Marvel’s Avengers is a cinematic action game featuring Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. It’s not set to debut until 2020, but the game’s action and customization make it a highly anticipated release.
The Avengers is one of the hottest pop-culture properties thanks to Marvel Studios’ hit films. Interestingly enough, we haven’t had a solo Avengers video game since the 1990s. That will change soon with the release of the Square Enix-published Marvel’s Avengers. Developed by Crystal Dynamics, the upcoming PC action game will deliver an all-new story, a robust character roster, and an in-depth progression system. Avengers should have the satisfying superhero action and drama that comics fans expect, but repetitive enemy encounters and unknown marketplace elements may dull the experience a bit.
Like Insomniac’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers tells a self-contained tale not based on the comic series or Marvel Cinematic Universe. While original, the story pays homage to the comics’ rich 80-year legacy. You can expect cameos from classic heroes and villains. The game will also have a wide variety of costumes to unlock and a ton of easter eggs to find. What these entail is something Crystal Dynamics is keeping close to its collective chest.
The Story So Far
The game’s prologue occurs during “A-Day.” Taking place onboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier hovering over San Francisco bay, A-Day is a celebration held for the Avengers who are in the city for the opening of their West Coast branch. The festivities come to an abrupt end when a terrorist group attacks the Golden Gate bridge. The Avengers enter the fray to protect civilians, but things end tragically when the helicarrier’s terrigen engine explodes.
Most of the story takes place five years after A-Day. The Avengers have disbanded, and a group called Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.) has risen to fill the void. The group believes science, not superheroes, will save the world. A.I.M. has replaced superheroes with synthoid A.I. soldier tasked with protecting society from super-powered individuals. Anyone familiar with Marvel Comics knows A.I.M. is up to no good. The Avengers must unravel the A.I.M. conspiracy and save the world. But first, the team has to reassemble.
After Captain America’s A-Day death, the Avengers are in disarray. Hulk questions whether the team are heroes or vigilantes. He blames himself for the events of A-Day and loses the will to transform back into Bruce Banner. Tony Stark has retreated from the world. He no longer has his vast fortune or his technology. Black Widow also blames herself for the death of Captain America and withdraws into the life of a lone spy. Thor believes he failed everyone and is no longer worthy of wielding his hammer. He lives a humble life in service to the people of Midgard (Earth). It will take a mighty force to bring the team together. That force is Kamala Khan.
Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) serves as the game’s central character. We experience the narrative through her eyes. She gains her polymorphic powers during A-Day when the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier’s terrigen engine explodes. Kamala has hidden her powers for the past five years. She steps out of the shadow because she believes A.I.M. framed the Avengers. She wants to prove people with powers deserve a place in the world and makes it her mission to reunite Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
There are two types of Marvel’s Avengers missions: Hero and War Zone.
Hero missions are story driven and feature one or two heroes. They spotlight each character’s unique skills and drive their personal stories forward. Tailored for each featured hero, these missions take place in various undisclosed locales around the world. Like the prologue chapter, Hero missions contain scripted moments. You reassemble the team by playing these mission. The more Hero missions you completes, the more Avengers you’ll have at your disposal.
Completing Hero missions unlocks War Zone missions, challenges that let you play as any Avenger in your roster. You can tackle these missions solo or with a group of up to four people. These expansive areas contain gear, resources, secrets, and a wide variety of objectives. Like Hero missions, completing War Zones unlocks additional narrative content. Hero progress is shared between Hero and War Zone missions; more on hero progress in a bit.
Each of the six revealed Avengers: Captain America, Thor, Iron Man, Hulk, Black Widow, and Ms. Marvel, look, feel, and play differently. Captain America and Black Widow excel in melee fights. Thor and Iron Man are more adept at aerial battles. Ms. Marvel can knock out multiple opponents with her stretching limbs, while Hulk barrels through everything and everyone. Crystal Dynamics developed a flexible combat system that supports various playstyles and many players.
If you’ve played a modern action game then Avengers’ gameplay will feel familiar. The characters possess light and heavy attacks in both melee and projectile range. They can also jump and dodge. Some heroes, like Iron Man and Thor, can hover and fly at any time.
Wailing on bad guys feels great. Whether you’re unleashing a flurry of punches and kicks as Captain America or crushing puny humans into the ground with the Hulk, combat is immediate and visceral. Though combat is generally fun, beating on hordes of cannon fodder bad guys can get repetitive after a while. We’ll have to see if the final game will provide users with more challenging foes outside of boss battles.
Customization is a major game component, as you can spec characters to suit specific playstyles. Crystal Dynamics’ goal was to make a game that everyone can enjoy.
All missions reward players with gear. Gear is character specific and ranges in rarity. There’s Common, Uncommon, Rare, Epic, Legendary, and “a little something” beyond that, according to Crystal Dynamics. Gear is one of the ways to modify a character’s playstyle. Each piece of gear has perks. The rarer the gear, the more perks it contains. It is possible to create custom builds with specific stat bonuses like extra defense and offense. Crystal Dynamics did not specify what perks individual pieces of gear provide.
Some gear comes in branded sets, such as the Stark Industries set, and a full set unlocks special boosts and bonuses. The rarer and harder the challenge (whether in Hero or War Zone missions), the rarer the gear. Playing with a full roster of four heroes increases the chances of rare gear drops. High-level gear is crucial to defeating powered-up versions of villains like Taskmaster or Abomination.
As characters level up, they’ll receive skill points used to unlock abilities from their respective skill trees. Skills range from classic moves like Iron Man’s Unibeam to brand-new skills unique to the game. With different skills, users can further modify how a character plays. It’s possible to create a Thor who controls the battlefield with devastating lightning attacks. Conversely, one can build a Thor who uses melee attacks and acts as the team’s tank. This customization system allows users to min-max characters.
Each Avenger has a wide range of unlockable costumes. These include Tony Stark’s Original Sin armor, Black Widows’s classic outfit, King Thor, and even Hulk’s Joe Fixit suit. All outfits are purely cosmetic and have no effect on a character’s gear or skills. This means that you don’t have to worry about changing a character’s loadout to lachieve a preferred look. Outfits unlock after completing missions or after you purchase them via the game’s marketplace. At the time of this writing, the marketplace details haven’t been revealed, though we know the store will ask you to fork over real-world cash for items. Whether you can earn currency using in-game methods is currently unknown.
Crystal Dynamics will add more heroes and regions available after the game’s launch, at no additional cost. These new heroes will come with their own gear, skills, and outfits. Crystal Dynamics promises “years of content.”
Based on what we’ve seen so far, Marvel’s Avengers is shaping up to be one of the biggest games of 2020. As befitting a game based on Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, Marvel’s Avengers will contain a ton of characters and content for folks to sink their teeth into. Considering the legacy of the property, there is no shortage of material the game could potentially receive during its lifetime. We’ll learn more in the coming months, so stay tuned for updates as they become available.
Marvel’s Avengers launches on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Google Stadia on May 15, 2020.