Marvel Heroes 2015 Review
Gameplay10
Content9.5
Technical8.5
Mechanics9
Community9.5
Support9
Strengths
  • Fluid non-stop action & fun
  • Diversity in Heroes
  • Rewards! Rewards! Rewards!
Weaknesses
  • Poor party implementation
  • Game can be very confusing to new players
  • Stash space management can get costly
9.3Overall Score

Marvel Heroes 2015 Review Introduction

I want to preface that I was quite skeptical about Marvel Heroes (MH) before I tried it. While I appreciate the movies and am familiar with the comics, I am not a Marvel “fan” by any means. I have written this Marvel Heroes 2015 review after playing the game thoroughly, which includes building multiple heroes to level 60 and experiencing nearly all of the features the game has to offer including end-game raiding. Having said this, I am very impressed. MH is like Diablo 2 merged with old-school Gauntlet and then had a superhero injection, complete with state of the art visuals. MH is also a hybrid MMO that is constantly bustling with other superheroes throughout the gaming experience. But more than that, it has a unique approach to crafting, end-game, diversity and replayability which I will cover in detail.

Created by Gazillion Entertainment in San Mateo, CA, MH was originally launched in June of 2013. The game was panned by reviewers and players alike, citing it lacked depth and polish. So the folks at Gazillion decided to re-launch the game in June of 2014 (this is where the 2015 came from) and everything changed. The game received rave reviews and was held as one of the best “re-launches” in the industry. While I did not play the original version, I can confirm this new version is an excellent product. What’s strange is even now, the game doesn’t seem to have the level of visibility that it should; I had not heard of the game until my wife told me about it, and she learned from a friend who was talking about it online. This lack of awareness and interest is probably due to gaming market saturation by so many products (often of questionable or downright bad quality) solely to support profiteering from a franchise. While the heart of MH is true to the Marvel universe, the game stands on its own as a direct competitor to other top ARPGs. My review dives into the heart of this game and covers why Marvel Heroes 2015 is a diamond.

Content

Heroes (52 review), World & Story, Missions (Shared Quests & Influence Missions), Raids, Team-up Heroes, NPCs & Enemies and Pets

The diversity in playable heroes is astounding and pure fun. The world is large, diverse and true to the Marvel universe. There is a never-ending flow of missions, and the team-up heroes make great companions for fighting the vast and wide variety of enemies, bosses and super villains. Pets are also a fun enhancement to the game, providing additional support.

Heroes (52 review), World & Story

At the time of writing this review, MH features 47 playable hero classes from the Avengers, Marvel Knights, Fantastic Four, X-Men and Guardians of the Galaxy universes. Gazillion adds a new hero roughly once every month. Want to play Iron Man, Squirrel Girl, Captain America, Silver Surfer, or Star-Lord? Not a problem. And not only do they play as you would expect, they also talk, banter, and chatter with the personality of the character. Deadpool is a riot. When you first play MH the game allows you to select from a pool of “starter heroes” (which changes every few months). You can take any of these heroes to level 10, but in order to progress beyond 10 you must choose the hero you want as your “first”. After that, additional heroes cost either Splinters or G points to purchase (covered below in Economy). The game does an excellent job of enticing players to play in a style that is representative of their hero. For example, it’s common to see Hulk fly in from out of nowhere, SMASH! and then jump away to smash something else while magneto floats around with a magnetic bubble filled with rubble. For new players wondering what to play first (or second), there’s a great guide here. It’s important to note that MH is more of an “account” game than a character game. It doesn’t have a character select login screen; the game throws you right into the world with your last selected hero. You can switch heroes on the fly, causing a quick reload of the area that particular hero was last in. This approach works very well.

Gazillion engages in a Hero adjustment procedure called a 52 Review. This is a process where the company conducts a multi-month review of a hero that was released before the addition of signature powers, taking into account player feedback, bug reports, play statistics, and numerous other factors to “refine and finish” a hero, which often involves the re-balance of powers and items, adjustments to play style, and sometimes updates to animations and graphics. When this process is complete and the new version of the Hero is released, Gazillion publishes the complete “52 review” of the hero in the forums for the public to read. A thread in the Marvel Forums tracks all heroes that have been through the 52 Review process.

The World of MH is true to the movies and comic books. You will battle Hydra, travel to Asgard, and fight Dr. Doom. You will also battle in subways, rooftops, jungles, science facilities, swamps, and a land filled with dinosaurs. Each region has its own feel and set of baddies to take down. The overall ambiance is well-done and immersive. Nearly every zone also has treasure rooms, which are mini-zones that usually have rare monsters and a chest to loot. The Story consists of 9 chapters that take the player through numerous quests and operational points such as the Avenger’s Tower and the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier. The player even gets to meet Xavier at his school for gifted students (and engage in defense of the school through a challenge). Destruction of HYDRA is a big factor in the storyline.

Dr. Doom shall not prevail!

Dr. Doom shall not prevail!

