When a game opens with Doctor Doom in a cutscene, you know it will be serious. Or the generic plot for a crossover written by Marvel comic scribe Brian Michael Bendis - which it is. In Marvel Heroes 2015 Doom has obtained the Cosmic Cube (the Tesseract for fans of the live action movies), and is… waiting? Yes, the thing he desires most is literally within his grasp, but he has decided to wait and free every big-name villain - and Shocker - from prison. Not wanting to fail like Red Skull and Thanos before him, he is throwing as much in the heroes way as he can so he can concentrate on getting his wishes right.
This is where you come in, taking care of bad guys and villains of all shapes with a click of a mouse of hit of a quick-key. The view is isometric which helps keep things in focus. Walls and plant life fade from view if they obscure the camera, meaning you can almost always see your character. You are given a handful to choose from at first, but you can purchase additional characters (anti-heroes, X-Men, Avengers...) with in-game Eternity Shards or using real money via the website. They are a very rare drop item too.
I chose Punisher - AKA Frank Castle - for my first entry into the game, deciding bullets made great long-range projectiles so I wouldn’t have to worry about getting my hands dirty. Or getting too close to anything that might explode. There is no tutorial which, being a non-MMO gamer, made everything a bit hit and miss. The basics like inventory and levelling up were there, but nothing like “click right mouse to do this, hit D to do that”. So I ended up running around the bank at the end of the prologue taking pot shots at Black Cat as I hadn’t a clue that I kept using all of my spirit - which is required to actually attack.
I eventually won and went to Avengers Tower and did some exploring. I met several characters who aren’t playable such as She-Hulk, Agent Coulson and Adam Warlock. They give you missions or are “shop keepers”, selling you equipment and items. You can upgrade them by donating items - which isn’t like selling as it doesn’t get you money. Upgrade them for better quality equipment, such as Cosmic-grade stuff. Each character has a bunch of equipment only they can use, such as Deadpool’s masks or Storm’s capes. So no matter how much I wanted, I couldn’t equip Rocket Racoon’s laser rifle to Punisher…
I took Frank to the first story mission - contain the breakout at The Raft - a prison off the shore of New York City. There I was joined by Captain America, controlled by another player. We said nothing to each other as we mowed through HYDRA agents, him chucking his shield and I with my automatic rifle. The characters spoke, but it was just the odd aside and never as a conversation. We split up at one point, mainly because I neglected to notice the big yellow circle telling me which direction to head in. So when the game told me “Good job on restoring power”, I had no idea how, as I had spent the last five minutes straight unloading ammunition into people. It turns out Cap had done it all by himself while I was making my way towards the second objective - which had just appeared as a yellow circle. Locking down the cell blocks was very easy - once Cap rejoined me. The amount of enemies is staggering, until you realise how quickly some of them drop as soon as you level up a few times.
Levelling up needs to be done somewhere quiet. Otherwise you risk getting attacked and lose health pretty quickly. You pick from several abilities to add points to and thus increase their power: some equipment add points too. The first couple of levels of Deadpool, I increased only his healing factor - now his health regenerates fully every 30 seconds while I add to his other abilities. Abilities range from grenades and teleportation to caltrops and lightning bolts, varied and pretty much comic book correct. They come in very useful when surrounded by ten enemies and you’re in one part of the map that literally has no other players nearby.
The maps are all shared areas, meaning that at any time you can run across three Silver Surfers, two Storms, a Loki and a Hulk fighting a bunch of demons or thugs. This is good for the times you are swamped by five powered-up enemies, giving you some help. Each area has a few events which are timed, such as “Stop the arsonists” or “Repel the demons”. These are purely to help you level up and are in no way mandatory - but if you don’t help Cyclops with the HYDRA attack, how will you ever become an X-Man?
The missions are well set out, with plenty of hidden areas and loot. There are more enemies than your normal comic storyline, but with how easily some of them succumb to grenade damage or a party of heroes that’s a good thing. The objectives are clear and end bosses simple to combat. Your inventory is accessible at any time, but health packs are also tied to H, meaning you can heal without hiding behind a wall.
The graphics are very good with each hero sporting outfits true to the comics. There are even alternate outfits, meaning you can have Taskmaster wear the awesome Udon Entertainment-designed costume of his first miniseries, or the recent Superior Spider-Man costume among others. If there are loads of effects on-screen at the same time, there is barely any noticeable slow down. Except for when using Deadpool’s super move called “Server Lag”, which causes enemies to stop - but that’s designed into it and not a graphical anomaly.
One thing to bear in mind however, is that this game is not optimized to run on a 32-bit system. If you load it up on 32-bit Windows, it will warn you that it will probably crash at random with graphic errors - there are some workarounds but they are not for the computer-illiterate and not guaranteed to work.
Marvel Heroes 2015 was my first MMO, as I have an aversion to grinding, but given the subject matter I was eager. I wasn’t disappointed with the game, the content or pretty much anything about this. It’s easy to play, the storyline is unoriginal but fine, the graphics are good, the voices are great and I didn’t have to grind. Beating up ninjas is all in a super heroes’ day, after all. I will definitely keep up with this game as it constantly updates with new characters and events - plus I waited for the 11GB update to download and everything… This may not be a game changing MMO, but if you love Marvel superheroes you can’t go wrong with a Free-to-Play game. It’s easy to pick up and fun to play - what more do you need?