Marvel Heroes hands-on: punch Hulk armies in Gazillion's free-to-play MMO action RPG

This article was originally published in PC Gamer UK issue 252 .

Marvel Heroes embraces an idea that has been kryptonite to other superhero-themed MMOs: it lets players take control of its iconic characters.

"It plays like a gamma-irradiated purée of Diablo II and Marvel Ultimate Alliance"

The official reason that this is possible in this free-to-play action-RPG is a simple plot trick: Doctor Doom is using the Cosmic Cube's reality-bending abilities to reshape the universe in his image, and his efforts are why armies of Hulks can appear onscreen together at once. But the unofficial reasoning is that it doesn't really matter. Gamers want to play as the heroes they love, so why not let them?

When your costume is on, Marvel Heroes plays exactly like a gamma-irradiated purée of Diablo II and Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Realtime mouse-clicking combat? Check. Tons of loot? You bet! Crafting? Absolutely. Randomly generated levels and loot drops? Stop it, my nipples are getting hard. Speaking as a fan of both series (as well as the Marvel universe in general), my time in the closed beta was pure nerdvana.

Upon selecting Fantastic Four's The Thing as my hero, I was taken to Avenger's Tower, which serves as one of the game's public hubs where you can meet other heroes, visit your stash, talk to vendors and crafters, get new missions, and transport to mission areas. My first assignment was to squelch an inmate uprising at The Raft, a prison for superhuman criminals, and as I smashed through the onslaught of revolting prisoners, side missions would pop up, such as saving a fallen guard from a surprise attack by HYDRA operatives. Every namedrop makes me do a squee.

"Players can join the X-Men, The Avengers, or The Fantastic Four."

Fight your way to the end of the campaign and there'll be more to do. The story, or individual missions, can be replayed, and Gazillion CEO (and one time Diablo designer) David Brevik is toying with the idea of adding higher difficulty settings. Endgame content is in the process of being finalised, but expect to see PvE dungeons, raids, challenge levels (boss runs against your favorite supervillains), and, of course, PvP.

While Gazillion aren't ready to spill too many details about PvP, it will be faction-based. Players can join one of three factions – X-Men, The Avengers, or The Fantastic Four – for original story-based encounters that pit hero against hero. Any hero can join any faction, so my Thing can go clobberin' on The Fantastic Four, comic book allegiances be damned. Gazillion emphasise that almost all of the game's content will be free-to-play, with all characters and outfits available via random boss drops. If it's taking too long to unlock a character you really want to play as, however, and you simply cannot wait, any of the game's 22 heroes and their alt costumes available at launch can be purchased immediately with real money.

Marvel Heroes is due out on June 4 this summer.

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