Missions (Shared Quests & Influence Missions) and Raids

Missions are the bread and butter of MH, and there is no short supply. The game features 9 chapters for its story mode, daily shared quests (which can be repeated), legendary quests (which provide bonus experience and currency), and Influence Missions (which are unlocked at 60). The game has 3 base difficulty settings (Cosmic will be discussed later) for players to re-play the storyline to obtain permanent enhancements to their character. There are three categories of shared quests, the first is in an open area with other players (like the Industry City Patrol). The second category is a combination of terminal quests (doing runs against specific bosses). Terminal missions can be done in green or red mode, and the first run within a 20 hour period will provide a cube shard. The third is a single “one-shot” mission (which, contrary to the name, can be run again and again). The one-shot mission is tougher story-based terminal mission that provides raid currency the first run every 20 hours (offering the ability to obtain raid currency without raiding). Each provides a bonus for the first time you complete it. Legendary missions are a continuing chain of assignments that pull from all of the content and can be run, providing bonuses for each completion, including Odin Marks (covered in Economy below). One can also pay to re-roll a legendary mission if the current one isn’t one the player want to complete. With all of these mission types combined, there’s always something to do. It’s interesting to note you can play the game and take a character all the way to 60 without playing the story mode, however the character would miss out on mission rewards that provide permanent enhancements to the hero.

MH also supports 10-player Raids. They are fun, quite involved, require collaborative efforts to complete, and offer a great pile of loot, often containing fantastic end-game items. The average raid takes anywhere from 20-60 minutes, and there are two to choose from: Muspelheim and Axis. Muspelheim is available in green and red difficulties, and Axis is only available in green at this time. While two raids may not sound like much, they are a new type of integration for ARPGs (I’m not aware of other ARPGs that have raids), and are fun to replay. Gazillion plans on adding more raids this year, increasing the content for those who want to battle baddies in groups of 10.

Team-up Heroes, NPCs & Enemies and Pets

Time to configure your Team Up Hero!

Time to configure your Team Up Hero!

Team-up Heroes (TH) are companions who join you during your adventure throughout the world. There are currently 32 available, including Groot, Spider-man, Wolverine and Deadpool-the-Kid. Your TH can be equipped with four items (that benefit both you and the TH), and has 4 tiers of skill selections. THs can be summoned until they die, or for a specific period of time, and some of the skills are designed to provide benefit when your TH is not active. Note TH’s are account-bound so they can be activated with any hero!

There are a wide variety of NPCs and Enemies for players to enjoy. Many NPCs are recognized from the comic books and movies, and will banter with you as you use their services. You will also encounter NPCs as you progress through the storyline. When it comes to Enemies, they come in four flavors: Henchmen (white), Blues, Yellows and Bosses/Super-villains. You can also encounter Doop, with is essentially a treasure mob that will explode like a loot pinata when (or if) you are able to kill it.

Pets are interesting in MH as they are extended “buffs” that follow you around. They do not attack (or die), but they love to eat items you donate to them, which includes their ability to Vacuum up items in a gobbling frenzy. A pet provides 5 tiers of bonuses to the hero: green, purple, blue, cosmic and unique. Each tier is raised by feeding the pet items. Once a tier is “finalized” (e.g. reaching 180/180 points for yellow) an affix is randomly unlocked. This allows a player to build a pet (for example) that provides: 2% less damage from enemies, +1 to all powers, and 3% extra critical damage. If you don’t like the chosen affix, you can re-roll it at the crafter (which resets the process, hence the need to constantly feed your pet items). You can find a complete list of pet affixes here. There are 8 pets available for purchase, and most of them are silly and fun, such as Throg, a little froggy version of Thor. Note pets are account bound, so you can transfer them between characters!

Mechanics

Level & Experience, Attributes & Stats, Powers (Power Specs), Omega System, Hero Synergy System, Prestige, Regeneration, Consumables, Buffs, Travel & Instances, Events & Challenges, Death

The leveling system is smooth and well-designed, rewarding players with very well balanced progression.  The core stats are easy to understand, and the powers are fun to use and improve. The Omega system is a vast end-game progression mechanic that allows the player to focus on numerous enhancements, and the Hero Synergy system is designed to entice players to level up numerous heroes (and provide reward for such). The Prestige system also supports continued play-through for heroes a player really enjoys. Travel is easy, and companions help throughout your Hero’s adventure. The events are nearly nonstop, offering addictive play that embodies “just one more!”. There is no death penalty.

Level & Experience, Attributes & Stats, Powers (Power Specs)

MH is has a level-based experience progression system with a max level cap of 60. Heroes obtain experience by killing enemies, looting items, completing missions, and picking up the numerous experience spheres that drop like candy. Once a character reaches 60 they can focus on obtaining Omega points, seeking best-in-slot (BiS) items, leveling their legendary item (covered below), improving the grade of their uniques, or resetting to the next Prestige tier (also discussed below).

The Attributes in MH are straightforward and provide detailed tooltip overviews. They are: Durability, Strength, Fighting, Speed, Energy, and Intelligence. The next two key stats are Defense and Damage. The Stats tab breaks down in detail additional Defensive, Offensive, Utility and PvP stats. This is where you will find additional details such as your resistances (Physical, Energy and Mental), critical hit chances, move speed, etc.

The gameplay experience for MH revolves around Superhero Powers, which are broken into 3 categories for each hero with each set being unique. As a character levels up, the player receives and puts points into the respective powers they want to focus on, and can then “slot” those powers into the action bar for quick use. Each hero has a “signature” power, which is generally the most powerful, followed by an “ultimate” power that is also custom to the hero. For example, Iron Man summons a group of additional remote suits to fight by his side for 20 seconds. The cooldown for the signature power is 30 seconds and the ultimate power is 10 minutes. A player can raise the level of their Ultimate power by finding Ultimate upgrade tokens. The max level is 20. Heroes can also reset their points by using a Retcon device (which is very easy to get).

