Playing Marvel’s Avengers, a living RPG with microtransactions

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In one scene, Black Widow leaps onto the back of Taskmaster, the big boss in this section, as he flies with a jetpack beside the bridge. He soars among the wreckage on an automatic flight path while players punch him with a string of single button presses, responding to a few QTEs as necessary. The scene is playable with one finger, and even though the attacks are different, it feels a lot like the scripted Iron Man section.

Apparently, in the full game, players will be able to control Iron Man’s flight path, hopefully enriching his aerial mechanics. Crystal Dynamics promises Marvel’s Avengers overall grows a lot harder, larger and more diverse after the tutorial level, and of course it will. It would be difficult to build any game that’s less intricate than its training mode. However, the only portion of the game that the studio has made public is the prologue; the only thing anyone has played is the tutorial. And, as a demonstration of a dense and diverse action game, it’s weak.

Avengers doesn’t appear to be a mechanically tricky game.

The developers aren’t showing off scenes from deeper in the game because they want media and fans to understand how it plays first, according to senior brand director Rich Briggs. That’s fair, though Avengers doesn’t appear to be a mechanically tricky game. It’s a straightforward third-person action experience with button mapping that carries across characters, things that most players wouldn’t have trouble picking up on the fly. As it stands, there’s no public footage of post-tutorial gameplay, and the prologue is still officially in pre-alpha. The game’s May 15th, 2020 release date is coming in hot.

After the demo, Briggs ran through a handful of details about the complete experience, including its two gameplay pillars: Hero Missions and Warzone Missions. Hero Missions comprise the single-player campaign, and they’re character-specific, narrative-driven moments. Meanwhile, Warzone Missions are contained segments that can be played cooperatively and with any hero you’ve already unlocked. Finishing these missions unlocks gear, additional story content and other rewards. Progress is universal across both mission trees, and Crystal Dynamics has planned for years of updates post-launch.

Marvel's Avengers

This is where the game’s RPG elements enter the picture. Avengers features an upgrade system where players can equip items and add perks to individual pieces of gear. Each accessory varies in rarity, and the less common the equipment, the better its perks. The heroes have customizable skill trees as well, and there are plans to add dozens of skins from the Marvel vault for each character. Some of these outfits will be unlocked with progress, while others will only be available for purchase (though none of them will alter how a character actually plays). Otherwise, every fresh character drop and new region will be free for all players.

Crystal Dynamics promises that all of these details will add up to a rich and varied action game worthy of the Marvel brand. However, everything the studio has shown off so far has been stale, derivative and disappointing. As it stands, Avengers is shaping up to be a functional action game. It’s perfectly fine. However, in a world of superheroes, functional isn’t enough.

Images: Square Enix

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