Comic books fans are some of the most hardcore media consumers there are. And so when word came out that Disney and Playdom were making a “casual” Facebook game revolving around the Marvel Universe called Marvel Avengers Alliance, a collective groan could be heard coming from the comic community. But never fear fellow True Believers as it seems that our favorite heroes and villains are in good hands.
Although it may fall under the category of “casual” due to its delivery system to your computers, Marvel Avengers Alliance is shaping up to be an experience that all Marvel-ites will want to be a part of. Set up like a classic RPG, this original story (the release near the movie is a happy coincidence for the game as it has no movie tie-in) you play as your very own agent of SHIELD fresh out of boot camp and your high marks has already garnered the attention of Nick Fury. So when an intergalactic event called “The Pulse” suddenly slams the Earth, he knows just who to call to help round up the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes.
The threat of The Pulse is that super-villains from all over the world are searching for fragments of an element that the Pulse left behind called ISO-8 that can enhance their powers. Turn about is fair play though as later on during your super-heroing career, you’ll be able to use larger and more diverse fragments of ISO-8 yourself to round out your stable of heroes’ abilities or turn them into powerhouses in the areas they are already strongest. Hulk can truly be the strongest there is with an ISO-8 boost, or he can learn a little finesse and accuracy with his Thunder Clap if you so choose.
For every mission you go on, you’ll be able to take two heroes to go with your Agent character and be able to unlock up to 28 heroes overall including Iron Man, Black Widow, Thor, Black Cat, Spider-Man, Captain America, Hulk, the X-Men, and the Fantastic Four. If your favorite character is too many levels away though from being unlocked, there will also be an in-game store where you can purchase the unlock for them as well as a bevy of items to help you on your quest. What is most interesting about all these characters though is how different some of them look. In the picture above, we see more 80s era looking Kitty Pryde (Shadowcat) and Colossus, but I also saw a more modern rendition of She-Hulk and the Ultimate Universe’s version of Nick Fury in the game.
“It’s funny what people key into, but understand that it’s all very intentional and we spoke to Marvel all along the way about what era should we go for look-wise here. I mean Iron Man has 31 different suits of armor, which should we go with in the game, and then what will we have available to the players in the future? Are we going to have all 31 Iron Man suits? Obviously not on Day 1, but the intent is to speak to all the fans and give them all those options. But, it’s interesting what different Marvel fans key into and you should know it’s all not just a happy accident. We were very specific with how all the characters would lay out with their different looks,” said Michael Rubinelli, Vice President of Studio Operations for Playdom when I brought it up.
But aside from forwarding the story and playing through like a regular RPG, with leveling up, turn-based mechanics, and buffs and de-buffs depending on equipment, what makes this appeal to the “Casual” market is the fact that you can call in your friends’ heroes for help and they will receive a reward for making their hero available to you. Mind you, if your team has Captain America and Wolverine on it, you can’t call in your buddy’s Cap or Wolvie as the story won’t support mirrors. There is also PvP match-ups (where mirrors are allowed) where you can put your best team to the test and see how they fair against friends and foes alike, helping to expand on the game experience even further and giving this just as long a life as any other “casual” game.
“You’ve got a game that basically can play out infinitely, and that we’re going to support by continuing to release new content, we’re going to continue adding new features, and there’s no level cap. This game doesn’t ever have to end and so by interacting and people continuing to invest in their characters, those characters can continue to grow indefinitely. And that’s part of the beauty of the Marvel franchise as things change and develop in the comics, we can add things to reflect that in the game as time goes on,” said Robert Reichner, COO and co-founder of Offbeat Creations, who helped work on the game.
And the best part is the investment doesn’t have to be as time-consuming as many other RPGs and MMOs out there (hence the “casual” nature) as you can take heroes you aren’t playing with and send them on missions by themselves to level them up and have them learn new moves before calling on them later (think of the Assassin Recruits in Assassin’s Creed: Revelations). Even when you leave Facebook, the character growth continues, encouraging you that just by putting a few minutes into the game each day can have profound affects on your characters later on.
All in all, Marvel Avengers Alliance looks to be a “casual” game that will finally appeal to that “hardcore” comic book fan. An original story, a deep RPG leveling up system, and all our favorite characters with hopes for more down the road, has me ready to shout Excelsior!
What do you folks think? Are you going to play this casual title? Do you think the Marvel characters will translate well to Facebook? Let us know your thoughts with comments below!