Marvel’s Avengers Review

Marvels Avengers

Marvel’s Avengers has been out for a week now, for those of us who ordered the version with 72 hours of early access anyway, and in that week I’ve gotten a couple of characters of the level cap of 50 and into the power soft cap of 130.

I’ve done everything there is to do in Avengers outside of the AIM Secret Lab raid, so I’m now in a confident spot to write this review.

Before we dive into it though, let’s establish where I’m coming from here. I don’t read comics, and never have. My familiarity with the characters comes largely from the movies, and I’m also not a huge fan of the movies although I liked most of Phase One and Phase Two.

Also familiar with a lot of the characters from the many hours I spent grinding in Marvel Heroes Omega with its huge roster. Marvel Heroes, the Diablo-like MMO that sadly is no longer playable, was a game I adored and played a tremendous amount of when it came to PS4. I still miss that game.

With that said, I believe Avengers does a really good job of setting it self apart from the MCU and despite being a much different type of game is doing a really good job of giving me that old Marvel Heroes vibe.

Marvel's Avengers Screenshot 01

Marvel’s Avengers (PS4 [Reviewed], PC, Xbox One, Stadia)
Developer: Crystal Dynamics
Publisher: Square Enix
Released: September 4, 2020
ESRB Rating: T – Teen
MSRP: $59.99

Marvel’s Avengers is a “live service” co-op looter developed by Crystal Dynamics, you know that studio known for making really engaging single player games like Legacy of Kain and more recently the Tomb Raider games.

It’s no surprise then that when it comes to narrative or campaign, Avengers does a much better job than its looter competitors (Destiny, The Division, Anthem, etc.). There’s actually a story that makes sense and is easy to follow, and its a single player experience.

You can plow through the campaign in about six hours, some might stretch it to 10 or so. It’s somewhat short but surprisingly (or maybe unsurprisingly given the developers) very good. There are moments during the single player campaign that feel very Tomb Raider like and those moments are the highlights of the campaign gameplay wise.

Those sections are fast paced, high action set piece encounters. An early one in the game sees campaign star Kamala Khan running and platforming away from the Hulk. Moments in the game like that feel straight out of Tomb Raider, very cinematic and it definitely wasn’t the type of experience I expected from a “games as a service looter.”

Marvel's Avengers Screenshot 02

We won’t get into spoilers or anything like that, but the campaign here revolves around you playing first as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, the Avenger fan-girl who becomes an Inhuman and ventures off on a quest to reassemble the Avengers.

As you reassemble the team, you’ll switch playing between them and the campaign is where you’ll get a taste of each Avenger and what is to come in the endgame, which is the “Avengers Initiative” portion of the game. Make no mistake though, in the campaign, it is very much Kamala’s story and I think Crystal Dynamics did a good job with her.

With the Avengers fully assembled, you’ll take the fight right to the big brain of AIM, taking on MODOK in a lengthy final boss battle that’ll see you get to play as each Avenger at one point or another.

The campaign is enjoyable from start to finish, but the parts that really stand out are the linear segments that showcase the single player narrative style that Crystal Dynamics does so well. The open areas that you’ll spend so much time in during the Avenger’s Initiative endgame seem shoehorned in to give you a taste of what’s to come with the co-op later.

The great thing about the Marvel’s Avengers campaign is that it is a wholly single-player experience. There’s zero co-op to the campaign. It also feels more like the traditional single player cinematic narrative than a looter because you aren’t spending time trying to to level, gain power, or get better loot.

Yes, the characters will level some during the campaign. Yes, they’ll get some loot. None of this matters though. So if you just want a single player experience for the story, you can do that and not need any sort of grind or artificial padding of time.

Is the campaign by itself worth the $60 as a one and done if you have no desire for the end-game and you’re gonna stop playing when the credits roll? I would personally say no because its the game that comes after that I enjoy the most, but if you’re fine with the length and just like single player games then you could potentially find the value here. It’s a very well fleshed out campaign.

