Marvel’s Avengers Beta Impressions – Perfectly Balanced

Marvel’s Avengers is releasing on September 4 and one of the biggest criticisms about the game is that the players didn’t really get a feel of what the game was and how it would play. Developers Crystal Dynamics have been receptive, and in fact have gone on to host a couple of War Table streams outlining what players can expect from the game.

The biggest announcement was that of a demo that players will get to access throughout August. Each weekend starting August 7 until the 21st will have waves of beta players that will finally get to see for themselves what the game is all about.

We were fortunate enough to jump early into a beta build of the game, which is the same build that players will be exposed to on the 7th, and we’re here to share our impressions of the game. Got some questions you want answered? Let’s go!

The story so far…

So what exactly is Marvel’s Avengers? For those not in the know, it’s an action adventure game where you get to control some of your favorite Marvel superheros like Iron Man, Thor, Black Widow, Kamala Khan, Captain America, and much more. Apart from the character designs being different from their MCU counterparts, the game will also follow an original story centered around M.O.D.O.K as the villain.

The beta starts out during the unveiling of the Avengers’s new headquarters and Helicarrier, the Chimera. Because of an attack led by Taskmaster, the festivities were interrupted and in the aftermath, much of San Francisco was destroyed, including the Golden Gate Bridge among other casualties. With the Avengers bearing the brunt of the blame, a new organization called A.I.M. (Advanced Idea Mechanics) was tasked to take over hero duties with technology and robots. A-Day, which was supposed to be a day of celebration, became one of infamy.

Five years later, the Avengers have disbanded and A.I.M. is still in control. Enter Kamala Khan, an enthusiastic Avengers superfan who gained shapeshifting abilities because of A-Day, who sets out on a quest to reunite Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and uncover the truth behind everything.

A-Day of Infamy

The game starts during the events of A-Day where, for a brief time, you can control each of the featured Avengers. First thing you’ll notice is that they move and fight exactly how you’d imagine them to. Iron Man can fly and shoot repulsor blasts. Thor has a mean swing and can throw and recall his Mjolnir. So on and so forth.

Through this alone, the beta does its job pretty well of putting you through the paces of each character, allowing you to immediately get a feel of how varied each playstyle is going to be.

The controls are simple and actually easy to pick up and play. You have a standard and strong attack, a jump, and a dodge. The shoulder buttons are relegated to your character’s Heroic abilities, consisting of Assault, Support, and Ultimate. Assault is your offensive ability. Support varies per character and can affect your party in different ways. Black Widow, for example, can cloak the entire party while Hulk gets increased armor all while provoking enemy attacks. Ultimate Heroic abilities are your most badass moves, like Iron Man summoning the Hulkbuster to inflict massive damage. There’s a good and varied mix of heroic abilities per character, which is a good sign that Crystal Dynamics has heavily considered how much team roles and composition will matter in the full game.

Gameplay is actually crisp and responsive, but the flight sequences will take a bit of getting used to. The Hulk, in our experience, was a blast to play as, but we can’t quite give the same amount of enthusiasm for the others. Some of the other members, Thor in particular, lacked a certain oomph to his attacks, leaving us to wonder why he doesn’t feel as powerful as he should be. To be fair, Thor is only playable during the tutorials, which may explain why that could be the case.

After the events of A-Day, the Beta quickly shifts to Kamala Khan and Bruce Banner, out to once again reunite the Avengers, all aboard the semi functioning Chimera, which becomes your main base of operations and the main hub of the game.

We’ve come to bargain… again and again.

After quite a lengthy prologue, the world opens up and thus the “real” game takes place. If you’ve played games like Destiny or Anthem, you’d know what to expect from the Avengers – a cycle of story based missions to push the game forward, instance based ‘dungeons’ called War Zones, short objective based missions called Drop Zones, all while obtaining increasingly powerful loot.

You tackle these missions with 3 other companions and they can be either AI controlled or with 3 other players. The beta opens up Iron Man and Black Widow along with The Hulk and Kamala Khan, so your character options are pretty varied.

