Frame a product like Marvel’s Avengers, no doubt the most atypical and indecipherable among the games as a service, it’s not easy at all. A title that, net of the good response in terms of sales, is struggling to impose a playful and structural identity, literally sending into confusion an audience that to date has exhausted most of the contents offered by Crystal Dynamics, waiting for the next moves by the development team for post-launch support yet to be discovered.
In line with the editorial path of all its congeners – on all of those Destiny 2, The Division 2 e Anthem whose specter still hangs dangerously on the fate of the new Marvel superhero tie – we took all the time necessary to analyze and evaluate the content offering of Marvel’s Avengers, waiting for the developers to populate the game servers with new tasks to enrich a endgame otherwise too lean.
But time, which has elapsed enough for the launch offer to be completely clear to our eyes, forces us to take stock of a production that, like its heroic protagonists, has shown that it has courage to sell. Yet, at the same time, it seems to us that Crystal Dynamics is dangerously close to making the mistakes we did not wish to find again.
A Super Campaign
Before drawing a conclusion on the project born from the collaboration between Marvel and Square-Enix, it is appropriate to summarize what Marvel’s Avengers is at the moment, and what contents its extravagant playful offer offers. In fact, as we pointed out in ours Marvel’s Avengers singleplayer review, a Games As a Service with such a solid narrative framework and such a dense single-player content package had never been seen before. It seems clear, now more than ever, how much the development team has chosen to invest a large part of its resources – at least in this first phase of the product’s life – on the singleplayer adventure, which at the moment represents the most convincing and best packaged proposal of the whole experience. In the first story arc of the Campaign, entitled “Reunion”, Scot Amos and his team have poured not only a disproportionate amount of fanservice and unconditional love towards the gigantic Marvel universe, but also the flair and talent of a compelling story. not perfect and a bit cloying in the exaltation of some themes, but discreetly in focus in his cinematographic framework and in the writing of some characters.
On the other hand, if the value of diversity and inclusion converge in the figure of Kamala Khan, as well as the sweet taste of a coming-of-age story, in the monstrous progressive transformation of a villain like MODOK (recover our specials on MODOK) the writers of Crystal Dynamics have been able to define the charisma of an excellent antagonist: the final showdown of the Campaign, which saw us impersonate the Avengers in an incredible final duel against George Tarleton and a gigantic Sentinel, therefore marked the closing of a “serial” cycle, projecting us on the tracks of a narrative path that promises to keep us glued to the videogame exploits of the Avengers in the months (and years) to come, exactly as if we were following a publication of stapled comics from the House of Ideas.
This is perhaps the most precious element of Square-Enix’s Avengers Project, a value that is also identified in the game’s secondary content and in its controversial endgame: the role-playing fabric of Marvel’s Avengerson the other hand, it is an activity that is not too complex, but durable and stratified, designed to entertain the community in a truly impressive sequence of different missions and assignments. Give her War Zone all Landing Zones, especially passing through the Iconic missions – whose narrative progression proves to be really satisfying for a handful of hours – all the collateral and posthumous activities with respect to the Campaign respond to the need to greatly enhance the six protagonists, leading them to a double level cap in a really long progression.
An endgame devoid of powers
Starting with the main and secondary quests of the Campaign, however, we saw a worrying repetitiveness. As we told you in ours analysis of the endgame of Marvel’s Avengers, the problems begin right in the phase following the credits, in which the product should have demonstrated its nature of Games as a Service.
It’s a rich endgame in terms of quantity, but terribly thin as regards variety of missions: once MODOK has been defeated, the huge Sentinel fixed and temporarily put an end to Monica Rapaccini’s evil projects, the game opens the doors to its second great mode, theAvengers initiative. In this phase, the six Avengers resurrected from the ashes of A-Day lend support to the factions of the SHIELD and the Inhumans to eliminate the remaining cells of the AIM and free the War Zones from the influence of Tarleton’s followers. The Avengers Initiative is in turn divided into narrative micro-arcs, completed each of which you will be able to obtain particularly valuable resources and equipment, as well as a disproportionate amount of experience and skill points.
Unfortunately, excluding the Iconic Missions (of which only those dedicated to Hulk, Thor, Black Widow e Captain America present a narrative subtext worthy of the name) the playful everyday life of Marvel’s Avengers soon expires in a repetitiveness that becomes overwhelming: after a handful of hours, in short, the boredom is only partially smoothed out by a progression of the characters that is so stimulating, but far too slow in relation to the terrible lack of variety.
