The Avengers Assemble for another Nintendo Switch Exclusive!
Avengers Assemble! Uhh, and the Defenders. Um, and the Midnight Sons. Oh, yeah! X-Men are back too! Huh, we’re recruiting villains too now? Everyone assemble!
So, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 released almost 10 years after the previous installment. After putting over 60 hours into the game, and completing it on Mighty (Normal) and Superior (Hard) difficulties, I’m ready to give my thoughts on the game.
Let’s start with the obvious question. How well does the game use the Marvel license? The answer is very well. The fan service in this game is nothing short of amazing … spectacular … astonishing … you get it. There are a ton of characters in this game from heroes to villains, and from playable to NPCs.
At launch, the game shipped with 36 playable characters and more than 10 are scheduled to be added as post-release content in a mixture of free and paid updates. The selection is surprisingly diverse. Unsurprisingly, a lot of the playable characters are pulled from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Surprisingly, they chose to mix in characters that never showed up in the movies, and also some of the characters that have shown up in the movies are present in their comic forms. Thus, this ends up as a game that isn’t entirely beholden to the movies or the comics. Members of the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, Inhumans, X-Men, Midnight Sons, Defenders, the Spiderverse, etc.can all be found on the roster.
Now, let’s talk about the game itself. I’ll start with audio. The music in the game is serviceable. Other than the theme that plays in menus, nothing has stuck in my head after 60+ hours with the title. Not a single track. All of the characters are fully voiced, and I didn’t find any voices out of place. Everyone is either voiced with a soundalike performance inspired by their movie actors, or a performance that resembles the character’s voice in animated works. If you enjoyed the Deadpool game, you’ll be happy to find that Nolan North has reprised the role (as well as doing other voices).
The visuals are a mixed bag. This game is exclusive to the Switch which is a more powerful system than the Xbox 360 and PS3, but notably weaker than the PS4 and Xbox One variants. The game looks like something that could have been on the 360. Whether this art style was chosen for technical reasons, or an attempt to harken back to the first two games is something I do not know. All of the characters are immediately recognizable, with some nice modeling and decent texture work, but there’s a BIG problem in the visual department. The game uses no anti-aliasing of any kind, and MAN does it show. There are jagged edges everywhere that add a ridiculous amount of noise to what could be a very pretty game. This is especially noticeable since the majority of the game’s cutscenes are pre-rendered as opposed to being done in-engine. When the game shifts back and forth between pre-rendered and in-engine, the aliasing difference is the main thing that stands out (especially if you’re playing docked). Another issue in the visual department is the extremely lazy extra “costumes.” Deadpool gets an alternate costume in the game that is actually a different costume entirely from his standard look (and this costume does show up in the actual game at a point). But the rest of the characters? I haven’t unlocked every single costume yet, but I’ve unlocked a lot of them, and so far every single one of them that isn’t for Deadpool is just a palette swap. Not a different costume the character might have used, or a different look for the character that might come from an alternate comic run or universe. Just … a palette swap. Even Wolverine’s brown and yellow costume isn’t down correctly. They just palette-swapped his yellow, black and blue look to be yellow and brown.
Performance-wise, the game mostly holds to its 30fps target. There are dips but these are almost entirely when players execute a combined ultimate attack that fills the screen with effects and particles. Other than that, the game performs well in docked and undocked. No glaring performance issues, no input lag that I was able to notice.
The menu interface to the game is clunky. The UI has the feel of something that was built to do the job without any concern given to how useful it is to the player, or how easy it is to navigate. There are areas in the UI where the description of a given item is a single line of text that scrolls from right to left. Imagine reading two sentences as the screen only displays three to four words at a time as it slowly scrolls. Compound this with the lack of basic RPG information given to the player. As you advance character skills, you’ll unlock ability points to level the skills up. Each level gives the skill a new property. Reduces cost! Increases Effectiveness! Increases duration! Increases damage! All of these upgrades sound good until you realize the player is given no actual numbers to tell them what they’re really doing.
- Reduces cost. How much does the move cost? Reduces the cost by how much? You aren’t told these things.