The game allows you to configure two Power Specs (buildouts) from the start, and you can purchase additional specs with 425 G coins. This allows a hero to build different power configurations for different situations. For example, a hero may want one buildout for speed-running cosmic bosses, another for doing raids, and a third for challenges. The problem is a Power Spec buildout doesn’t remember Omega Point distribution (covered below), and since different specs often have different Omega Point buildouts, it’s only a “half useful” implemented feature.

Omega System, Hero Synergy System and Prestige

Nanotechnology is just one of the many areas you can invest your Omega Points.

Nanotechnology is just one of the many areas you can invest your Omega Points.

The Omega System is the alternate-advancement mechanic that converts each experience point (as long as the hero you are playing is level 30 or higher) into points that can then be distributed within a large categorized matrix that provides substantial boosts for your heroes, such as bonus experience, damage, resistances, movement speed, and much, much more. They can be distributed into 14 categories, and some categories have not yet been unlocked (such as Cosmic Entities). The total amount of points you have acquired can be distributed differently for each hero. Omega points cap out at 7500 and each point takes roughly 17 million experience, so max level characters will be able to acquire points faster than lower level characters.

The Hero Synergy System is a very cool feature that allows you add enhancements to all heroes on your account by reaching level 20 and 50 on different heroes. You can activate up to 10 heroes from the list to gain their enhancements, and each hero adds different enhancements. There is also a substantial experience boost provided to all heroes when you reach level 60. The first level 60 provides a  30% exp boost, the 2nd 50%, the 3rd 65%, 4th 75% and then each hero thereafter that adds a 5% boost. This impacts the amount of experience provided for Omega Points as well, and is an excellent system that entices players to play and level as many heroes as they can. Many players strategically choose what characters to take to 60 as many provide benefits that have more of an impact than others; for example, a Level 50 Cyclops provides 10% extra experience to all characters who select him for their Synergy.

The Prestige system is very interesting, something I haven’t seen in another ARPG. It allows people who love a specific hero to restart their character at level 1 while retaining the Hero’s legendary item. When you do this, the color of your character name changes, you receive a free default costume (which you need at level 1 in case you’ve augmented your original costume with a core that requires a high level), and you gain access to a new colored “buddy” pet based on your prestige level. There are six levels of prestige: Green, Blue, Purple, Orange, Red, and Yellow. Note that a yellow name is a “cosmic” prestige rank and takes roughly 25x longer to achieve. Prestige is more about play than accomplishment; it’s a mechanic that appeals mainly to those who have enjoyed the play of a hero so much they want to “do it again” and get the name colorization to show it. One thing is certain, if you see somebody with a yellow name, they probably know that specific hero type better than most anyone else. That, and they’re a hardcore player.

Regeneration, Consumables and Buffs

All characters have Regeneration for their hits and “power” (which can be Spirit, etc. based on the Hero). This can be accelerated through leeching, item bonuses, group bonuses, and picking up the necessary respective orbs that can drop when an enemy is defeated. The numerous Consumables are generally for providing buffs tied to things like combat enhancements, experience bonuses and item drop bonuses.

There are numerous Buffs a hero can receive, some from consumables, others from item procs and hero powers. There are also party/team buffs (essentially auras) that are provided through items that party members have equipped. Random gifts also drop as you play, providing a 2 minute buff to fighting, experience gain, etc.

Travel & Instances, Events & Challenges and Death

Travel is handled three ways: the first is by waypoint, the second by zone connection (running from one region to another), and the third by instance portals. The world of MH revolves around Instances. Some are very large while others are nothing more than small connection or treasure rooms. When you join a party, a portal will spawn next to you that you must take to join the other members. There are also specific instances you can open with items; wait until you try the Bovine Sector!

Tip! You can reset an instance by going back to the hub and either switching heroes or changing difficulty, then returning to the hero/difficulty you originally played with and go back to the instance. Also, if you ever get stuck in an instance, just have a friend invite you to party and take their portal. Another important note is you can use B to “bodyslide” which is essentially recalling to town. Using it again in town will take you back.

Events serve as the dynamic bread and butter for the fun-filled nonstop crazy action in MH. They are constantly taking place, and there are so many of them, the player always has something to do. Whether it is to defend civilians or stop an uprising of rampaging velociraptors or take down super bosses, the implementation of events in MH is the best I’ve seen in an ARPG. There are also numerous “mini events” which trigger in many ways (including killing certain creatures or simply walking through a location). Mini-vents sometimes provide notification (at the top of the screen), but other times do not. There are also zone-wide events (which always pop up at the top of the screen) to show all players currently in that zone, and (if applicable) how much time there is to complete the event. Gazillion also runs game-wide events, such as Midtown Madness, where the zone will drop extra loot, including costumes and fortune cards. Some events even provide bonus experience and omega points.

Challenges are collaborative instances where numerous heroes converge to battle it out with nonstop action. In short, they are a hell of a lot of fun, and often the destination of most players for fun farming. Midtown Manhattan and Industry City Patrol are open worlds (and often the most popular) whereas the Holo-Sim is an “event” that either allows a group or automatically pairs players together. X-Defense pits a party of five against invaders of Xavier’s school, and the Muspelheim/Axis challenges are 10-person raids. It’s important to note a character can easily reach level 60 by doing nothing but challenges, however they will miss out on the permanent bonuses provided by completing certain storyline quests.

There is no form of Death penalty except re-spawning at your last spawn point. I think this is excellent; the bosses don’t even reset!