Each quest is literally identical to the other, and even the structure of the maps – while offering, on a scenic level, various landscapes such as the snowy tundra, the badlands of Utah and the streets of Manhattan and Jersey City – almost immediately becomes predictable and monotonous. In addition, in the “final” phases of this first part of the endgame, a couple of new assignments make their way, which unfortunately do not enrich the playful mixture too much: let’s talk about SHIELD Security Chambers and of Beehives, basically of the vast bunkers in which it is necessary to defend, destroy or conquer specific positions to access the secret laboratories of Nick Fury or the AIM itself.
Also in this case the missions dedicated to these long underground raids offer a variety (both playful and structural) that is truly disappointing, and completing them will be a task reserved only for users eager to maximize their favorite hero.
A Games as a Service too atypical?
It seems pretty clear to us that Marvel’s Avengers is the most bizarre of Games As a Service, focused as it is on the narrative power of its contents rather than on the variety of tasks and challenges in continuous support.
In short, it is a product that since its first days of life deliberately (and abundantly) distances itself from various congeners that preceded it: the work of Crystal Dynamics is, on balance, much less incisive and diversified on the front. multiplayer content compared to Destiny and The Division, of which it does not even seem to want to take up the formula of continuous development. Frankly it seems that the development team has decided to “settle”, focusing much of the offer on a limited amount of content and on a much more diluted update method over time, focused on narrative expansion: a formula that, perhaps, can only be evaluated in its entirety at the end of the “Season 1“rather than in its first weeks of life.
And in fact, two weeks after the launch (if we also consider the days of Early Access), the new effort of Crystal Dynamics did not propose any fresh content, and the canonical Raid or the usual weekly challenges with which to embellish quests, bosses and various rewards, not even the shadow. The multiplayer missions, as well as the bosses “recycled” by the only two villains of the game except MODOK (ie Taskmaster and Abomination) represent the only ideas for diversification in a playful offer that without updates of any kind begins to become worrying, especially considering technical flaws that afflict the community since day one.
The now omnipresent severe matchmaking problems they do nothing but hinder and make the multiplayer experience even more ambiguous, forcing a large part of users to settle for the CPU even for multiplayer missions (which, due to the level of power required and length of the quests, are really complicated to complete without work a little); not to mention, moreover, some annoying bugs that now compromise the outcome of a raid, forcing you to reload the last checkpoint reached, now an entire boss fight.
Finally, a not exactly brilliant framerate in the most agitated phases of action and some too many interpenetration between the textures and particles make up a technical picture that is anything but exciting, but which should find a first solution in the first big update of Marvel’s Avengers.
Despite Square-Enix has developed such a peculiarly continuously developing title, however, the development team is making more or less serious mistakes that risk undermining a communication path that is not too brilliant in itself. At the time of writing, taking into account the considerations made on a too problematic endgame, we know almost nothing about the Crystal Dynamics projects regarding the contents to be published soon. This lack reminds us too painfully of the experience lived with Anthem, which in turn had reached its debut in stores with a wealth of really important promises, above all a completely free support like that of Avengers.
From the point of view of communication, unfortunately, developers and publishers have not been able to fully convince the public since the announcement of the product, but the recent streaming appointments with the War Table format had gradually rekindled the interest of users. The fact that the team has substantially disappeared from the radar since well before the release in stores, however, can only cause us more than some concern, especially in view of content already announced but of which we have lost track.
On the occasion of the special third War Table on the Avengers, Scot Amos and his boys had introduced us to the arrival of the SHIELD operations and gods Mega Hives, which would have sanctioned the landing of Maria Hill on the Helicycle and the addition of new maps for the War Zones. To date, there is no trace of these features, but if we imagine the Mega Hives as a larger and more demanding version of the already existing Hives, our concerns about the diversification of post-launch content in Year 1 of Marvel’s Avengers do nothing but get heavy.
Finally, it was confirmed that the Hawkeye DLC will be split into two episodes, the second of which will see Clint Barton himself enter the field and is scheduled for release in November 2020. Knowing the launch window of the second update without receiving any news of the first, however, it is a detail that leaves us quite doubtful, and which confirms the need for the community to receive news about the future of the Avengers as soon as possible.