For this edition of F2P Kingdom, I was drawn in by the Biggest System Update Ever for Marvel Heroes 2016. While most of the update in question has been specifically about endgame, there was enough done to stats, items, and character advancement to make it worth my while to try Marvel Heroes free to play. Also, I wanted to smash things as She-Hulk. With those incredibly excellent reasons in mind, I strapped on my best super suit and got to work. Here’s what I found.
Marvel Heroes 2016 is the MMOARPG that lets you slip into the boots of various Marvel superheroes and dispense justice by means of punching, shooting or discharging a variety of energy blasts. It’s as colorful and loud as the characters it enlists, bringing all of the enjoyment that many of the more “mindless” comic books have brought me over many years, and I can see why it’s something that people play over and over again.
While I’m not particularly a fan of ARPGs, Marvel Heroes did slowly bring me into the fold and made me just a little more comfortable with using a mouse to hit things instead of number buttons. When my muscle memory wasn’t getting in the way, I was able to dash in and unload on piles of baddies effectively. In fact, the pace of combat is probably one of the most endearing parts of Marvel Heroes. Shared maps feature large groups of enemies that respawn quickly, meaning you’re not really walking from objective to objective in boredom.
When I did have to fight, battles played out with all of the sound, fury, and bravado of the biggest comics out there. Seeing She-Hulk leap in and explode in stomps and smashes or watching an uppercut send bodies sailing through the air never gets old. I was so wrapped up in the on-screen action that many times I wasn’t paying very close attention to my hotbar or character UI. More often than not, I was too busy smooshing as many buttons as I could to punch everything and not busy enough seeing how low my health was or how many resources I had to spend.
There’s a narrative here about Dr. Doom, H.Y.D.R.A. and a bevy of other characters, but I wasn’t really paying close attention to it. Just like most of the simpler comic books I’ve read, the story wasn’t really the point so much as just a pathway to the next fight, which is just fine with me. Of course, there are more engaging MMO stories out there and definitely deeper comic book narratives, but Marvel Heroes just has fun with the license. It’s as close to playing with living action figures as we’re probably going to get.
One of the biggest issues I have with Marvel Heroes is also one of its draws, oddly enough: it’s busyness and amount of things you have to take in. Not only are the battles a lot to keep up with, but the amount of items flying around and the sheer number of currencies thrown at you is almost avalanche-like. It’s an embarrassment of riches and a weird complaint besides, but there is a lot to process and I frequently felt overwhelmed with everything I was being given.
Another completely personal issue I have with this game is that it brought me sailing right back to missing City of Heroes. I miss being a superhero and I’ve got to admit that not being able to create my own character is more than a little sad to me, but when I was able to put those feelings on the shelf Marvel Heroes made me feel like a kid again. I was up to my eyeballs in bombastic comic book goodness and that made me happier than I can adequately explain.
With the specifics of the game out of the way, it’s time to take stock of how Marvel Heroes treats free players. I’ll be breaking down my experience into four different criteria: Account Limitations, Store Interruption, Store Offerings, and Store Reliance. Each point will be rated on three different scales: Minimal, Acceptable, and Oppressive. I’ll also further explain why I came to each rating for each criteria. Finally, I’ll offer my overall feelings, but just remember this wrap-up isn’t an aggregate score, just an overall assessment of Marvel Heroes as a free-to-play title.
Account Limitations: Minimal
What are Account Limitations? Anything that locks content away from you, from character or class choices, to hotbars or access to dungeons or endgame. These are things that flag you as one of the “freeloaders” and restricts your play.
You have full reign of the entire Marvel Heroes roster from the very start up to level 10. I repeat: every character can be played with up to level 10. This behavior set the tone for my entire Marvel Heroes free to play experience. It’s generous beyond all belief. What’s more, you’re granted a huge chunk of Infinity Shards, a currency that you can use to fully unlock a hero and play the entire game with.
This “try before you buy” policy blew me away, and I was finding myself plucking at nearly every member of the roster to see what they were like. Of course, this does have the drawback of having to play the opening missions over and over again, but that’s an incredibly minor complaint.
As far as other content goes, I saw no walls getting in the way of anything I wanted to do. Once I settled on a main character and unlocked her with my granted currency, the whole of Marvel Heroes was mine to play.
Store Interruption: Minimal
Store Interruption is based on how frequently you’re reminded of the in-game store during play. This either occurs through pop-up reminders that dominate your screen or buttons that redirect you to items offered in the store.
Whenever you fire up the game, you’re hit with one window reminding you of special offers or new items in the game store, but that’s pretty much it. While I’m not a fan of pop-up ads in my game, the window that greets your arrival is the only instance of store interruption.
With everything else the screen throws at you, I’m not so sure that there’s any place for store reminders to appear. In fact, the alerts informing you that you have free gifts for logging in are significantly more colorful than anything alerting you to the store. The button for the store is tucked away in a corner, patiently waiting for you to take a peek.
Store Offerings: Acceptable
The Store Offerings section is a quick look at what the store has to offer. From the selection to the variety of items, this is your at-a-glance idea of whether the store is interesting and if prices seem to be fair.
“Acceptable” falls pitifully short of everything the Marvel Heroes store offers. Skins, Team-Up characters to join in the fight, Heroes, Boosts, Bundles, Special Sales, Fortune Card items; Marvel Heroes has one of the most packed storefronts I have ever seen in any free to play game.
The stuff being offered actually heightened that sense of being overwhelmed I mentioned earlier. In this case, however, it was definitely a positive more than a negative. Being shown so many different options is awesome, and every item had a reasonable price.
Store Reliance: Minimal
This is an overall score of whether a game enters the “pay-to-win” realm with its offerings. Does the in-game store have an abundance of boosts? Does the leveling curve feel like you need to buy pots in order to progress? That’s what Store Reliance measures.
There are a lot of boosts in the game’s store, from money earning boosts to XP boosts to boosts that improve your opportunity to find shinies from freshly-beaten enemies. That said, the foes I was fighting were exploding with so much free stuff that I didn’t feel compelled to buy any of these boosts. One might say that the things you’re granted by playing are perhaps a bit too generous!
With that in mind, the boosts seemed more about furthering personal goals than anything necessary. If you wanted to level up an alt character faster, using an XP boost would help, but it ultimately didn’t seem to be required. I honestly believe that you could level up every character in the game and not need a boost.
While I love the overall tone of Marvel Heroes as a game, I’m probably not going to be peeking in very often. That’s more owed to the fact that I’m not as big on MMOARPGs as others may be. As a free to play game, however, Marvel Heroes absolutely nails it. Gazillion has made what could easily be described as the gold standard in free to play MMO business models.
If you love ARPGs, love big comic books, and don’t have a lot of money to spend on MMO gaming, Marvel Heroes is easy to recommend. While the game may have undergone its Biggest Systems Update Ever, the way it treats its free-to-players is absolutely the Best System Ever.
As always, if you’ve got a free to play MMO game you’ve been curious about, let me know in the comments. There’s a lot of options out there, and I’m always eager to take a peek! Until next time, remember: you’re not cheap, you’re thrifty.Related: Column, F2P, F2P Kingdom, Marvel Heroes, MMOARPG, MMORPG