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As fun and good as the campaign is, it is a one-and-done that you currently can’t replay. It’s the Avenger’s Initiative portion of the game that is the meat and potatoes of Avenger’s that is designed to hopefully keep you coming back.

This is the games as a service portion, with all that entails. There are daily assignments to complete, daily and weekly challenges for each of the six players (currently), and quite a grind to undertake.

Now you can, if you don’t care about the story, jump straight into the Avenger’s Initiative and have every character unlocked and ready to go. You don’t have to play the campaign to unlock the multiplayer stuff. You should definitely play the campaign though, because you’ll get a really good Exotic Major artifact from it.

If you’re a single player person, you can play everything here solo. Everything on the War Table here is labeled a multiplayer mission, just disable match making and you’ll do everything solo with three AI companions. You don’t need other people to play this, and you don’t need an Internet connection to play either outside of the first time you play it. (Note: If you aren’t connected to the Internet you can’t access “Avenger’s Initiative,” but the War Table and all the missions are accessible by selecting the Campaign option instead.)

With that said, you are at a bit of a disadvantage if you play solo. For starters, the AI isn’t much help in certain aspects. Sure, they’ll fight enemies and are fairly good at that. They’ll make an effort to revive you if you go down. But they’re not going to stand in the objective zone in say a Vault or capture a zone. They won’t open doors for you that the character you’re playing as can’t open.

One of the biggest disadvantages for solo play, and its kind of a baffling decision, is that you’re limited on the amount of revives you get. You can be revived twice by your AI companions, and if you go down a third time you’re starting over from the last checkpoint regardless of whether or not your companions are still alive.

This is really punishing when you get into the harder endgame content solo. This is not a problem that exists when playing with others, and not just because other players can do objectives and are usually better than AI companions. You get unlimited revives when playing co-op.

It makes sense why you get unlimited revives in co-op, but it makes no sense when you’re limited in solo play when the AI simply is not a great replacement for real players.

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When it comes to games like this, there are two big things that will keep players coming back; gameplay and loot.

For me the biggest is the gameplay. If the game is fundamentally fun then I can keep playing it even if the loot is a little lacking. I haven’t pumped thousands of hours into the Destiny franchise because the loot is so good there. Likewise, I didn’t devote a lot of time to The Division despite the loot being pretty good because I didn’t care for the gameplay. And then there was Anthem, lacking in both departments.

Avengers biggest strength right now, and what’s got me hooked, is the gameplay.

The combat is just fun. Early on you get vibes of button mashing beat-em-up. But as you level the characters and unlock more skills and combos, the combat evolves and becomes much more nuanced. You can get by in the early goings with button mashing, but later you’re going to be most efficient thinking out your attacks and landing combos and dodging or parrying at the correct times.

All the characters right now (which is Ms. Marvel, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor and Captain America) play very differently. Yes, there are some similarities. They all have a ranged attack; Iron Man and Thor can fly, Ms. Marvel and Black Widow move around via grappling. But Thor doesn’t feel like Iron Man, his combat rhythm isn’t the same as playing Iron Man.

It’s these differences that make playing as each character worthwhile, and they all become so much better when you level them up. I guess I could say I “main” Captain America, especially when playing co-op with friends, but even if you main a character it is worth leveling all the others up and getting them good gear because it makes them so much better as AI companions when you’re playing solo.

The combat is refreshing and the animations are fluid, and combined they make pulling off the combos feel and look really good to perform.

Marvel's Avengers Screenshot 05

That the gameplay is what is going to keep me coming back day after day, week after week isn’t to say that the loot is poor.

In looking at other peoples opinions of the game over the past week, I’ve seen quite a few people mention the loot being a huge problem and meaningless or that the game doesn’t feel rewarding. Frankly, I don’t get this thought process and thusly find myself on the side that says the game is rewarding and that the loot is both interesting and meaningful.

