are several different interesting systems that open up to your character along the way. Granted, I am someone who likes to min/max stats and always preferred the more detail-oriented skill progression found in earlier World of Warcraft over the more streamlined systems most MMOs use now, so I do wish I had more control over the types of skills characters can earn along the way, but there are enough tweaks available between systems and gear to give you some solid influence over your character’s play style.
There is a proper campaign here, broken up into chapters that offers you a storyline to participate in. Most of it centers on the opening cinematic involving Doctor Doom and a Cosmic Cube. The story feels like an authentic Marvel tale, complete with some excellent overall voice acting. These chapters are broken up into sub-missions and serve as the crux of the adventure for you. However, there are other ways you can spend your time as well, from patrols, operations and danger rooms. These present new challenges that can be increased in difficulty and thereby increase your loot and earning rewards as well. There is a great deal of content here overall, though it is worth noting that here is quite a bit that is not here from the PC version of the game. The PC game sports nearly twice as many characters and a bunch of other side content, though Gazillion has stated that they plan to continue adding more content to the game, so there is a lot to look forward to here.
This is an MMO, so while grouping certainly can help when taking on specific boss dungeons or more difficult challenges, it is hardly required. It’s kind of funny actually, because while I am a big fan of MMO’s – I tend to be somewhat of a loner. I’ve max-leveled multiple characters in titles like World of Warcraft without ever doing any grouping along the way. Here world events will sometimes occur where a quest will take place in the area you are traversing, and you can choose to stop and participate or move on to your next objective. There is no need to actually group up with other nearby heroes – they too have the option to pop in and help or go about their business. Because all of the loot drops are specific to you – in other words whatever hits the floor is meant for my Wolverine, and the nearby Daredevil character who helped fight back the wave of Hydra agents has his own pool of loot I do not see – there is no quibbling over dropped goodies. That helps to keep the atmosphere a cooperative one.
Speaking of cooperation, one of the very cool aspects to Marvel Heroes Omega is the ability to have a friend drop in and play co-op with you. Chris was most often my test subject for this, as we are both big fans of this style of game (we’ve played a lot of Diablo III together since its release), and it really is as easy as picking up a controller and joining in. However, both players are basically working off of the first player’s account. That means if you both play regularly and have different characters unlocked, only the logged in player’s account will recognize those available characters. This is not really all that unusual, you see the same thing when playing a game that has DLC content like Street Fighter V when you play locally, but it is something to note about the current couch co-op system.
Now, this being a free to play title, the idea of course is to get you to try it out and hopefully get hooked so you will spend some money on it. Downloading and installing it is easy enough, and the introductory chapter not only serves as a great tutorial, but tosses some in game currency at you right off of the bat. The idea is you will play the game, try out a variety of characters and then eventually pay to unlock them with the in-game currency. This currency can be purchased or acquired through actual play. Like all free to play games, the developers are looking to make some money on their efforts, and I never felt like Marvel Heroes Omega was making any particularly egregious passes at my wallet. Sure, grinding for currency can be something of a slow process, but if there was ever a style of game that lends itself to grinding, it’s loot-a-thons like this.