Welcome to Hammer Bay!

Welcome to Hammer Bay!

Gameplay

Combat, Environment, Movement and Targeting, PvP, Exploration, Progression, Achievements & Rewards, Learning Curve, Difficulty, Raids, End Game and Replayability

MH is fast paced like no other ARPG, thrusting the player into a wild and crazy world of enemies ripe for destruction. Combat is fluid and fun with great physics of object destruction and ragdoll bodies flying through the air. Movement and targeting is more action and location focused than target focused. In addition to the crazy number of item drops, players are rewarded for exploring with treasure rooms and other events. The progression is smooth, and grows in speed with each character a player has to 60. There are tons of achievements and rewards to pursue, but the learning curve can be a bit steep. The game is very easy starting out, but grows in difficulty with the end-game raids and cosmic instances requiring strength and skill. There is a ton to do once a character hits level 60 and the replayability (at both 60 and for new characters) is the best I’ve seen in an ARPG because it all ties together.

Combat, Environment, Movement and Targeting and PvP

The Combat in Heroes is hands down the most fun, crazy and nonstop action I’ve seen in an ARPG. The enemies just keep coming, hence the initial reference to Gauntlet. Remember the scenes in the movies where the heroes are in New York fighting vast waves of crazy enemies, surrounded by nonstop battle? That’s what the game offers. Head to Midtown Manhattan. It’s crazy fun. Not only do the enemies try to kill you, they also fight among themselves. Jumping into the frenzy of Midtown or the Industrial Complex is chaos of gang wars against demons against robots and numerous other Marvel Universe baddies. This game lets you kill things on a scale that I haven’t seen in any other ARPG. And fighting numerous super-villains only makes things that much more interesting, especially at end-game. The combat truly makes you feel like a superhero.

The Environment is highly destructible. You can toss cars, destroy equipment and obliterate the area around you depending on your powers. The Havoc physics engine does an excellent job of representing things ranging from ragdoll animations of your fallen victims flying through the air to pieces of the crates you just landed on exploding in a frenzy of chips.

The Movement is very fluid and focuses on running, teleporting, “pushing” (i.e. movement attacks that do damage) and jump/landing. There are so many enemies in the game that Targeting usually revolves around executing actions at a specific location rather than focusing on a single target; but for bosses and some cosmic toughies, single targeting is a must. In the end, it all depends on the hero and build one is playing. Some characters are designed for AoE placements on the ground while others are designed for maximum single-target damage.

MH does have a single “beta” PvP area players can try out. While I queued up for a few PvP challenges, none of them “came through” and at this time, PvP is held as an unbalanced joke by the Community. The core of MH is about PvE and collaboration, so there’s no surprise here. It’s unknown if Gazillion plans on making PvP a viable option in this game, but the potential is definitely there as MH could easily embrace a similar League of Legends style approach with interactive maps and events. However, balancing the wide variety of skills for each hero to be compatible for both PvE and PvP would be a monumental task, which is probably the reason it’s currently not held as a viable play option.

Exploration, Progression, Achievements & Rewards

When running the storyline, Exploration is a must as the maps do have a random layout (based on a core template) and entrances/events/locations can be moved around. The only way to find the treasure rooms is to explore a map in full, and due to the dynamic nature of the mini-events spread throughout the game, hunting them down can be a fun endeavor, especially for those who are looking to gain achievements (which is covered below).

Hero Progression is very well-balanced. For each of my 60’s, I never felt as if I was grinding, and if I wanted to take a break from the storyline, I would just run the challenges or legendary quests. It goes by rather quickly because it is so much fun. It is also very nice to be able to level characters outside of the storyline through challenges. If you want to spend a ton of time in Midtown or the Holo-sim, you will be rewarded for doing so!

MH added Achievements on April 30, 2015. There are 10 categories: Collection, Crafting, Enemies, Exploration, Game Modes, Heroes, Miscellaneous, PvP, Raids and X-traordinary Feats. Each achievement gives between 10-25 points (some a few more) and there are a total of 11,705 points. Achievements award Titles, Coffers (boxes that can be opened, some containing specific items), Omega Boxes (which provide Omega Points), Takedown Awards (which can award items you’ve been farming bosses for, a nice way to address people who haven’t found a specific item due to RNG), Miscellaneous Items (costume variations, and other random boxes/tokens), and new items only awarded through achievements (most being uniques). The complete FAQ can be found here.

If you want a game that Rewards you with more item drops than anything else, MH is for you. The sheer volume of item drops is crazy and often overwhelming to new players, but since items are used to level up crafters, vendors and companions, they are quickly either donated to a crafter/vendor or consumed by your pet (either through item vaporization settings in options, or by pressing J to have your companion “suck them all up” and apply the items towards reaching their special stats). The game also has a little bugger named Doop who is essentially a treasure goblin; when you kill him, he’ll explode with a variety of items. There is also Cosmic Doop, who drops many more items than his little counterpart and takes quite a beating (while dishing out damage as well). Cosmic doop only spawns in the holo-sim or in the world zones. There are rewards provided by the game for logging in every day, which is nice incentive. The game also features numerous boxes that contain random (and sometimes specific) items that are awarded a number of ways; through challenges, achievements, etc. There are also fortune cards, which have the chance of providing costumes and uniques.

That's all?

That’s all?

