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Game Review: Marvel Heroes – Omega (Xbox One)

Game Review: Marvel Heroes – Omega (Xbox One)
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Game Name: Marvel Heroes Omega
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC (Non-Omega Version)
Publisher(s): Gazillion Entertainment, Secret Identity Studios
Developer(s): Gazillion Entertainment
Genre(s): MMO, Hack and Slash
Release Date: June 30th, 2017 / PC: June 4, 2013
ESRB Rating: T - Teen: Violence

Marvel Heroes: Omega is the console version of Marvel Heroes, a PC isometric MMO in the style of the Marvel Alliance franchise. Whereas Marvel Heroes on the PC has changed much over the course of the past 4 years, with various updates to its content and increasing character roster, Marvel Heroes: Omega has finally released on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One with just over half of the characters already available on PC, and a completely revamped crafting system. The game, unfortunately, suffers from a multitude of technical problems and a framerate that borders on almost unplayable throughout several sections of the game, but despite these issues, Marvel Heroes: Omega is a blast to play solo or with a group of friends.

Gazillion has crafted a free-to-play game that it not shy about making you aware that much of what you want is behind a steep paywall, with even breakout character Spider-Gwen as a random Spider-man alternate costume variant. Characters will run you anywhere from around $5 for a less popular character to $10 to $15 for the more standout characters like Deadpool or Rocket Raccoon, with a few characters exclusive to certain bundles. These bundles do make it somewhat cheaper per character, but when you charge $60 for a 6-person Avengers team or $40 for 2 members of the Guardians of the Galaxy, and their movie skins, it starts to get rather ridiculous, and that’s not even talking about the premium currency bundles that peak at the $100 mark.

The game does offer the ability to earn the currency needed to unlock new characters, but unlike the PC version, you can’t craft the alternative costumes and the ones here in Omega are via the pay model only. You can spend real money and earn characters with “G” dollars, or through Eternity Splinters, which are drip-fed in-game like a fully functional faucet, which is to say; they are somewhat rare. A cheap character like Majik is 500 Eternity Splinters and throughout my 16 hours with the game, I have only earned 208 out of the 500 I need to unlock her, and I was very thorough in my hacking and slashing. To own each and every character will either take thousands of hours within the game or hundreds of real-life dollars when you take in account all the extra costumes as well.

The same goes for purchasing costumes with Marvelous Essence, a currency that is given at random via the loot boxes that you pay for with real money. I opened 7 boxes and gained 63 of the 140 I needed for Spider-Gwen. 2 boxes were via the $20 Spider-Man pack, which came with the Homecoming movie outfits, as well as the default Spider-man character, and a 5 pack of Spider-Man themed loot boxes that ‘may’ contain the Spider-Gwen variant. Spoilers; they didn’t, but I did nab the Black Spider-Man costume in the process.

While you can test drive any character up until level 10, you’ll eventually have to make a choice and spend your initial 225 Eternity Splinters on a character that you may not even want, as many characters require a bit more than that to unlock. With my limited funds, I unlocked Angela, as I am a huge fan of the character and was pleased as punch to see her make her Marvel Comics debut just a short few years ago. Currently, the man without fear, Daredevil, is free on both the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 online stores. It’s expected that sometime in the near future we will see all the remaining characters from the PC version make their console debut, more than likely in very costly bundles.

Free-to-play shenanigans aside, how does Marvel Heroes: Omega play? Really fun, but with several caveats that I’ll get into later. If you’ve played any isometric hack and slash games like the Marvel titles it is trying to emulate or even a game like Diablo 3, then you’re going to feel right at home here. Your face buttons are your skill attacks and by holding the left trigger, you’ll gain access to four more. These skills are unlocked at set levels that you’ll work your way up to by earning experience and leveling up. There are booster items that you can use to give that leveling a much-needed kick in the pants should you want to skip most of the grind.

Some skills can be used back to back whereas many have a cooldown that requires you to wait a short while before you can use it again. As you defeat enemies and bosses, or by completing certain quests, you will earn loot. These are weapons, helmet’s, boots, rings, and a wide range of relics, artifacts, and medallions, all that grant stat boosts to a set variety of perks. The loot problem with Marvel Heroes: Omega, and even just that of regular Marvel Heroes, is that with so many people running around as the same character, none of this gear physically changes the appearance of your character, meaning that my level 60 Angela will look identical to that of a level 4 version. I strongly feel that this is a huge letdown in respects to making that character actually mean something to you when you’ve spent dozens, if not hundreds, of hours with them.

The gear you earn by defeating enemies requires you to pop into your inventory to even check it out, meaning that you’ll need to stop moving around, find somewhere safe, and then check out what you got. This disrupts the fast paced nature of its combat and feels like a step back in game design rather than one forward. I often wouldn’t even check my spoils until my bag was full, which happened often since your ‘free’ space is extremely minimal and I didn’t feel like spending real money to boost my storage space. Thankfully, you can teleport to your headquarters to sell your goods with a tap of a button and then right back to where you were, and if you are quick about it, several of the items left on the ground may even remain there when you get back.

Characters range from being a bit more close combat to ranged attackers using gunfire or optic blasts. Most characters have a bit of both and there really isn’t a poor character across the whole roster. There are a few characters that I never saw running around, but that’s more likely due to the popularity of some of them. Gazillion also didn’t want to renew the license for the Fantastic Four, so Johnny, Ben, Sue, and Reed are nowhere to be found. In fact, there is a Marvel Heroes Museum in the game that has a blank section that used to feature the Fantastic family.

