Happy New Year to my ten readers out there. Marvel Heroes has been eating up a ton of my time lately, and it doesn’t look like that will be changing in the near future. I have been playing fairly consistently for the past seven months, with my activity waning substantially around the launch of FFXIV. I am back to almost exclusively playing Marvel Heroes, and there are a lot of things that I am digging about the game.
Chief among the features that are compelling me to play more is the strong encouragement the game gives you to play alts, and the vast number of choices that you have. Now, this “encouragement” is likely also meant to get you to spend money on the game. Characters can be purchased or earned in game. Additional storage space and costumes must be purchased. The more alts people play, the more money they are likely to have spent or to spend in the future. Despite this, however, these systems that compel me to play alts end up increasing my enjoyment of the game because there is such a variety to the gameplay of each character. There are 29 different characters, and each represents a different class. That means that, as of today, Marvel Heroes has 29 different classes. A year from now, it will have at least twelve more – a staggering 41 or more classes.
Although there are many different characters and classes, there is naturally a bit of overlap between them. This post is my brief perspective on the classes I have played to some extent. I plan to make additional, more detailed posts going into each character’s playstyle. We’ll see if that actually happens.
So, how does Marvel Heroes encourage you to play alts? First, for each character that reaches level 25, you gain a synergy that all heroes can use. You gain a second synergy bonus for reaching level 50 with a hero. These “synergies” are slight bonuses to a hero’s stats that are thematically consistent with the hero you have leveled, such as brutal strike rating for Wolverine or projectile deflection for Captain America. These are great bonuses and add a level of customization (each character can only have a max of 10 synergies active), but alone are not a huge motivation for me. Given the current state of the game, they are not going to make or break your character.
More important for me are Legendary Quests. Recently added to the game, these quests are randomly selected, appropriate for your level, and send you to various places in the game world to complete their objectives. The rewards are a large amount of experience and Odin Marks, a currency that you use to buy new Legendary Items that give you a huge boost to some stats. The Legendary Items also can be leveled through experience gains, so they give you more motivation to play a max level character. In short, I want.
Legendary Quests lately have been the order of the day for me. The rub here is that the first Legendary Quest you complete for each character per day awards you an extra Odin Mark, and you can’t access Legendary Quests until level 20. That means the more characters you have at level 20 or higher, the faster you will accumulate Odin Marks and get your Legendary Item.
Finally, I have a bunch of Relics taking up space in my bank. Relics are stackable items that increase health and one secondary stat, with each type of Relic affecting a different stat. Relics are only usable by a character at or above level 20. See a pattern?
Because of these factors, in the last several weeks, I have gone from having one high-level character, one mid-level alt, and a bunch of characters under level 10 to having five characters at least level 30, and one more on his way. As such, I am starting to get a better feel for several characters, how they are similar, and how they are different. Lets take a look at them.
Disclaimers and Stuff
First, there are some characters who excel at crowd control (Storm, Scarlet Witch), others who are excellent bruisers/tanks (Colossus, Hulk, Luke Cage), others who are pet-based classes (Emma Frost, Luke Cage), and still others who are AOE farming powerhouses (Jean Grey, Human Torch). I have not invested a substantial amount of time in any of these characters, so I can’t say much about them and they are not part of this post. I do have characters that fall into each of these categories, so maybe at some point, I will do a follow-up.
Also, I included action screenshots for the fun of it. I took all of these in the Midtown Manhattan zone because it is a fun zone and there is always plenty of action. There is much more variety to the environments in this game. Please don’t think every zone takes place in the same city area.
Finally, it is worth noting that almost every character received major tweaks to damage and survivability in the last couple of weeks. There is no terrible character out there right now (except maybe the Thing), and if you have played a character during an earlier build, they will in all likelihood be substantially different today. There are also going to be several rounds of updates to many characters over the next six months, so things can still change from today.
Now, on to the characters! I will be grouping them by three broad, basic categories: melee, ranged, and hybrid. Let’s start off with…
Melee (Berserker Barrage!)
Naturally, my representative in the pure melee category is Wolverine. He is fast and hits hard when built right. He has a nice leaping AOE bleed that has been in consistent use since launch. He also has a great lunge ability that will zip him around the screen and out of danger or straight to it. He mixes medium-range dodge and armor with his crazy healing ability, which works in three parts – passive regen, life-leech, and a click-to-heal. Currently, his secondary resource – Fury – powers some of the highest damaging attacks in the game.
As a longtime Wolverine fan from the comics, they have done a good job of porting his character into the game.
Ranged (I got nothing clever to say)
My first and highest level ranged character is Cyclops. You see him above taking on the Brotherhood of (Evil) Mutants. Notice the red eye lasers going all over the map? That is one of the most insanely fun basic powers in the game – Ricochet Blast. Did you know that, in addition to being a natural team leader with the red eye laser power, Cyclops is also really, really good at geometry? It’s canon. So, without costing any Spirit, Cyke can almost continuously fire blasts that hit every target in the area. Awesome!