Learning Curve, Difficulty and Raids

The Learning Curve for MH is a steep one. While a player can quickly jump into the game and start playing, the tutorial is quite lacking, and it’s very easy to become confused on augmenting items, what to keep, what to toss, and how the crafting/enchanting system works as a whole. It’s important that players study the tooltips of everything the crafter offers so they understand what can be accomplished and what components are necessary. There is also a bit of a learning curve on playing your hero as it gets more powerful; while there’s no “perfect build” for each hero, there are standards that need to be met in order to enjoy end-game (cosmic, raids, etc).

The Difficulty of the game didn’t really start to stand out for me until around level 40+. There are three core difficulty levels: Normal, Heroic and Superheroic, which are applied to the storyline. MH is actually quite easy the first run-through; but I think this is a good design. It exposes the players to much of what the game has to offer without punishing them too much. Beyond the 3 core settings, we have Greed, Red, and Cosmic for the instances. Cosmic is the most difficult and unlocked at level 60; and it’s brutal.

MH has two end-game Raids designed for groups of 10 players, and they are extremely difficult (yet fun). They are Muspelheim (Green and Red) and Axis. The raids have much more complex mechanics than any of the instances or challenges. Much like MMOGs, players must work together in order to defeat the bosses.

End Game and Replayability

End Game is quite extensive and complex, not just due to hero outfitting, but also strategic selection of Omega Points and Synergies. An interesting note is end-game also includes building and leveling multiple heroes to obtain the Synergies, so one doesn’t have to stick with outfitting their level 60 in order to progress the overall strength of their account. Once a character hits end game, they generally focus on obtaining their legendary item, level 60 uniques (best in slot for the class), and the right combination of artifacts. There is also augmenting uru-forged weapons with runewords, enchanting unique items, and applying blessings to artifacts. After that players generally pursue upgrading the grade of their uniques with recipes (which take commendations) and also look to acquire custom crafted unique items (such as the Fragment of Twilight). Players also look to stack their relics (which can go to 1000) and strive to acquire the grade 80 version of their legendary (which takes 1000 odin marks). And that’s just for one hero. Players also re-roll their pet in order to get the best statistics; that alone can take dozens (and sometimes more) of rolls for each property.

The Replayability of MH is fantastic because the game is designed to entice players to try and build different heroes while providing reward for taking multiple heroes to both 50 and 60. Add that factor to the above End Game details, and the fact that all effort goes into building Omega Points — a player never runs out of things to do.

Economy

Currency, Inventory & Stash, Items (Quality, Binding, Costumes), Character Item Slots, Crafting (Runes, Recipes), Vendors, TH Items, G.L.F., Trading and Store

The economy of MH revolves around item drops and upgrades, and it drops more items than any other game I’ve seen. This makes Inventory & Stash space prime requirements. Crafting focuses on augmentation and enchantment, and the player levels crafters by donating items to them. While players can trade between each other, trading is not a cornerstone of the game. The online store provides numerous purchasable items such as new heroes, pets, stash space, and other cosmetics. There are numerous merchants (many of which can be leveled through donations) and even a faction (the G.L.F.) players can pursue at end-game.

Currency, Inventory and Stash

There are numerous types of Currency in the game. Credits are the “gold” of MH and are used for crafting and buying items. The next key currency type is that of G points, which must be purchased from the Gazillion online store (standard ratio is 100:$1). G points can be used to purchase heroes, THs, pets, etc. The next most used currency is that of Eternity Splinters, which can also purchase companions, pets and heroes. They drop every 6-8 minutes and serve as a core “reward for playing” currency that bridges the in-game money system with the real-world money system (i.e. you can buy heroes, TuGs and pets with them). Running dailies and instances can also reward Cube Shards, which are used to purchase boxes with gear, unlock recipes, purchase fortune cards, and gourds of prestige (which are necessary to prestige a character). Odin Marks are key at end-game and serve as the support currency for obtaining Legendary items and enhancements. There are also more specialized currency drops such as Cosmic Worldstones and Commendations, which are used with end-game vendors to acquire everything from unique grade recipes to the Cosmic Doop Training Sector. Note the cap on Credits is currently $3,000,000.

Inventory in MH is account-wide (and not specific to a Hero) and supports one item per “square” (there are 60 squares in total), but so many items drop in MH that it’s quickly overwhelming to new players. This is where Stash space comes into play. Each stash tab can hold 48 items. Additional stash tabs cost between 250-500 G points (depending on the type of tab; some are only crafting, others are hero specific). This is the first real money hit for new players as stash space quickly fills up. Items can be donated to the crafter, enchanter and vendors to raise their level, thus freeing up a good amount of space (covered below). For those who are interested, a player wrote a guide called How to survive without a stash.

Tip! Team-up Heroes have extra inventory space you can use for storage, even if you haven’t purchased them!

Items (Quality, Binding, Costumes) and Character Item Slots

Not bad at all!

Not bad at all!

MH is all about the Items. The sheer volume and variety is often overwhelming to players, especially as leveling up vendors/crafters and a Pet is based on item consumption. There are so many item drops, the game even has a “Vaporize Item” setting, which automatically removes items of a specific grade (and lower) from the screen by donating them to your pet (if you have one) and converting a small amount of value to currency. Equipment drops come in six different quality types: Common (White), Uncommon (Green), Rare (Blue), Epic (Purple), Cosmic (Yellow) and Unique (Light Yellow). Each item has an Item Grade value, which is a subvalue showing the grade within the level. Until max level this value is generally unimportant, but once you hit 60 (which is item grade 63) players strive to upgrade their items to 66 and 69 through recipes (discussed below). Grade 80 legendaries can also be acquired through the G.L.F. vendor in Hammer Bay. Items also bind to a character when equipped, which prevents them from being used by other heroes or traded (unless they are unbound by the crafter, covered below). Artifacts are red drops, uru-forged are light purple, runes and relics are pink. A current price guide for Artifacts, Runes and Insignias can be found here.