While you’re leveling your characters up to the soft power cap of 130, loot does not matter. The only thing that matters is the power level increase, and because of this you are very quickly changing gear and there’s no need to waste resources to boost its power any to unlock one or two additional perks.

Avengers showers you in loot. You get a ton of it, and as a result it doesn’t take too long to hit that soft power cap. If you find a piece lacking quite a bit, you can probably buy a higher power piece from a vendor to get that boost, but even that’s not really necessary (save your materials people).

Loot only begins to matter once you are at that 130 soft cap. This is where you’re getting into endgame. The only way to advance to the hard power cap of 150 is to boost your gear up to 140 (which is going to take a lot of materials like Upgrade Modules) and your Major Artifact to +10. At this point, you have to pay attention to the loot you get and what stats and perks it offers.

Loot comes in the standard rarity; common (white), uncommon (green), rare (blue), epic (purple), legendary (yellow) and exotic (orange/red). Exotics are very rare; I’ve played a lot and still haven’t gotten one (outside of the Major Artifacts). Unlike say Destiny though, I’ve seen 130 blues that were better than 130 legendaries in every way. The only problem with rares that keep them from being true endgame viable is they can only be boosted five times, so they can’t hit the 140 cap like epics and legendaries.

It is true that loot isn’t a visual thing that you can show-off in game. No one is going to see your chest piece and say “hey, where did you get that? It looks awesome.” That’s not an issue for me. You get plenty of skins from playing the game, and those are what you show off. The loot matters from a stats and perks manner only, and I’m okay with that.

Marvel's Avengers Screenshot 06

We’ve talked about gameplay and loot, so now its time to talk about where the fighting takes place and where that loot comes from.

In the Avengers Initiative, you’ll go out on missions via selecting them from the War Table. Currently, the game has 7 locations or zones that you can select missions from; Pacific Northwest, Scandinavian Highlands, Utah Badlands, Eastern Seaboard, Northern Expanse, Snowy Tundra, and the Helicarrier. The Helicarrier has the HARM challenges, which are training modules that are wave based. The Helicarrier is also an outpost where you can talk with SHIELD vendors and access the War Table. There’s another outpost located in the Utah Badlands called the Ant Hill, which has Inhuman vendors and a War Table.

Across the rest of the locations we have a variety of mission types. There are the mostly quickly ones like Assault Drop Zones, Control Threat Sectors, Defend Threat Sectors, Elimination Threat Sectors, Defend Drop Zone, Sabotage Drop Zone, Sabotage Threat Sector, etc.

There’s SHIELD and Inhuman faction missions, Iconic missions, and Priority Threat Sectors.

The bulk of your endgame experience though will be Villain Sectors (reset daily, tied to assignments from SHIELD and Inhuman vendor), Hives, and Vault missions. These also come in Elite varieties.

Most of these are open world areas to explore that offer up side objectives like solving a puzzle to grab a chest, helping out some hostages, eliminating a target, etc. Missions range from the fairly quick to the longer side.

As you can see in the image above, hovering over a mission will tell you what the rewards will be. In the case of the image, it’s a Daily Villain Sector, so the reward for completing it the first time is guaranteed to be a Polychoron (needed to upgrade Artifact) and at least an Epic quality piece of gear, along with the power level of the enemies within the mission on the given challenge difficulty.

The missions are a bit samey and repetitive, and yes you’re going to see the same assets used over and over again. I don’t personally have a problem with this, in fact I kind of expect it. The locations look different enough, and to me it makes sense that buildings look the same because you’re going into AIM controlled locations. And you’re only fighting AIM, which means while there is a decent variety in enemies, they are all ultimately the same.

