Initial impressions of Marvel’s Avengers spread across the game enthusiast landscape like wildfire. Podcasts and articles all seemed to say the same thing: “Damn, that Avengers game is way more charming than I expected,” or, “This is really a Ms. Marvel / Kamala Khan game,” speaking to the way her story mirrored Lara Croft’s journey in the Tomb Raider reboots by the same developer.
What I didn’t see too much of was the follow-up impressions after those first few hours, as the traditional single player campaign elements fall away to reveal an extended tutorial for the live service game that Avengers ultimately is.
I was in that same boat with everyone else in those opening hours, wondering why this game needed to have multiplayer and microtransactions and leveling up and gear. Why wasn’t Marvel’s Avengers more like Marvel’s Spider-Man: a story-focused, single player adventure?
The answer to that comes just after the opening hours—after the typical first impression window—as Kamala moves over to the sidelines. You play as more of the core Avengers, thrown into missions with matchmaking and co-op. Objectives shift from “beat up a few guys and watch a cool cutscene” to “take a tour of this game’s version of Destiny’s Tower, meeting all the different vendors or gear and cosmetic items along the way.”
Sometimes the campaign feels like the kind of traditional single player game developer Crystal Dynamics is known for. But mostly it’s a tutorial for an endlessly online co-op grindfest. The end result feels like a failure in both respects, as it doesn’t rise to the heights of a great single player story, nor does it get you to the game’s multiplayer loop fast enough.
Only out of curiosity did I continue beyond the credits and begin to dabble in the true heart of Marvel’s Avengers. Only out of curiosity did I sit through several 15-minute matchmaking segments to play dull missions and start to unlock new abilities.
I decided to focus on Ms. Marvel, partly because I liked her and partly because she’s the character I’d leveled up the most by the time the campaign was over. It took entirely too long, but I finally hit a point where I had enough cool abilities and enough ways to get those cool abilities back quickly that the game started to click.
Once you get into the higher level content with higher level characters, the core combat of Marvel’s Avengers starts to feel really satisfying.
In the original Destiny, you started out with some boring, basic guns. You had to unlock things like double jumps and grenades. The game was okay, but it didn’t feel amazing until after a few hours of leveling up. Marvel’s Avengers has a very similar progression, but stretched out to something closer to 15 hours. It’s inexcusable.
But after a full day of grinding missions with random co-op folks, having more and more fun, I came to the realization that there was something to this game.
This isn’t a particularly important revelation right now, as the game really demands a lot out of players to start having true fun with it. I wouldn’t try to force that “it gets good after 15 hours” premise on anyone unless they really love Marvel stuff.
That said, the fact that Marvel’s Avengers has a competent core gameplay loop buried in there actually gets me pretty excited. None of the Destiny clones have grabbed me so far because they don’t really have the same fundamentals. Destiny started on a fantastic foundation with very little built up around it, and now years later it’s in a class of its own.
My point isn’t so much that Marvel’s Avengers is worth your time now. But, as someone who has dabbled with a lot of these types of games, I think that with a year or two of support (or a Marvel’s Avengers 2), this game will be something truly exciting, that a lot more people will want to pay attention to.
The foundation isn’t quite as sturdy as the initial release of Destiny, but it’s not nearly the house of cards we got with Bioware’s Anthem. Keep an eye on this one, I think it may surprise us in the end.