Due to the diversity in Heroes, characters don’t have “gloves” and “legs”, etc. Instead, they have 5 core Character Item Slots which take items that are compatible with the hero type (one hero may use a cape while another may use a chestpiece). Additionally, a character has 4 Artifact Slots, a Medallion slot, a Relic slot, an Uru-Forged slot, a Ring slot, an Insignia slot, Costume, Pet and Legendary Item. Many slots open as you level your character, and many of the items can be augmented with the Enchanter (covered below). A Legendary item is “leveled up” as a character gains experience and is very powerful. At this time the base Legendary costs 300 Odin marks and the highest legendary (quality of 80) costs 1000 Odin marks. Unique items can have runes affixed to them, artifacts can be blessed, and the Uru-Forged item can have multiple runes affixed to it, making it a very important and valuable end-game item.

 

 

Crafting (Runes, Recipes)

The Crafting in MH is quite extensive and is often overwhelming, confusing and complex to new players. It revolves around elements (resources), enhancing (which includes re-rolling), socketing and exchanging (one or more items for others). There are two core crafting “merchants” in the game. First is the Crafter, who uses uses elements to augment costumes and gear. He also allows the creation of miscellaneous items (such as potions), swapping of augments, unbinding of items, and removing visual effects. There is also the exchange of items (which trades in items, such as 5 duplicate uniques for a new unique). The Enchanter focuses on runewords, enchantments, and blessings. Runes (which drop in the game as items) are used to augment Unique and Uru-Forged items. Enchantments are designed to augment Weapons and Armor. Blessings are designed to augment Legendary items. Both the crafter and enchanter are leveled up (with a max level of 20) by donating items. This is where all of a character’s extra items should go (until the crafters are level 20). As the crafter and enchanter level up, additional options are made available. There are also Recipes the player can purchase with commendations that are used to enhance and raise unique item grades to 66 and 69. They cost between 200-350 hero commendations and can be purchased from Hogun in Odin’s Palace. Once a recipe is purchased and learned, it’s always available for the account. Also note Unique items can have a “challenge” bonus added to them, either as a drop, or from a recipe purchased from the Raid Token Vendor (which requires a Challenge Bonus Token).

Vendors, TH Items and G.L.F.

In addition to the crafting NPCs, there are Vendors in the game that sell Weapons, Armor, Recipes and other gear including exchanges for commendations, splinters, etc. Gear/Weapon/Armor vendors can be leveled up (like crafters) through item donations and occasionally sell Unique items & Artifacts, which is why it’s worth raising them to level 20 (but only after you’ve finishing leveling your crafter and enchanter to 20). Each Gear Vendor can be “re-rolled” three times a day for a fresh set of inventory.

There are also TH Items which a player can equip on their companion. These include: Communicator, Portable Defense Screen, Hostile Unit Tracker and Biometric Enhancer. These items have two categories: benefits to your TH and benefits to you. Since your TH can be summoned until it dies, or for a specific duration (depending on what “style” a player has chosen for their TH), a player will want to focus on items with different benefits (e.g. items that help keep a summoned TH alive as long as possible vs. only providing benefits to the character for a 30s summon).

The G.L.F. (Genosha Liberation Force) is the end-game faction located in Hammer Bay that has a crafter and quartermaster. The items available through these vendors are directly tied to Genosha Influence (which is MH’s version of reputation) and cost Commendations to purchase. At this time, Genosha Influence is the only reputation in the game. Genosha Influence is raised by completing daily and weekly G.L.F. missions, which are some of the most difficult in the game. The higher the reputation, the more recipes are unlocked at the crafter and quartermaster, which are connected to some of the most powerful items in the game (including grade 80 uniques). Trusted is the highest rank one can currently achieve.

Trading and Store

Players can engage in Trading with each other and usually seek or offer items through the Trade channel. Other players just drop items on the ground they do not need, which are quickly picked up by the other folks loitering around in the hubs. Since credits cannot be traded, the established standard currency is that of Hela Blessings (which people refer to during trade as blessings or b’s) or Gems of the Kursed (GotKs). While GotKs are drops from Kurse (a super-villain), Blessings of Hela can only be exchanged through Artifacts which means people must use Artifacts as the “carrier” of the blessing they are trading. For example, if somebody is selling an item you want for 2b’s, you will bless 2 artifacts you don’t care about (carrier artifacts that have no real value) and then trade those 2 artifacts which have Hela blessings on them. The other player can then transfer the blessing from one artifact to another with their crafters. People do trade with other forms of currency (such as runes and relics), but it’s not nearly as common. Unfortunately, unique items cannot be traded. A good guide to trading can be found here.

The MH Store has a wide variety of cosmetic and enhancement-based items for sale (such as XP bonuses), including Heroes, Costumes, Items, Team-Up Heroes & Pets, Cards and Bundles. This is the cash cow for MH and Gazillion. It’s important to say MH is not “pay to win”. There are no items for sale that will make your character more powerful; just items that will enhance your overall experience (as a form of support). Additionally, players can purchase new heroes with Eternity Splinters if they are patient enough. As with most RMT (real-money transaction) systems, Gazillion runs regular specials on heroes and other items.

