Why I Still Play Marvel Heroes: Part 1

Marvel Heroes (now Marvel Heroes 2015, probably soon to be Marvel Heroes 2016 or Marvel Heroes NOW, or Uncanny Marvel Heroes, or All New All Different Marvel Heroes) was released just about two years ago.  I have spent most of that time as an active player, with some lapses here and there.  I have been firmly back into the game for about two months now.  Since I last left in the late-summer of 2014, so much has changed in the game, and those changes are almost universally for the better.  So, I have a lot to talk about.

In the interest of full disclosure, before I dive in, those of you that know me know that I am a pretty huge Marvel nerd.  So, clearly that is one of the major driving forces behind my love of the game.  Aside from that, however, Marvel Heroes does so many things right that other, similar games either get wrong or have not even thought of attempting that this is a game that should have some amount of universal appeal.

Also, this was going to be one massive post, but I was closing in on 2,000 words and was only about half done, so I am splitting it up into at least three posts.  This first one will concentrate on the numerous ways to play the game.  Spoiler, there are a lot!

Modes, Modes, Modes

The first thing that sets Marvel Heroes apart is that there is so much to do, as long as you like constantly beating on the bad guys.  Put another way, there seem to be dozens (or maybe a dozen) of venues in which to beat the crap out of villains from the iconic (Dr. Doom, Magneto, Red Skull) to the mundane (Batroc the Leaper, Living Laser), as well as hosts of minions.

First, there is the Story Mode, filled with quests, quest rewards, dynamic events, treasure rooms, supervillain boss encounters, motion comic cut scenes, public combat zones, and instanced “dungeons.”  This mode has been in the game since the outset with a view revamps and now with multiple difficulty modes.  It is the first mode new players encounter and a good introduction to the game.

The next mode that most people will probably encounter are the patrol zones.  The first introduced was Midtown Manhattan, a zone that you cruise through with up to, I believe, nine other heroes and fight all sorts of randomly-generated enemy groups.  Usually they have a  couple elite characters in them and a ton of normal enemies.  You usually burn through them with AOE and collect the goodies they drop.  The real meat of this zone, however, is the boss fight that spawn every so often.  These consist of 2-6 theme villain groups (e.g., the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, the Sinister Six, the Fearsome Four).  The fights are hectic and sometimes dangerous.  Recently Gazillion (the devs) added mini-bosses that you can fight between boss waves or, for funsies, drag them to another group of bosses to make things even crazier.

The second patrol zone added was Industry City Patrol (or ICP, in this case, not Insane Clown Posse).  Industry City Patrol plays by some of the same rules as Midtown Manhattan, but it is driven more by scenarios.  So you may, for instance, fight waves of AIM creations, followed by MODOK, or you might travel around the map to save civilians from demons, then fight Loki.  Both ICP and MM are great to mindlessly grind out levels by just constantly fighting the enemies that spawn and collecting loot.

Next, one of the older features of the game, is the terminals.  The act like instanced dungeons where you replay one of about 12 levels from the Story Mode, ending in a supervillain fight.  They come in Green and Red variety, signifying different difficulties.  Once you hit level 60, you also get Cosmic terminals, which are some of the harder content in the game and offer some of the best rewards.  It is real easy to die in Cosmic terminals, so you have to be on your game.

In addition to Story Mode, Patrol Zones, and Terminals, there are these zones that I don’t have a name for but feature waves of escalating difficulty and reward.  These are X-Defense (as in defend the X-Mansion) and the SHIELD Holo-Sim.  You enter a short queue for each.  X-Defense puts you in a team of five with the goal being to reach a certain goal (either defeat certain bosses or a number of enemies) before they “capture” a certain number of students.  The SHIELD Holo-Sim puts you on a team of only two.  Each wave has a goal, but the real goal is not to die.  The mode ends when your team has had a total of two deaths.

Now we are up to four different modes.  In addition, there is a mode called a One-Shot Terminal.  These don’t appear anywhere else in the game, have a little story behind them, have various goals throughout the stage, have a main boss and usually some mini-bosses.  They also tend to be quite hard.  I have died many times on these, and I have even failed some of them and have been kicked out.  Currently, there are three in game, Wakanda, Bronx Zoo, and Hydra Island, with plans to add more.