Cyke also has some nice Spirit-spenders in the form of an AOE DoT and a channeled blast that does continuous high damage in any direction you point. This nice array of ranged powers couples with some good movement abilities to keep you alive and some group buffs (including one to experience gain), because, you know, he is a leader.
Cyclops was fun but his powers lacked oomph before the December DPS review patch. Now, he is very powerful and fun to play. As a longtime WoW Hunter, he gets the thumbs up.
Cable, my second-highest pure ranged character, is a cyborg mutant soldier from the future who just happens to be the son of Cyclops and a clone of Jean Grey. If nothing else, Cable proves that characters with mysterious origins should remain a mystery. I like Diet Coke, but please don’t tell me how it’s made.
Cable is a monster in-game with a very different style from Cyclops. He has a speedy, high DPS, single-target ranged basic attack. Other than that, he has no less than four powerful AOE DoTs, three of which you can see above (yellow circle on ground around him, purple lightning-ish circles, column of yellow fire). Cable is all about strategic placement of your DoTs, getting yourself in the right position, and destroying everything.
Speaking of positioning, do you like games that let you teleport (e.g., a mage’s Blink)? Cable is one of a handful of heroes with a teleporting power with no cooldown (in PVE, travel powers have a CD in PVP). Being a point-and-click game, it is simple to hop around the screen, either into or out of the action.
I <3 Hybrids!
My new love in the game is hybrid characters, such as Gambit (above), Captain America, and Spider-man. Each of these characters seem to have viable ranged or melee builds, but players are encouraged to mix and match skills. And let me tell you, mixing it up is where its at.
Not to be outdone by Cable, Gambit is the X-men’s resident Cajun thief/scoundrel with the power to charge up objects with kinetic energy, which then explode on contact. Naturally, Gambit’s weapon of choice is playing cards (and a bo staff). Above you can see Gambit’s first ranged move “Royal Flush,” which throws five cards in a fan pattern that eventually explode. Because of that move, the hybrid build I am preferring is referred to by some as the “Shotgun” build.
Above is an illustration of the Shotgun build in action. Gambit has a few auras, as do many hybrids, that synergize your ranged and melee attacks. Following a hit with an energy power, with the “Black Suits” aura turned on, Gambit’s melee powers do much more damage.
Above, Gambit just landed a Royal Flush and is vaulting through the air to land in the midst of the enemies in an explosive attack. If there are elite enemies who do not die after these attacks, follow up with a melee AOE, roll out, and Royal Flush again. It is a little complex, but extremely rewarding when it works out. Gambit is not quite as durable as a Wolverine, but he has some nicely varied attacks and is very fun to play.
Above is Captain America in mid shield throw. Cap is a hybrid who bears some similarity to both Gambit and Cyclops but with added durability. Cap’s best AOE attack is Shield Bounce, which, like Ricochet Blast, is a hit it and forget it bouncing around to a ton of enemies. Shield Bounce also decreases an enemies defenses and increases the damage of your melee attacks so, you guessed it, after Shield Bounce, it is time to jump into the fray and punch people in the face.
Being a shield slinger, Cap also has a damage shield (thorns) ability and a number of defensive abilities that reduce incoming damage for a time.
Too Soon to Tell
Finally, I have been invested in Thor lately, mainly because I want another character running Legendary Quests and I like his Synergy (+2% to Melee Damage). I am just not sure how I want to play him yet. Ultimately, his lightning attacks are pretty sweet (see above), as are his hammer throws. At the same time, however, he gets some nice bonuses to melee attacks and is more durable than any other character I am currently playing. Odds are, he will become a hybrid-tank for me. Not worried so much about getting out of the way of bad stuff, taking hits, and dealing out damage wherever necessary, be it close by or at range.
I hope that the above illustrates a bit of the range the characters in Marvel Heroes have. Yes, there is some overlap between some of them, but I have learned that even those with similar power sets can feel very different. There truly are 29 classes out there. By the end of January, there will be 30, with the addition of Nightcrawler, an agile dodge-based melee character, who likes to fight with swords and whose mutant powers include teleportation and a prehensile tail. Yes, he will play differently from other characters in the game.
It also important to note that, since the December patch, there are no really horrible builds out there. It is still worth min-maxing to a degree, since there are a limited number of powers you can have active at any given time. It is also worth investing some in passive abilities, since they will increase your damage, survivability, or both across the board. My advice is play the character/class you want and invest in the powers that appear fun so that you can see how they work for you. You can always respec later. Each character has access to three free respec potions by beating Bullseye in Chapter Four in each of the three difficulty modes.
Finally, of the characters above, Captain America is the only one I have significantly played who is currently a free Starter Hero. I have no problem recommending him to anyone giving the game a shot, although you need to consider whether he fits your playstyle and whether there is a hero you simply like more.