The 'Marvel's Avengers' Beta Isn't Making a Very Good First Impression

As a Destiny 2 player, I’ve become accustomed to dealing with a million different resources. From Upgrade Modules to Ascendant Shards, they tie into an ongoing treadmill of content, meant to give a sense of progression as you upgrade various pieces of gear, or use them to get more gear.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/qj4adv/the-marvels-avengers-beta-isnt-making-a-very-good-first-impression-waypoint-radio

The combat of Destiny was strong enough that it could throw the rest of the game on its back and carry it, at least for a bit.

Marvel’s Avengers is not that.

The opening level doesn’t make a super great first impression, but I’ve certainly played good games that make worse first impressions. You get a little stick time with all of the characters. Lots of interaction between the characters. Nolan North and Travis Willingham are not RDJ and Chris Hemsworth, but they’re not bad.

And then the game “opens up.”

Drop into a laboratory environment indistinguishable from every other laboratory environment in the game. Punch the same robots. Hold Triangle to break shields (a thing they don’t tutorialize, so enjoy Hulk Not Smashing). Pick up loot indistinguishable from whatever you have equipped, but the numbers go up. Austin half-joked that it just needs another year to make everything feel good, but there are enough periodic glimmers of a better game here that I just wish they could delay it another 18 months and fix it up. As it stands, though: yikes.

There was a conversation around the new Paper Mario questioning the value of RPG progression for progression’s sake, and games like Avengers resemble that far more than any dedicated RPG I’ve ever played. It is transparently trying to short-circuit your brain’s pleasure centers, because it isn’t confident in any other part of itself.

It seems to think its cutscenes are okay, but they only put like…three in the beta. The part where Kamala undergoes Terrigenesis and actually finds Bruce Banner and the helicarrier is all yadda-yaddaed away in a paragraph of text!

This sounds like some accidental horrible callback to the dodgy-but-high-budget comic games from a couple console generations ago, mixed with this end of gen’s obsession with oatmeal progression. Real double whammy of nothing.

i mean crystal dynamics has just been remaking the same nothing ps1 game for 2+ decades but come on people

Honestly, you nailed it. Absolutely nailed it.

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I’m in a weird place with Avengers, in that I feel like me and my friends are the only ones feeling positive on it. I thought combat was pretty good as Iron Man, Ms Marvel, and Black Widow, although I would agree that Hulk doesn’t feel as good to play. But overall it was fun rolling with my friends and talking Marvel shit. The prospect of all additional story and character content being free is also a really cool selling point for me, especially now when I’m jonesing for more MCU stuff that keeps getting delayed.

As for performance issues, I think that might be mostly on the PC end. On my base PS4 it ran solidly, albeit with chugging at times. But playing on a base console in 2020 that feels kinda expected.

I dunno, I still have the game preordered and am excited to play the full version next week. Although part of me wants to cancel and wait a month for it to go on sale because it’s looking to be a bit of a sales disaster if early impressions are any indication. Still on the fence about that.

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Think we’ll ever fully reckon with the horrific job Square Enix has done with their Western Eidos studios they bought ten years ago? Admittedly, some projects like Thief 4 were grandfathered in. I don’t know if that Legacy of Kain Nosgoth thing was fully them. But also, we’ll never get a Legacy of Kain game ever again.

But like, Tomb Raider was successfully rebooted to incredibly acclaim then they completely crashed and burned that franchise in under a decade. Deus Ex is basically dead too after just two major games. They had a messy divorce with IO Interactive.

Now they have Crystal Dynamics trying to make a fucking Destiny. It makes no sense. I don’t think this game will fail as hard as some believe. Most people don’t care what’s “Avengers” in terms of quality and will buy it without much thought. But man, what a misuse of talent.

(Admittedly I’m extremely salty towards SE as a bitter old Final Fantasy fan, but still. Is this a particularly impressive record?)

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I’m super curious about how the Avengers game came about. Insomniac said of their Spider-Man game that Marvel called them and said “Hey, we really like your work and we want to make a game with you. Anything in the Marvel pantheon you want.” Presumably Crystal D got the same phone call, but how did they wind up with a PS2 game with MTX and Insomniac wound up with Spider-Man?

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Marvel has been demonstrably bad at curating anything outside of the movies. Sony knows they have the biggest superhero on the planet and has (Amazing Spider-Man movies notwithstanding) made good decisions with the property.

A game where the Avengers beat up goons and robots should be a slam dunk, and yet you have this and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 showing otherwise.

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Over the years, I’ve become convinced that a boring old subscription model is the only successful way to make a good live service game that retains people and doesn’t feel abusive. It’s a very eat-your-broccoli solution: you just have to put in the work, make a good product, and build your player base up over time. There’s no shortcut. You can’t just flare up quickly with microtransactions because that’s a great way to flare out.

For a good example of subscription models working, look no further than Final Fantasy XIV. Director Yoshida has repeatedly stated that the revenue stability of their traditional subscription model allows them to budget well for the future and hit their quarterly content schedule like clockwork, a record they maintained near flawlessly for the past 7 years (their first meaningful delay ever was COVID-related).

I’m rather fond of the Elder Scrolls Online model: dropping $60 gets you everything the game has so far (maybe excluding a few dungeons - I don’t remember off the top of my head) and then you just buy content as you want it.

Now that you mention it, it feels like they wanted to do a bigger budget/control just one character MUA, but the various shortcomings of that series aside, part of the appeal was that you had like a bazillion heroes to choose from.

If you’re making a game about all of them, then it has to be a one-size-fits-all brawler where every character is roughly analogous in functionality. Straightforward enough for a Gauntlet riff, less so for a publisher’s central live service game pillar.

Spider-Man PS4, Arkham Asylum, and Hulk: Ultimate Destruction, while by no means original, can explore the gamut of those character’s abilities and design a game around that.

This is a fitting capstone to this generation’s “square peg in round hole” design problem.

I’m not a huge comic or superhero person, but I’m a pretty big fan of anything loot-based. Marvel’s Avengers not only doesn’t seem to understand that Destiny’s loop itself is satisfying, but that picking up new spines for Hulk isn’t exactly inspiring for a game that’s trying to be an action RPG.

It’s very different from picking up a new sword in Diablo that looks different, might have a different swinging animation, could have other properties than extra damage such as elements. This Avengers game also doesn’t seem to lean heavily enough into the RPG part of its loot system, which I think is one thing The Division does well(even if its politics are extremely bad). For some of its faults with the dissonance between its modern military theme and its RPG elements, it at least makes a huge effort to make min-maxing between things like armor sets and weapon attachments pretty important throughout.

Yeah, this game seems to be afflicted by the same curses that bedeviled both Anthem and Star Wars Battlefront II. A team without prior experience in extensive online play making a Destiny-alike and a game with such hard constraints on its monetization strategy that it starts to warp its gameplay in unsatisfying ways.

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