Made by Crystal Dynamics, Crystal Northwest, Nixxes Software BV, and Eidos-Montreal. Published by Square Enix. Available on PlayStation 5, PlayStation 4, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox One, Google Stadia, and Microsoft Windows. The review is based upon the Microsoft Windows version, attained for free with a qualifying Intel purchase.
Where to start? This game is overly ambitious in its promises, and for the most part has failed to deliver. The good part of the game is the story, writing, and lore and everything else suffers tremendously. It’s like video game developers are doomed to repeat history over and over, not learning from previous developers on what not to do for a video game. They merely had to study Diablo 3’s failures to see how they should have done the looting and gear system. You don’t make the intrinsic difficulty of the enemies tied to the intrinsic power of your own heroes. At minute one to hundred hours, there is no difference in how strong you are. It all takes the same amount of damage to defeat the enemies. There is no sense of growth for the player at all. I am always struggling facing my foes and that should never be the case. There should always be a sense of growing upwards, of being better, and in Avengers, despite being superheroes, random robots and mere bullets can defeat you easily.
The two directors of the game should have known better but looking them up, they are both relative unknowns to the video game world. Shaun Escayg has three video games to his name, and the other, Morgan W. Gray, only has this game. I was going to ask did Crystal Dynamics fire everyone that ever worked on their games, that Tomb Raider died for Avengers, for this? Looking at their history on Wikipedia, it’s actually not far off from the truth. The creative directors of Tomb Raider did in fact leave the company. It explains a lot of the direction this Avengers game took. And what are these directions? Well aside from the difficulty being tied to your own stats/gear, which affects everything because it is the core gameplay loop experience, there’s not much else offered. You choose a mission, load in once, load in again, and then fight through a series of copy pasted hallways and dreary rooms filled to the brim with uninspired robotic enemies and occasional humanoids. Your objectives range from killing certain units, killing a group of units, standing on three different sections waiting for a percentage bar to fill while keeping enemy units off them, to clearing waves of enemies. Missions can range from as short as 2 minutes to 2 hours long. The long missions are ones in a semi-open world where you have a series of objectives to complete but you can explore around to find chests or other ways to gain loot. It’s an incredibly grindy experience that feeds back into that dopamine reward system of getting shiny new gear.
The enjoyable part of the game, that which kept me coming back to finish the campaign, aside from the emotional storytelling, is the combat. Each Avenger feels unique in their actions despite everyone sharing nearly the same exact controls, you have a light attack and a heavy attack, and a ranged attack. Through combinations of these attacks, you can unleash signature moves that are well known by all the heroes. At first, button mashing does work but eventually you need to get used to using dodge. There is a parry function but at higher difficulties, it is absolutely useless and will get you killed. And speaking of that, the game has some of the most infuriating artificial difficulties I’ve experienced in a game, and I’ve beaten Dark Souls/Sekiro and neither of those come close to the cheese experienced by enemies in this game. Despite my ever rising pool of health or willpower as it’s known in this game, enemies will two or three shot me every time. At higher difficulties, this becomes a one shot and rarely a two shot. And why? Because every enemy has an unblockable attack that must be dodged and yes, there is an indication for these attacks but most times they come from missiles or projectiles off-screen. So you’ll be fighting your enemy and out of nowhere, you’ll get hit by a stray missile and be stunned. That moment of being stunned is enough for another missile or projectile to hit you, causing your hero to be downed and awaiting revival from a friendly hero or AI.
Speaking of the AI, your friendly heroes are incredibly harebrained and coded to be nearly useless. They will repeatedly stand in front of your path, hindering your movement or blocking your ranged attacks. Each hero has a support ability, a power ability (attack move) and an ultimate ability that either boosts your strength or unleashes a really strong attack. 9/10 times when I’ve done a power ability or an ultimate ability, the AI stand right in front of the enemy I’m trying to target and ends up absorbing the impact, rendering my move pointless. One of the heroes, Miss Marvel, has a support ability which is a group heal. Now you’d assume that when she’s used by the AI, that when you have low health that she’d pop that heal. You’d be wrong. I’ve never seen her use it when I have low health and am in dire circumstances. I’ve only ever witnessed the AI pop that heal when I’m either at 75% or 50%. Both percentages I can easily manage with takedowns (unique moves that appear when an enemy’s stun meter is filled up) that grant me health regen. But when I’m in the midst of combat with numerous enemies, and so many projectiles that the game becomes pure chance, that ain’t the case. Skill is entirely removed, and I’m left at the mercy of luck. Will she heal me? Or will she ignore my downed status? Chances are 60/40 in favor of the AI not doing either.
Moving on, each hero has maximum level of 50 and a power level (gear score) of 150. Leveling up grants you a skill point to use on the vast skill trees available. Some skills are locked behind level gates while others are available from the start. At max level, you’ll have every skill unlocked. To get a power level of 150 requires a disgusting amount of time spent grinding the same missions over and over trying to get a miniscule increase in gear compared to what you’ve currently equipped. Each piece of gear has a max power level of 140 but through upgrades can reach that 150 power level. These upgrades are costly and to get a full set to 150 requires an absurd amount of materials. Materials which are gained by dismantling gear or finding it out in missions. Alternatively, you can buy materials with another material that is rare to acquire. This is clearly designed for the long haul.
Other aspects that are worth mentioning is the sheer amount of things to buy, cosmetically. You can buy them using in-game currency called units which are hard to come by and the cost of cosmetics is astronomical. Some of these cosmetics are legendary items costing upwards of 7000 units. I’ve been playing for 32 hours and I have only 7600ish units. Or you can pay real money for credits which can then unlock the items directly. Credits are also earned via each heroes’ individual battlepass that nets 1300 credits per completion. New hero battlepasses will cost 1000 credits or 10 dollars. The farthest I’ve gotten any hero is to page two of their battlepass, and that battlepass goes up to 5 pages. Like I said, they want the long haul. Playing on PC is an interesting experience because the numerous crashes, bugs, and glitches is truly astounding. We had a beta and you’d think they’d use that time to figure out if they should release on time or delay. I can confidently say that they should have most definitely delayed the game by at least 6 months or so to help iron out the kinks. I was nearly done the campaign when the game refused to load in. I had to go into the multiplayer component and was forced to watch spoilers so that I could then go back into the campaign because loading into the campaign directly resulted in an infinite loading screen. I have fallen through floors more times than I can count, I have crashed to desktop because of reasons I don’t even know. My power levels have fluctuated while I’m in a mission resulting in my death or inability to even damage the enemy. I have bought a cosmetic only to have it re-locked and now unable to use or purchase again.
Did I enjoy the campaign? Yes, I did. Did I enjoy multiplayer? No, because even that is broken and unable to find other players. I feel sorry for anyone that got suckered in by the advertising and bought this game for full price. I am happy I got it for free because I would have never bought this, and if I did, I would have severely regretted it. As much as I am a fan of Marvel and their superheroes, this game is a massive misfire. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 on Switch is by far a better game. And if you’re looking for a Marvel game to play, make it be that one and save yourself a headache.