I’ve seen a lot of complaints hurled at the game because of this, and I just don’t know what people expect from games like this especially at launch in this regard. Right now it’s all on Earth, in these specific locations fighting against AIM. There’s always room to grow from there to different areas of the planet, or other planets, against enemies that aren’t AIM. But this is what we have now, and it’s perfectly fine and acceptable in my opinion. Any new locations or enemy types that come in the future is just an added bonus because it will be delivered freely at no additional cost to the player.

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It has seemed to me like a lot of people, for whatever reason, have wanted to hate on Avengers since well before its release. A large part of it seems to be centered around the games micro-transactions and being a “games as a service.”

My main game since 2014 has been Destiny. I’ve seen that franchise go from having no micro-transactions, to a few, to a lot, to being a “free to play” game. And I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on that franchise.

So what I see with Avengers is perfectly reasonable. Here’s a game I paid $70-ish for, and that was for the early access and some digital items I admittedly won’t use and also 1,000 Credits (the game’s real money currency). That’s all the money I will ever spend on Avengers.

Destiny sells skins and finishers (which are basically the same as Takedowns in this game), and emotes and the prices are about the same. Yet in Destiny, I’m going to spend $10 for the Season Pass and how ever much for the next expansion. I’ve already dropped $70 to be good for the next year of Destiny 2 content (Beyond Light and the four seasons in the next year).

With Marvel’s Avengers, all of the characters that will be added to the game will be free. Any new story content, missions, locations, etc. will also be free. The only way they’ll continue to make money is people buying the microtransactions or paying $10 for each new character’s Challenge Card. Here’s the thing with the Challenge Card though, completing it will get you 1,300 Credits. The Challenge Card is free for all six of the base characters, so that’s 7,800 free Credits if and when you get all of them to rank 40. You’ll always earn enough Credits through a Challenge Card to pay for the next one without having to spend money so long as you’re playing the game and doing the challenges on a weekly basis.

This is a more than fair setup, especially when you consider that cosmetic items aren’t that hard to come by in-game. If you’re a person heavily influenced by FOMO, then you may have an issue with the price of some of this stuff. But cosmetic stuff doesn’t affect me, and most of the skins don’t look that different or awesome anyway.

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I have thus far been pretty lucky with glitches and bugs. The only issues that I have encountered is Fabric Patterns decrypting into nothing, cosmetics that have been unlocked being locked again (that was fixed next time I entered the game), and sometimes AI companions would just stop moving for a minute or two but that was pretty rare. And I had an infinite loading screen at one time.

I’m playing on PS4 Pro with Performance Mode, and so far I’ve not had any crashes or any real bad framerate dips. It’s been pretty smooth, throughout all of launch week.

I play either solo or with friends only. There are many reports of the matchmaking not really working and only matching players with one other person. I haven’t tested the matchmaking personally as I simply have zero desire to play this game with random people. But beware that it is an issue and one would imagine is a top priority from the team for a fix.

All in all, Marvel’s Avengers has been a ton of fun and the future looks very bright for the game. I’m someone who was on the fence about the game, played a little of the beta and didn’t really enjoy it too much. I was going to wait for a sale, but some friends were getting it and so went ahead dove in. Now I’m glad I did because in a group or solo I’ve been having an absolute blast playing this game.

There have been some issues, but for me launch week has been pretty good. Unlike some other games that have failed to hold my attention beyond the first week or two, I can confidently say that Avengers is a game that I’ll be playing for some time and will easily be my “main game” for at least another couple of months.

Right now, I’d say the game is great. It has the potential to become excellent in time. As the roster expands, hopefully more enemy types and more exotic locations come into play so that it isn’t just AIM. Give me Frost Giants to face. Eventually we’ll get more bosses to face and it won’t just be Task Master and Abomination boss fights (I know there are two other Villain Sector bosses, but they’re not villain’s like those two).

This is a game that will continue to grow and get better, so if you’ve been on the fence I would definitely recommend going ahead and jumping in.

Marvel’s Avengers gets a four out of five: GREAT.

4 Stars

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