If specialists in strategy and tactical games, known from such legendary series as Civilization or XCOM, tackle the bars with a license as powerful as Marvel, then something special has to come out of it.
At the turn of May and June, we had the opportunity to visit the Firaxis Games studio in Baltimore and give a high five with Sid Meier himself, but most of all – check out the first 4 hours of the epic Marvel Midnight Suns campaign. And one thing is certain – it is the most unusual project in the entire portfolio of the legendary manufacturer. We invite you to the first impressions of the game!
Three reasons to be cool
This is for three different reasons. First of all – it is the most spectacular, dynamic and accessible tactical system ever developed by them. At first glance, we are still dealing with a classic turn-game, but this time tailored to a wide audience, also one that has so far avoided such games. We do not move the characters around the chessboard like pawns – the battle arenas are so small that all the opponents present on it are within the attack range. The optional movement of a single unit is available only once per turn, and this is only to avoid blasting an area attack or getting closer to the target object. There are three types of commands – attacks, skills, and heroic actions. The former, of course, deal damage, the latter do basically everything else (heal, cover, provide positive status, etc.), the latter, in turn, activate only after scoring a certain number of heroism points and provide access to unfairly strong blows.
However, it must be remembered that we are leading a group of superheroes, so the feeling of power in the paws is absolutely right. However, without exception, the executions of commands are very well animated, often so spectacular that the camera automatically flips, showing the effects of the attack from the best possible perspective. The exchange of blows is really lightning fast, as a result, the whole thing seen from the side may look more like a purebred action game than a derivative of a strategy game. Especially that the difficulty level is not the most polished and the less seasoned players should also cope with the challenge. However, so that it is not too easy, the game is characterized by an element of a certain randomness. The commands are here marked on cards, randomly drawn from the deck at the beginning of each turn. So you have to carve out of what is, show ingenuity, good knowledge of various types of plays, and also use various elements of the environment to fight. So there is no question of mindlessly slapping only the most effective attacks.
Strategy or RPG?
The second great thing is exploration and a strong focus on RPG elements. If you know Fire Emblem: Three Houses, we’re at home. If not, I am in a hurry to explain that turn-based battles are intertwined here with the free exploration of the base in the form of the estate known as The Abbey and the surrounding adjacencies. This is where you will find a training ground where you will hone your skills, a forge to upgrade both cards and the base area, as well as a war room from where you will manage the next moves in the campaign. And this is just the tip of the iceberg, the apparent intimacy of the place hides a whole lot of secret places and additional attractions.
So you can modify the appearance of the leading character, dress him up in various tricks or arrange your personal quarters in your own way. Over time, you will also gain special powers that give you access to previously inaccessible areas surrounding the property, so the adventure side of the game will imperceptibly become an integral part of the game, no less important than the duels themselves. The share of the last unique element of the Marvel Midnight Suns is also important here.
As in the soap opera
Third, then – the game shines in the plot. Or rather, extremely extensive relationships between the characters. You play the role of The Hunter awakened from a very long nap, tailored to your gender and fighting style according to your preferences. This is your individual avatar in the Marvel universe inhabited by a galaxy of various heroes with whom you will have a unique opportunity to establish personal relationships here. With the constantly expanding gang of Marvels, you can not only conduct extensive debates, but also hang out in the pool together, watch movies or go for walks.
This allows you not only to explore their characters, but also to strengthen the bond, which will translate into better synchronization and more powerful attacks during the action. Such a strong focus on adventure and story aspects is completely unlike this developer, so I admire them all the more for dealing with this topic so efficiently. Okay, maybe during the conversation the characters usually stand like columns of salt, and their facial expressions are reminiscent of BioWare’s worst years, but more importantly, this side of the game is at least as playable as the tactical crux of the matter and personally got me more than the duels themselves.
A bit of everything
Marvel Midnight Suns is a damn intriguing production, standing at the intersection of a classic tactical game, a narrative adventure, a thoroughbred RPG and a flashy action game. It successfully balances between the elements characteristic of Firaxis and areas completely unexplored by them so far. Thanks to this species diversity, it does not force one type of activity and pushes the action forward briskly.
After spending 4 hours with a pad in my hands, my only fear is that the combat system is too little diversified and too simplified, which may not turn out to be diverse enough to be equally involved in the supposedly 60-hour story campaign. But there will still be time for a final verdict on this matter.