Once you’ve completed the three-story missions available, the War Table opens up, giving you a full array of multiplayer missions to take on to power up your heroes. They vary slightly, but most involve infiltrating a building and killing waves of enemies while performing tasks such as standing on control points or destroying data servers. While they got repetitive fairly quickly, switching up my hero choices would often breathe new life into them. For now, the heroes are varied enough to be unique.
Marvel’s Avengers: Character Combat Breakdown
Each Avenger is equipped with three special abilities that run on a cooldown. The way each hero dodges or blocks also adds an element of strategy I didn’t expect at first. While someone like Iron Man will simply dodge incoming enemy attacks, Ms. Marvel will instead opt to push the enemy with her giant polymorphed hands. Playing as Black Widow, you can time dodges to unleash unlocked abilities or even counter an enemy with well-timed parries. The real fun comes from picking the character that suits your playstyle. I started with Black Widow but felt the combat was a bit too frantic to get the most out of her, so I instead switched to Iron Man who takes on a more ranged approach. Luckily you can switch out your hero as often as you’d like in between missions, allowing you to hone in on who fits you best. Keep in mind, though, that if you do switch out your character to one that’s not been leveled up, you may need to lower the difficulty or choose easier missions until that hero gets up to snuff.
The thrill of battling through these missions over and over can dry up quickly though when repeatedly taking them on alone. I hesitate to use the word mindless, but I did find myself zoning out quite a bit while taking down the same giant robot walker for the fourth time. In the first mission, Iron Man quips, “Which one of you B-movie extras am I taking down first?”– the self-awareness is glowing. Luckily, playing with friends while chatting on a headset improves the experience, as with any loot grinder. There is an added layer of joy that comes from not only fighting alongside heroes you know and recognize but also being able to joke about your friend’s Hulk stealing your kills with his giant rock throws. I just hope the mission variety improves when the full game arrives. Right now we’re either taking down the same waves of enemies, standing on a waypoint, or destroying a waypoint.
That said, there are a few drawbacks to the overall multiplayer system. First off, you can’t double up on heroes. While this makes sense on paper, in reality, it means there will need to be some discussions if you plan on teaming up with your same group of friends, which can be an issue if some of your heroes aren’t as leveled up as others. There’s the scary potential scenario where you’ve built up an amazing Black Widow, but it turns out the main character of a person you want to play with down the line is also Black Widow, forcing one of you to switch to a less powerful alternate. Of course, a worse long-term problem that will need to be solved: what happens when a new DLC character is released, and everyone wants to try them out at the same time?Conversely, as fun as it is to team up with your friends and take on missions, it can be almost equally as frustrating when matchmaking with random folks. Marvel’s Avengers offers nothing in the way of communicating with your fellow heroes if they’re not wearing a chat headset – there’s no ping system, minimap, or teammate indicator. And since a lot of these infiltration missions begin in wide-open areas, losing track of your no-voice-chat teammate is bound to happen. When you’re stuck on the ground as Ms. Marvel and your random teammate is zooming around as Iron Man, odds are great that you’re going to lose each other quickly, with no real way to communicate what each other is up to.
But Marvel’s Avengers’ most glaring issue, at least during the beta is its gear system. The real draw to get people to grind these endless war zones is the chance to loot something great, and so far, I haven’t cared about a single thing that’s dropped for me. First off, none of it changes the actual look or feel of your character. Every item is an invisible piece that just counts up to an overall gear score. You may find a pair of gloves that slightly improve your normal attacks, but most of these just offer elemental bonuses and are almost invisible in the actual gameplay. When your gear screen has a button you can press to just automatically equip the highest-numbered gear you have, it makes it seem as though there are few meaningful choices to be made. Everything drives to a single power level number, and when so many games have solved this uninteresting way to sort through loot, it’s a tad disappointing to feel like you’ve gone back in time.Marvel’s Avengers has a long way to go. The story and characters are interesting, and I actually can’t wait to see it through. The campaign missions in this beta seemed varied enough, and hopefully, that keeps up. And while live-service games often come with the adage of “it’s not how they launch, it’s what they become,” I’m worried that there’s currently very little that would keep my interest to play past the campaign. With a slew of promised, completely free updates, and a nearly limitless amount of source material to make additional content from, Marvel’s Avengers could end up being great – or it could very quickly get Thanos-snapped from its community’s mind.
Mark Medina is an Editorial Producer at IGN. You can follow him on Twitter here.