There is also a MOBA-like PVP mode, which I have never played, but I know it exists.

Finally, on top of these six different modes, Marvel Heroes has raids.  There is currently only one six-boss raid, but there is a new raid scheduled to drop in weeks and another in the wings.  The raids are set up for 10 people, there is a group finder, and there are two difficulties.  I have only done the Green raid difficulty, and it was not terribly hard, as it should be.  I have heard the Red difficulty is much harder.  The bosses have some decent mechanics that you need to learn, but are not quite the level of a major WoW raid boss.  The interesting mechanic in this game is that you are fighting against both an enrage timer and a death counter.  Between the 10 of you, you can only have a total of 30 deaths, or the fight resets.  The mechanic is interesting in the fact that it recognizes that some amount of deaths are inevitable in an ARPG.

Finally, finally (yeah, I almost forgot this), there are portals that you can pick up or craft to various cow levels and also a Doop Training Level.  Fun and silly, yet challenging ways to burn through some experience or earn loot.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg.  A new game mode will be coming out with Avengers: Age of Ultron.  Cosmic versions of MM and ICP were just introduced and are meant to be challenging for well-geared max-level characters.  As said above, new raids are coming out soon.  The devs are also hard at work on the X-men’s iconic Danger Room, a mode that will reportedly allow you to run through a number of different “programmed” scenarios, with a number of different ways to find new ones.

One of the drawbacks to such a high number of options for modes is that people flock to those modes that give the best rewards, particularly when trying to level multiple characters.  As a result, Story Mode can seem relatively lonely compared to the other modes, and, as said above, that is the mode that most people encounter first.  The devs recognize this fact, however, and even the Story Mode is going through another revamp.

Goals, Goals, Goals

All of these various modes are nice, but what’s even better is that Marvel Heroes gives you plenty of reasons to visit these different zones.  Legendary Quests start to pop up at level 20.  They are the best way to earn experience and “Odin Points” which are used to buy powerful Legendary Items and Blessings to enchant your Artifacts (think trinkets).  The require you to complete certain objectives in either Story Mode, a Terminal, or one of the Challenges (ICP, MM, X-Def, or Holo-Sim).  You can reroll the Legendary Quest for a certain number of in-game currency, or you can let them drag you all over the game world.

In addition to Legendary Quests, there are also Daily Shared Quests.  There are three of them that give you sizable amounts of loot and experience for completing each one.  Each of the three will require that you put in a decent amount of time and effort into one of the games different modes.  One Daily Quest requires that you complete a certain number of waves of either X-Def or the Holo-Sim, another sends you through Terminals to defeat bosses,  and the third sends you to either Midtown or Industry City.

Finally, Marvel Heroes has a number of events that occur for a week at a time and rotate through every month.  Depending on the event, you may have missions to go to the Holo-Sim, to Industry City, or to achieve other goals.  Rewards from these events include powerful items, recipes, crafting ingredients, and most importantly the Agent Coulson team-up (want!).

And these are just the basic goals of leveling and general gearing-up.  Assuming you want your character to be the most powerful he/she can be, there are a host of things you can do to improve your gear and performance.  There are powerful rings that drop only in Midtown and Industry City.  There are boss-specific Unique items and Artifacts that you might spend hours trying to farm from terminals.  Your non-combat pets can now give you bonuses that you earn by “vacuuming up” the gear you don’t want.  There is raid currency that drops from some of the harder bosses in the game (including the raid bosses).  There are certain mission rewards from Story Mode that you will want (respec potions, extra skill points, some decent Artifacts).

That’s It for Today

When we talk next time, I will be focusing on the large, and ever-expanding game roster and what this means not only for gameplay (hint: it means a lot) but also for player inclusiveness.  We will consider what it means for an MMO/ARPG to have 46 (yes 46) distinct classes and what the actual depth of the different characters is.  I am also going to focus on one of my particular favorites: Rogue.  With the ability to steal powers from other characters, team-up heroes, and bosses and fully customize your kit based on more than 100 different available powers, she is easily one of the most impressive characters (or classes) I have run across in such a game.

And, there will be screenshots!

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