In our second-favorite game of 2022, Firaxis' turn-based pedigree matched well with a party-based RPG to deliver a surprisingly big singleplayer game, one that took 70+ hours to complete. Visit our GOTY 2022 hub for more awards, revealed throughout December.
Evan Lahti, Global Editor-in-Chief: Five years since the disappointment of Mass Effect: Andromeda, Firaxis hits us with an inspired, surprisingly heartfelt party-RPG firmly in BioWare's storytelling style.
Instead of Commander Shephard & Friends making out inside the Normandy, you're one of 13 superheroes living together in a 17th-century magic mansion floating inside a pocket dimension. Go on long walks with Tony Stark; take Blade on a picnic; gripe about your evil parents with goth pal Nico Minoru. Midnight Suns devotes an incredible amount of time to these conversations—it felt like almost half of the 65+ hour campaign—but it pays off.
Morgan Park, Staff Writer: The rumors are true—I have nine superhero best friends and I can't choose a favorite. Blade is my ride-or-die workout bud, but I treasure Captain America's tender wisdom after a long day of ass kickery. If I had to choose a best surprise out of Midnight Suns, it's the way Firaxis has made room in my heart for Marvel characters I don't otherwise care about. At hour one, I barely knew who Blade, Ghost Rider, Magik, and Nico were, but 34 hours later I'd be the best man at any of their weddings. Even heroes I already know from the MCU, like the core Avengers crew, are better explored in this 50-70 hour RPG than a marathon of 25 movies.
That's definitely not how I expected to feel going into another Firaxis game. I gave up on both modern XCOM games because I didn't like all the stuff that wasn't fighting. Base building, world power appeasement, and resource management were chores I'd put off until my resistance collapsed. In Midnight Suns, I'm squeezing every ounce of character interaction, hub expansion, card upgrading, and deck building out of the in-game day before embarking on an actual mission.
Once I do finally pick a fight with a pack of Hydra goons or Lilith's surprisingly organized demons, this abnormal RPG wins me over again. I was one of the cover-based tactics fans dismayed to learn Firaxis was jumping on the deckbuilding trend. There are officially Too Many Card Games, but Midnight Suns' combat is so good that I just have to shut up about it. I especially love its board game-like battlefields that are essentially flat and sparse, but easily readable (something XCOM always struggled with) and artistically successful—decorations like workbenches, supply crates, and street lamps are also tools of environmental destruction. It's like the imagined battleground of a 7-year-old's action figures come to life.
Robin Valentine, Print Editor: No one does a gameplay loop quite like Firaxis, eh? First you get your morning dopamine hit, claiming all sorts of delicious cards, upgrades, and bonuses; then you head out for a supremely satisfying slice of superhero strategy; and then back to base for socialising, with opportunities to push up friendship meters and exhaust dialogue trees. It takes XCOM's one-more-turn compulsion to new heights by suffusing every element with personality and camaraderie.
And if you ever do tire of its warm, fuzzy treadmill, you can hop off and explore the Abbey grounds instead, playing out a whole puzzle metroidvania bursting with treasure chests. Or catch up on superhero social media. Or redecorate your room and pick out everyone's clothes and costumes. It's a lot—and, frankly, the opening hours are overwhelming as a result—but once you're in the swing of things, you feel like a kid in a candy shop, and before you know it you've gorged yourself on turn-based tactical treats.
Jorge Jimenez, Hardware Writer: If there was ever a game that was 100% my shit, it's Midnight Suns. It's got everything I want; superheroes, Slay the Spire card-based combat, and wholesome hangs with my best friends. I swear, if this game had mechs in it somehow, I would talk about it forever.
I'm about 40 hours into Midnight Suns and it's safe to say that it's gotten its hooks into me. Like everyone else, I had no idea what to expect from Firaxis' card-based superhero battler. The card system is a bit jarring and will likely turn away folks expecting to see Wolverine move one tile at a time and attempting to land a 65% chance-to-hit claw strike on Sabretooth.
Instead, you have a thoughtful, robust card system that encourages fun and creative solutions to fun combat puzzles. More importantly, each character plays exactly how they should. Spider-man twips around his webs doing whatever a spider can while Captain America shield bashes magical fascists off buildings. For America.
Jody Macgregor, AU/Weekend Editor: I read a pitch for the Marvel comic Nextwave once, which explained how important it is to see superheroes kicking people, making things explode, and posing for no reason. Firaxis knows what we want. The Midnight Suns pose for no reason all the time, and it rules.
They stride toward every mission in slow-motion, end every pre-fight cutscene in attack formation, and pause when coming home to stand in front of the portal like badasses. You get plenty of time to see whatever glorious nonsense you've made them wear. I've put Wolverine in his classic eye-searing yellow and blue, and my Hunter wears a matching top that declares CYCLOPS WAS RIGHT.
No matter how goofy you've made them dress, their powers always look cool. The animations speed up and slow down at precisely the right moment, giving every attack heft. Iron Man charges up his repulsors with an electric whine that is the noise beam weapons make when they want you to know this is going to hurt. Doctor Strange pulls shapes like he's making mystic jazz hands.
Then there's Magik. She has an ability called Kick, which is literally just a kick. It's a solid thing of straightforward beauty, especially when she's booting someone into one of her magic portals that leads to somewhere mysterious and painful.
Every hero plays differently, the decks giving them as much personality as the outfits and animations. Spider-Man fluidly thwips around the battlefield, his Opportunist card letting him make environmental attacks cheaply and for more damage. He fights like Jackie Chan, hitting enemies with poles and rocks as often as his fists. Iron Man's cards selfishly work best if they're the only things in your hand; Captain America's a team player who can soak damage all day long so others get the glory.
The tactical superhero fights aren't why it took me 90 hours to wrap up the campaign, though. I only squeeze in one or two missions a session. No, I played 90 hours of Midnight Suns because it's a great superhero tactics game that also lets you explore an entire slice of haunted countryside around your HQ, solving puzzles, finding secrets, learning spells, and trying to track down that dang cat. There's a huge amount of everything, and I still kind of want more? XCOM 3 can wait, bring on Midnight Suns 2.
Fraser Brown, Online Editor: It might just be PC Gamer's runner up, but Midnight Suns is without a doubt the greatest game I've played this year. Genuine surprises are rare given the extensive coverage most big games get these days, so I was delighted to discover that this superhero tactical RPG was nothing like what I expected—more Fire Emblem than XCOM.
Like Jody, it took me 90 hours to finish Midnight Suns, despite the fact that it can be finished up in less than half the time. I simply didn't want my time at the spooky Abbey to end, or to say farewell to a cast of heroes I've become deeply, deeply invested in. But I'm glad I finally accepted the last mission, as this is one of those rare games that's blessed with an incredibly satisfying ending that puts its main themes—in this case, the power of friendship—front and centre. It's wholesome without being saccharine.
There hasn't been a game that's gripped me this much since Disco Elysium, which is the highest praise I can give.