It’s been a long time coming, but we’re finally this close to getting our hands on Marvel’s Midnight Suns, the upcoming tactical turn-based RPG from Firaxis Games, the minds behind the critically-acclaimed XCOM games.
Ahead of its December 2 release date, we were fortunate enough to try out a sizable chunk of it to share our thoughts. This preview will cover roughly the first 10 or so hours of the game, which is enough to give us a good understanding of its systems and gameplay loop.
Still on the fence about it? Read on below!
Midnight Suns takes place in the “darker” side of the Marvel Universe, where we see our superheroes join forces to take on the omega-level threat, Lilith, the Mother of Demons who has been awakened by Hydra to wreak havoc.
To stop Lilith, Doctor Strange sets out for The Abbey and gets in contact with the Midnight Suns, a group of heroes that banded together in response to Lilith’s resurrection. At the center of it all is The Hunter, the first customizable hero in the Marvel Universe, and your character in the game.
Players will get some basic form of character customization, but don’t expect tons of sliders. You’ll only really get to mess around with facial features and hair, which is enough in some cases. While there are a ton of other customization options in Midnight Suns, those come in the form of cosmetic options like outfits, wardrobe pieces, room decorations, and more. Enough to keep players busy, and best of all, no sign of microtransactions.
The core loop of Midnight Suns is spread across 3 phases – Battle Prep, Abbey Life, and Combat. We’ll talk about combat later and head on to the more administrative parts of the game first.
Non-combat sequences will take place in The Abbey, which will basically be your headquarters. Players will be acquainted with the area via a third-person over-the-shoulder perspective where exploration can yield some rewards.
As the venue where preparations take place, players can go through the usual motions before battles, like unlocking new abilities using a currency called “Gamma Coils,” crafting items for use, sending heroes out on operations, and much more. There’s a lot to do in The Abbey, and part of your success on the field will depend on how prepared you are during these sessions.
Part of the activities in The Abbey will revolve around building relationships with your peers. While some players may find it unnecessary, these moments will be rewarding to players, since they can unlock additional abilities when the bonds between teammates are strengthened through the friendship system.
Some dialogues will also allow players to choose a Light or Dark path, which is basically your alignment in the game and will eventually lead to unlocking certain abilities down the line.
Just like other relationship-building games, players will be given dialog choices in Midnight Suns, and paying attention will be key because you don’t just build relationships; you can also lose them. As is usual, giving gifts and going out on activities are also present, and players will have to know their teammates inside out to figure out the best choices to make.
This friendship system doesn’t really innovate or introduce ideas that are out of the ordinary, but it does offer an entertaining break from combat sessions. Sadly, one thing that makes the process a bit tedious is the fact that for a game that pushes this sort of engagement, much of the writing is atrocious, with a lot of forced comedy that doesn’t often land properly.
From Tony Stark to Doctor Strange, and even to Blade, the humor in Midnight Suns is very dry, and each of the characters seems to have an endless supply of quips that do nothing to add value to the game. While other lines are passable, most of them will really make your eyes roll.
I’m not completely convinced about the whole Abbey Life part of the game just yet because a lot of it feels very awkward and off, but I’ll have to play more to find out.
No Percentages Here
Midnight Suns is built around fantastic combat foundations that are the bread and butter of Firaxis. The strategy required during combat sequences is very engaging, and is, in some ways, an iteration of the familiar XCOM formula.
Instead of having set actions like “Attack” or “Item” per turn, players are given random cards chosen from a deck. Each of your characters will have a deck from which their cards will be chosen from (this is the random part), so part of the strategy is ensuring that the deck is synergized for battle.
Players are also given a set number of actions that they can do in a turn. For example, players can only use 3 card-based actions in a turn, can only redraw cards 2 times in a turn, and can only move once a turn. Interestingly, you can spend all of these actions on just one hero, Blade for example, while the others just watch. This is a shared number across all of your playable characters, and managing this resource is crucial.
While familiar, there are also some mechanics that Midnight Suns does a bit differently compared to XCOM. Movement around the field isn’t limited to a certain range, but as mentioned earlier, you are only granted limited moves per turn. One other thing that the game does differently is remove percentage-based attacks and most of the things that come along with them, like cover.
Some cards will generate Heroism, a resource that will allow players to pull off powerful attacks and even manipulate the environment. There’s a balance in choosing how to control your resources, and it offers a nice cerebral aspect to combat apart from just mindlessly choosing what cards to use in a turn.
Foes in Midnight Suns are divided into three types – Minions, Elites, and Bosses. Minions basically die in one hit, while Elites and Bosses will have huge life bars that may require more than one attack to deplete. Each time a turn is over, more enemies will join as reinforcements, so players will need to constantly be active with attacks to avoid getting overwhelmed.
To a certain degree, this lessens the strategic aspect that XCOM has due to enemies knowing instantly where you are, eliminating the element of surprise. On the other hand, players are encouraged to pick up the pace and use every resource they have wisely, so the trade-off leans more towards an action-filled fight.
Battles are strategic and require a lot of environmental usage and knockbacks to play effectively. Since positioning here is treated differently compared to XCOM, it’s almost always better to play and stay aggressive.
So far, Marvel’s Midnight Suns looks like another title that fans of tactical RPGs will enjoy. It’s easy to pick up but also offers the depth and strategy that Firaxis is known for. Other than a few complaints about the Abbey-related proceedings, we’re excited to see how this will turn out as we put more hours into it.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is launching on December 2, 2022, for the PS5, Xbox Series, and PC. PS4, Xbox One, and Switch versions of the game will be released at a later date.