The Beta Missions are fairly short, usually a 10-15 minute romp consisting of just 2 or 3 areas each. On the way you will also pick up resources and gear, which will vary in rarity from common to epic (what we found so far). Adding to the grind are collectibles like comics and currency that allows you to purchase various outfits and hero cards for additional customization.

This is fairly basic stuff for a game of this type, and is something we’ve come to expect but from what we’ve seen so far, the game offers limited mission variety to make the grind interesting and worthwhile. For a beta, there is quite a nice selection of missions, but aside from a change of scenery, they all felt the same in level design and objective – get this, defend that, destroy those. More variety may open up at later levels though, so we’ll be keeping an eye out for that.

The enemies, while composed of generic grunts as well as bigger and badder variants, are pretty tough even at normal difficulty, which could factor into the whole multiplayer aspect of the game. While AI companions will only get you so far, taking on the harder missions of the game will require more coordination and proper team composition, which is something that players can look forward to.

Progression in the game is your standard RPG fare, with missions to reward you with loot and gear that lets you take on harder, higher leveled missions. Rinse and repeat. Gear also offers perks that will enhance your skills and your build, so the challenge is actually finding the perfect roll to fit your intended build.

As you level up, you also get skill points to use across multiple skill trees, prompting the players to employ certain builds, which is a great addition that allows for team composition aspects. Hulk, for example has trees focused on his melee, his grab attacks, and Heroic abilities, giving you a choice of what to focus on. Even in the beta, you will come to understand that certain characters are fit for certain roles, and they will surely factor in the harder challenges later in the full game.

From what we’ve seen, these skill trees add an attack or two here and there, improve an effect, but nothing that would really drastically change the style of play. To be fair, the recent War Table deep dive video specified that the full game will have multiple pages of skills, so we’ll have to leave out a final verdict on how varied builds can actually be. We understand that the beta shows just a glimpse, and in that sense, you can choose from quite a lot of options.

Perfectly Balanced, Like All Things Should Be

While this is just a beta, we expect some things to improve over time, but the game can be considered just as Thanos’s iconic line says: perfectly balanced. In other words, it’s good, but it also has some things that we’ll need to call out.

Character presentation is actually impressive, and while the character models aren’t those of the MCU’s, Crystal Dynamics have recreated the Avengers strikingly well. On the other hand, the in-game graphics look a wee bit average. It looks… good, and that’s it. Not really mind-blowing or breathtakingly good. Just good.

The audio of the game could use a bit of beefing up as well, as nothing really stood out from the game. Some of the explosions “feel” big and great, but there are a few things (Thor’s attacks, as mentioned earlier) that lacked a certain heft to it, making it feel less impressive than it should be.

The writing is also not something to write (heh) home about, as it comes off a bit too generic at times. While Kamala Khan is somewhat effective as the ‘superfan’ and Bruce Banner as the calm but witty doctor, some of Iron Man’s lines are rather eye-rolling and tend to feel a little off character.

One of our biggest gripes comes by way of the camera work. During hectic combat sequences, the camera tends to shake a bit too much, even getting caught in weird angles when in tight spaces, leaving us a bit disoriented after the battle. This is especially evident with melee based characters like Black Widow or The Hulk and while you get used to the fact, it is definitely something that could turn away some players. This can probably be solved by moving the camera back a bit, but as it is, it could be a minor nuisance to some.

We’re In The Endgame Now

Overall, our time with the Beta Version of Marvel’s Avengers was a perfectly balanced experience. The game has potential to be a fantastic multiplayer experience, but as with all others that came before it, endgame content is where the title must deliver.

Considering our gripes above are tolerable and can be fixed, this is a grind-based game and since you’ll be repeating missions over and over again, the game must make it feel interesting enough to be worth the time. So far, at least from what we saw, the missions could fall in the trap of feeling too generic and lacking in variety as you progress in the game.

The prospect of the higher leveled dungeons and raids using specific team compositions are quite enticing so we’re delaying passing judgment on the game but at least for the beta, it accomplishes its job of getting your feet wet pretty well, enough for you to make an informed decision on whether the game is for you or not.

Marvel’s Avengers will have 3 beta dates – August 7 for PlayStation pre-orders, August 14 for Xbox One / PC preorders and PlayStation players, and August 21 as an open beta for all.

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