Marvel Heroes Omega is a parent-child gaming joy
Free to play action RPG Marvel Heroes Omega should be on the radar of the parent gamer. The Lycra-clad loot fest has been around the block on PC, but is due to hit consoles on June 30.
Sticky bit first – the game is rated ESRB Teen for its violent content. Luckily the game’s free, so you can try a few characters solo to see whether the guns and swords are too much for your little one. I play with my eight-year-old son and consider it nothing more than run-of-the-mill cartoon violence.
Multiplayer option include couch co-op, where a second player can choose a hero from player one’s roster. Any progress, loot and transactions are kept in one PSN account, perfect for keeping tabs on your hero-in-training. There are further options to team up with your buddies online, in the now-standard what you see is yours to loot ARPG style.
This game stands on its license, and without it would not draw the attention of kid or parent. The gathering of recognisable superheroes is the spoonful of sugar that will help ease your young protégé into the action RPG genre (and that future addiction to Diablo 4).
The storyline was penned by a Marvel great, but hardly matters. The variety of each character’s abilities will make you curious enough to try many, and cutscenes are soon an inconvenient interruption to those with their mind on the grind.
Story-driven gamers are probably not only looking at the wrong game, but the wrong genre entirely; repetition inevitably becomes integral in an ARPG. There are flimsy and self-aware excuses for things like multiple versions of the same character being on screen in hub areas. This is unlikely to break immersion; you’ll be immersed in combos, multiplies, and making henchmen regret their career choices, not why it takes three Incredible Hulks to kill Green Goblin.
Each hero in the 38-strong roster is free to play up until level 10 (the level cap is 60) at which point you’ll need to cough up currency bought with your hard-earned, or an in-game currency which trickles out during the grind.
Those first ten levels are by no means the most enjoyable. They are not enough to unlock most of a character’s abilities, but they are enough to get a taste of whether that hero is for you. It’s a fair introduction, and the roster size gives plenty of options to jump to if your childhood favourite hero turns out to have a weak move list, or a particularly annoying dialogue snippet (Wolverine, I will never forgive).
For the gamer parent on a budget, there are hours of play to be had running through those first 10 levels and first story components, mixing and matching different members of the cast. My son showed no signs of boredom while testing out low level characters, and all the while we were spending time together sharing our favourite hobby and chatting comic book nonsense.
If you do break open your wallet, there is a promising backlog of content from the PC release, not least of all a 62-character roster. Some of that will inevitably make its way to the consoles. Developers Gazillionaire Entertainment has the mixed reputation to be expected of a F2P developer, and has a 10-year license for the Marvel characters which is up in 2019. That is to say: any investment will probably be good for at least as long as it takes for the Next Big Thing to turn your and your co-op player’s heads.
Embiggen the numbers
The aim of the game is to make the numbers bigger through levelling and gathering loot. Both are achieved through killing enemies including familiar supervillains, using whatever you having laying around, laser eyes, spider webs, mythological hammers or adamantium claws (still not forgiven).
The combat varies well enough by character, and the game’s difficulty is such you don’t need a detailed understanding of how to best leverage a character’s mechanics. Pick the abilities that feel right, choose the highest level items, and you’ll make your way through the game with enough deaths to make it feel a challenge.
(If you played the closed beta then fret not – the game is no longer ridden with the input lag or whatever caused the delay between pressing the kill button and making a thing die).
The graphics take a little getting used to. Some characters have quite reserved animations, others fill the screens with whirling explosions of colour. It only takes a couple of extra online players fighting the same boss to make identifying your targets and character quite difficult. Fortunately, there is enough satisfaction in doing your best to top up that colourful maelstrom with your own flashy damage-dealers, and a jovial scream of “I have no idea what’s happening” is as good a reason to share a laugh as any.
Action RPGs were never meant to be on consoles. Diablo 3 proved to the gaming public that the genre was not the preserve of those with a robust mouse and a future riddled with RSI. Marvel Heroes Omega draws enough inventory management and control cues from the Blizzard blockbuster, but its differences are where it demonstrates its value, especially that expanded roster.
For the grown-up gamer there is the necessary list of stats and abilities to dive into, tweaks and optimisations to be made and builds to be googled. There are plenty of things to upgrade and numbers to make bigger in the endgame if that’s your bag. One of the appeals for the parent-child duo is that progress milestones on one character brings buffs to others through a synergy system.
My son and I have a pair of characters we play together, and when he’s not around I level some others solo. Through the synergy system and the few percentage points in bonuses it brings to our ‘together characters’, I can pretend I’m levelling those solo characters for the boy’s benefit. Dad of the year.
I’ve been through a Diablo addiction, (1, 2 and 3) and still regularly jump back in for a new season on Blizzard’s loathed-at-launch demonfest. Marvel Heroes Omega does not scratch the itch in quite the same way as Diablo, but the fact that I can sit there for hours and enjoy it with my boy far outweighs any missing polish.
Marvel Heroes Omega launches on Xbox One and Playstation 4 now.