- Increases effectiveness. Increases it how? Increases the total healing among? Increases the heal per second? What’re the initial heal values? You aren’t told these things.
- Increases duration. Increases it by how much? Is it a set value increase or a percentage increase? What’s the initial duration? You aren’t told these things.
- Increases damage. By how much? What’s the base damage? You aren’t told these things.
It’s an RPG that’s stingy about telling the player their exact stats. Knowing that my Captain America currently has 8,800 energy points for special moves is nigh useless since I don’t know how much each move costs.
Gameplay and fun. The moment to moment combat is fun in the game once you wrap your head around its systems. Each character brings different combinations of attributes to the fight. Some are single target killers, some excel at clearing out trash mobs, some are healers, some will buff their allies, some will debuff the enemies, and several are combinations of these. Who you choose to bring can have as much of an impact as to how good you are at playing the game. Oh, and you better plan to get good because this game is not as easy as you’d think given the license. Unless you’re way over the level of the enemies you’re fighting, they can chew through your HP quickly. There are also multiple moves that can stun-lock you or juggle you to death if you aren’t careful. The enemy AI isn’t smart, but it has the tools to take you down. And it WILL take you down if you don’t learn your spacing, bring a decent team composition for your playstyle, and learn to use the block/dodge button both for avoiding initial hits AND for dodging out of chains once you’ve been hit so you don’t eat the whole chain. I’ve had a lot of fun taking down the legions of enemies in the game and combining different character movies to take advantage of the synergy system in the game. Similar to Ultimate Alliance 2, two characters can combine their special moves to generate a new effect neither could do alone. Deadpool can fire his SMGs in a line, and Wolverine can slash enemies to pieces in front of him … or you could have Deadpool fire at Wolverine while Wolverine slashes wildly and scatters the bullets radially around the entire room hitting more targets than either could do solo. With 36 characters, each with 4 moves that have different synergy effects depending on what other moves they’re combined with make for a lot of variety in what you can do beyond your own basic move set.
One aspect of the game that has to be mentioned separately from the actual gameplay is the game economy. This game’s economy for *everything* is stingy and grindy. After 60+ hours which includes clearing and repeating several of the game’s challenge mode missions (Infinity Rifts) and completing the story three times (Solo Mighty, Online Co-op Mighty, Solo Superior) I have one level 100 character (the level cap is 100), two in the 90’s, two in the 80’s and the rest are in the 30’s. One of the issues is that the characters you play gain XP, but the ones on your roster who aren’t actively fighting don’t even get reduced XP. They get NOTHING. This problem is even worse if you play in online co-op because now only the character you’re actively using is leveling up; not even four characters, just the one. Now, the game does have a system where enemies drop items called XP cubes that you can feed to characters to level them up, but these cubes are scarce until you start playing on Ultimate difficulty like I’m currently doing. You can’t just start on Ultimate difficulty though. You have to beat the game on Mighty to unlock Superior, then beat Superior to unlock Ultimate, and THEN on Ultimate do you start getting what I feel are adequate drops of useful items like XP cubes and the ISO-8 which is essentially what the game uses as gear to improve your characters. Also worth noting is that each character has 4 moves that have 4 levels apiece, so the game tells you. What it doesn’t mention right away is that each move actually has 5 upgrade levels, but you can’t use that 5th slot until you beat the game … on Superior. So again, you have to beat the game at least twice too, unlike upgrades you’d probably appreciate having access to a lot earlier.
Now the story. I really enjoyed the story, which helps a lot in a game where you need to grind through it multiple times to unlock various things. The story isn’t revolutionary, and I won’t be going into too many details here. If you read the title of the game, then you’ve likely guessed that story centers around Thanos and his Black Order gathering the Infinity Stones to wreak havoc. That’s all I’m willing to say. If you’re a Marvel fan, and you haven’t already, I’d advise against going on YouTube looking for playthroughs so you can have the same “Ahhh!” moments I had when various locations show up, and various characters enter the fray.
All in all, I’ve had a lot of fun with the game and will continue to do so. However, it’s very rough around the edges in places a platform exclusive published by Nintendo themselves has no