I don't think this campsite is safe anymore...

I don’t think this campsite is safe anymore…

Community & Support

Social & Supergroups, Channels, Parties & Raids,  Titles, Population, Spam,  Quality, Forums, Support

The core design of MH makes it a unique APRG experience due to the fact the player is always seeing, interacting, and running with numerous other heroes. For a free to play game, the community of MH is surprisingly friendly and helpful. Players can form and create/join Supergroups (guilds) and even run 10-player raids. The population is solid and there is a wide variety of support websites not only for hero builds, but content and strategy. The Developers are also very involved with the community, doing a very good job of listening and interacting with the players.

Social, Supergroups and Channels

Heroes features a standard Social interface where players can add friends and ignore others. There is also a nearby tab that lists all of the other characters in the vicinity; from here one can inspect, trade, friend, or send a tell. The Social channel also has the Supergroups list, which will show all “guild members”. Supergroups are a bit disappointing in MH as they don’t provide anything more than a group, tag, and custom channel. There are notifications that can be turned on to show what special items other supergroup members find, but that’s it; there are no achievements or other benefits to being in a Supergroup beyond the social aspect.

There are a number of Channels including support for multiple languages, trading, LFG (looking for group), Party and Team. Players can post items in chat by taking focus off the chat window, holding down shift and clicking on an item. To look at an item in chat, focus on the window (Enter), hold down shift and click on the link. It would be nice to have channels for specific hero classes, that way people could discuss builds, items, powers and techniques among their peers. You can also create tabs for specific channels; just press the + key on the chat UI and select which channel you want to display in the chat. This is very useful for parties and raids. Unfortunately, the game does not play a sound FX when you receive a whisper. It would be nice if they added this feature.

Parties and Raids

Players can team up with 4 other heroes for a Party. One big problem with MH is there’s no scale-down or mentoring, so players who want to play with friends who are very different character levels really cannot, other than the lower level character getting credit for a kill or achievement. Note this is changing soon as Gazillion is going to add a level down mechanic to the game, allowing differing level characters to play together. The game will automatically pair players up in temporary parties based on other players sharing the same quests and entering the same area, so while instances (outside of the world zones where numerous players run around) are often experienced solo, the auto-pair feature enriches the experience by adding another hero. It’s fun to jump into the Hydra Base and find Hulk at your side, smashing everything in sight. The game also allows parties to be converted to 10-player Raids. Unfortunately, the game does not share legendary quest rewards among party members (unless two or more party members have rolled the same legendary quest), but players can run the same shared challenges available each day and receive credit together.

Titles, Population and Spam

Titles are awarded through Achievements, but are quite uncommon. They appear under the character’s name in gold, and can be selected through the character screen. Some of the more popular titles are: Holo-sim Grandmaster, Crimefighter, Defender, and Master of Muspelheim. At this time, there doesn’t appear to be a complete list of available titles online, but players can browse the achievements to see which ones award a title.

While the Population of MH has not been disclosed (nor is there any viable source that one can derive from), I would guesstimate they have more than 500,000 active players. The hubs are always busy, and the chat channel is full of nonstop communication.

Spam is rare in MH, but it does happen in the chat channels. One can quickly report spam by shift-clicking on the name and reporting them.

Community Quality, Forums and Support

The Quality of the community is very good; I would say it’s the best I’ve seen for a free-to-play game. Players are generally friendly and helpful, and look forward to grouping with other people. I believe part of this comes from the cultural aspect of the game (you are playing a superhero, and I think some people like the mindset of acting like one) paired with the unique online nature of the game where a player is never really alone; it’s all about teamwork, and when you’re running through Midtown, others are always there to help you – and you want them to.

The Forums are very active with general discussion, questions (and answers), builds and other useful collections of information. The most popular Support Site is the Wiki with the second most popular being the MarvelHeroes.info character build site. The Marvel Heroes Subreddit is also very active and useful for all types of questions and information. It’s also important to note that Gazillion does a great job of listening to and interacting with the player base through the official MH forums and other communities as well.

Darkness Approaches...

Darkness Approaches…

Technical

Graphics, Audio, Interface & Tutorial, Connectivity & Downtime, Security, Patching and Bugs

The game has excellent graphics and particle effects, and multi-player combat with dozens (sometimes more) of targets is a visual spectacle that’s fun and engaging. The sound and music are adequate while the banter between heroes is priceless. The interface can be a bit difficult to learn for new players, and there are occasional connectivity issues, but little to no downtime. Unfortunately, the tutorial is lacking and doesn’t cover the game features as well as it could. The game doesn’t offer any account security features as of yet (such as mobile authentication) and  is regularly patched. There are a number of little bugs, but nothing that truly removes from the overall gameplay experience and fun factor.

Graphics, Audio, Interface and Tutorial

The Graphics of Heroes are good with smooth lighting, shadows, detailed textures and particles. Superhero powers are visually represented very well, and the engine runs very smooth with max settings (I have a GTX 970). The Havoc Physics are fantastic, supporting the highly destructible environment and ragdoll animations of your victims bodies flying through the air. It is also nice to be able to adjust any of the graphical settings in real time with no need for rebooting the client. Some people choose to augment the graphics with 3rd party support systems. The most popular seems to be SweetFX, which you can learn about installing here.

The Audio of MH supports the Marvel theme of superheroes, adding a good ambient feel to the overall experience; but it’s nothing that’s notable enough to be genre defining (like the music from Diablo). The combat Sound FX are well-done, and the best part is the banter between the superheroes; they will mock each other and compliment each other as you fight side by side.

The Interface works well for the game, but there are numerous flaws. For example, the default settings do not show boss tags and combat numbers. There is also no indication of group members in the play window; only in the minimap, which makes it very difficult to track where other party members are in the heat of combat. It’s also difficult to see other “downed” players, which can cause delays in resuscitating others (I believe this is tied to a bug where the skull icon doesn’t display on my system). The interface does work well for item information, character information and inventory management. If a unique, event box, omega point, rune, relic or eternity splinter drops off screen, an icon appears on the side of the screen pointing you in the direction of the item. Icons also appear for events and bosses.

The Tutorial is helpful for new players, but is lacking in many areas and fails to cover: fast travel (body slide, portal), gear enhancements (special item find, stacking of slotted relics), adding visual effects to your costume (through items), experience bonus through multiple 60’s, using splinters to buy new heroes,  turning off auto-group,  and an introduction to midtown and industry city. A more detailed overview of the things the tutorial doesn’t tell you about can be found here.

Tip! I highly recommend enabling Outgoing Damage Numbers and Critical Backgrounds under Gameplay Options. Also, enable auto-loot and vaporization of white gear for all slots (as white items are useless; they really shouldn’t even be in the game). Also, showing the Boss Indicators and boss/player health bars helps out greatly.

Connectivity, Downtime, Security, Patching and Bugs

The overall Connectivity of MH is acceptable, but I have occasionally encountered latency issues that require me to exit and restart (showing the issue was associated with the particular instance/server I was playing on). It is strange to have a 150ms ping to San Mateo from the San Diego area on Fiber. The ping should be much better (like 30ms). So far there has been no Downtime.

There is no additional account Security beyond the standard login. It would be nice if Gazillion added mobile authentication, especially given the amount of time, energy and effort that can go into building an account.

Patching takes place quite often, and the launcher does an excellent job of keeping the files current, but a poor job of providing patch notes (essentially, it does not).

While I haven’t encountered any Bugs that impact overall gameplay, there are a number of minor bugs I’ve encountered relative to entering queues for instances and executing movement skills (e.g. the notorious power not ready problem with skills like teleport). There is also a bug where sometimes if a super-villain is too far from you when it dies, you won’t get any drops from it. Also, for some strange reason, the death icon won’t show for fellow heroes who have fallen on my system, but with the exact same option settings, it shows on my wife’s machine just fine. Regardless of these issues, the game is pretty solid and has never crashed.

The Future of Marvel Heroes

Gazillion has a lot planned for the future of Marvel Heroes, and for those who play the game, it’s very exciting. Of course there will be New Heroes (Dr. Doom and Ant Man are the next to grace our presence). They will also be adding Leader Boards and Ladders so people can share their accomplishments and compare with others. They will also be adding Chapter 10, which will focus on the Skrull Invasion. I think the most exciting feature is that of The Danger Room. It’s a a randomly generated dungeon based on a map item which will assign specific properties to the map. A map can include timed challenges and an epic boss battle followed by a treasure room. This will be similar to the map systems from Torchlight 2 and Path of Exile, and add even more fun and replayability to the game. Gazillion is also going to finally add a form of Mentoring, which will allow characters of any level to play together. This will have a huge (and positive) impact for the community and people who want to play with their friends and guild members, regardless of what level they are. A very detailed forum thread discussing the future of MH can be found here.

The road to Odin's Palace is quite impressive!

The road to Odin’s Palace is quite impressive!

Conclusion

Marvel Heroes 2015 has become a diamond in the vast sea of online games, especially for the ARPG genre. The unique blend of nonstop action paired with the depth of end-game and replayability includes enticement and shared rewards beyond most other ARPGs. The diverse content combined with the selection of playable heroes is a vast sea of fun. The mechanics and gameplay mix well to provide a rewarding experience that not only supports playing and building multiple heroes, but refining them at end-game. While crafting can initially be confusing to new players, it does a good job of supporting end-game goals for those who want to have the best gear. The community is supportive and one of the best I’ve seen for a free-to-play online game. The online store offers a ton of things players can buy to accelerate progress and refine the look and feel of their characters. While a number of people have complained about the need for and cost of STASH space as they progress (most players will want to buy at least two STASH tabs for $10), the simple fact is Gazillion has built and maintains this complex and fantastic product, and it costs money. The store is how they make money to keep everything going, and I have no issue supporting a quality game like this one. Ultimately, there is very little to dislike about this game other than the minor frustrations of learning its new and unique systems paired with some missing interface elements and bugs. While there are a number of changes that could be made to enhance the party experience (many of which are already on the stated list by Gazillion for future releases), the future plans of MH seem bright and the game is continuing to grow.

Ultimately, Marvel Heroes 2015 is fun, engaging, and an overall excellent game.

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About The Author

Mr. Allen has an extensive background in technology spanning 20 years including software architecture, design and development, project management and leadership. He specializes in corporate planning, productivity and collaboration, and is the creator of the games Mordor, Demise, Horizons, and Alganon.

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2 Responses

  1. beergoggles

    Looks pretty. I mean the art you used and how you set it up.

    Reply
    • David Allen

      Thanks! While I believe content is the most important aspect of a review, presentation is also important as well, especially for graphically intensive games.

      Reply

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