The story in the game is penned by Brian Michael Bendis and normally I adore his work, but the story here is so painfully mediocre that it seems very much as if they had the majority of the game built and then needed some loose narrative to string it all together. The story follows the events of Doctor Doom gaining control of the Cosmic Cube and then utilizing its powers to take over the world. The problem, apart from the awful dialogue and the story itself, is that the game lacks any real sense of presentation. Most of the story is told through voiceovers or animated cutscenes that are static images that feature some movement to small details or the camera just moves around on a single image. The cutscenes suffer from some really bad horizontal tearing that occurs quite frequently and several of my cutscenes were playing in multiple languages. I also have to point out that the art used in the cutscenes is wildly inconsistent in its quality and felt extremely subpar considering you literally have some of the best comic book artists in the world working for Marvel right now.

Overall, the story took me around 15 hours and the last chapter of the game felt tacked on. The final encounter to both Doom and the last chapter boss were far better fights than anything else in the game and I felt as if several of the boss fights throughout the game would have benefitted from this level of variety. Regardless of it being Venom, Juggernaut, or Living Laser, the bosses felt like the same encounters over and over again, and often I simply used the same tactics from one boss to the next. There are small changes to certain encounters like Bullseye, where the game will require to you hide behind cover, but other than that; rinse, recycle, repeat.

The boss encounters when playing with other players is a sight to behold, but not for the right reasons. Take a look at the above screenshot and tell me if you can even see the boss we are fighting, let alone my character. While the game is flashy and some of the attacks are wonderfully animated, when you have several characters wailing away on a single enemy, it can get so hectic and so chaotic that it can be hard to tell what is even going on. This can also lead to several areas of the game where the framerate will drop to maybe 10 or 15 fps, and this is especially apparent in Asgard as the fields are just filled with so many enemies that the game just barely chugs along. I’ve had the game crash when it got really bad, but that only happened two or three times. One of those times was after I had finally defeated Doctor Doom and as I was about to pick up my rewards, the game crashed. Thankfully, those items were still there when I loaded the game back up.

I also had a weird glitch when I was on the hunt for MODOK. As you enter the facility where MODOK is waiting for you, you have to destroy a few objects around the level as well as take on three villains that lay in wait for you. I missed one item but eventually found MODOK at the end of a long hallway. I killed MODOK and my objective marker did not update. The portal to HQ was there and when I entered it, my objective marker still indicated that I needed to defeat MODOK. I looked online for a fix to this and discovered that if you swap characters and then back, it will refresh that mission and thankfully, it worked.

The game will take you to a fairly impressive amount of Marvel staple locations; Hell’s Kitchen, Asgard, Midtown, and even to the Savage Land. While these locations are incredibly vast, each holding a variety of secrets areas and NPC’s to interact with, much of them suffer from severe cases of cut and paste. The city levels, for example, will have the same grocery store a block over, or the same park literally a short walk away. While it’s nice to have large and widespread levels, these feel a bit too artificial and lack variety.

Upon hitting level 60, which I seemed to have timed out perfectly upon completing the story, unlocked a few things privy to that level. Ultimate attacks, which are more powerful abilities that have a fairly lengthy cooldown will be added to your move list to unleash when things get dire. You also unlock Infinity stones, which are different groups of stat based categories that allow you to pick and choose certain stat upgrades to your character. You can also prestige your character which will see power and talents reset, but you will retain your Ultimate attack upgrades and Infinity points. You’ll also lose all items that cannot be used by level 1 characters. If you plan on getting a character to the best it can get, this transition is crucial.

Once you’ve completed the main story then you’ll be grinding out various activities on your journey to collect the best gear available for your character. You’ll gain access to Operations; small bite-sized missions that you can complete alone or with a group. Patrols, at least the ones that I did, almost felt like a boss hunt mode where a group of us toured midtown in search of timed released boss encounters. There are also Trials, which are tests of strength against hordes of various enemies that will unlock harder difficulties that allow you access to better grades of gear. There are also Danger Room missions that are short experiences that are fairly fun with a group. While these modes can offer a decent amount of fun, they feel very small in the grand scheme of things for content to do after you’ve already pushed through the story. Revisiting the same places gets a bit old even if they do toss in a few villains that didn’t make an appearance in the story.

Crafting has been rebuilt entirely for Omega and while you can craft during the main campaign, it will probably look to suit you better post game. You have four main sections to utilize crafting for; R&D, Science, Engineering, and Logistics. Each can be leveled up to 20, allowing you to make better items and have more access to better crafting services. This is where you will use the in-game money that drops alongside your loot. I attempted a few times to craft items but my crafting level was so low that I ended up wasting materials making items that were nowhere near as good as the stuff I was currently wearing. You’ll occasionally pick up items that are designed to be donated to increase your crafting level at each of the four crafting NPC’s, but regular items will work as well and several of them contribute a great deal of XP.

Character attacks, animations and the detail given to their models are fairly decent and in some cases, rather great. Some environments look fantastic and have some nice little details that can be missed in the chaos that comes with combat. The menus in-game are sadly poor and are not as intuitive as they could be. The item selection is via a circle menu that isn’t great for quick selecting on the fly during combat. The menus also feel sluggish when moving from page to page. Loading, however; is incredibly fast and it never takes more than a few seconds to load into a new area or back to HQ.

There are several instances where the game got incredibly glitchy, apart from the issues I have already talked about. Huge chunks of levels sometimes didn’t load (see picture to the left) and I had several times where the floor texture was staying low-res for almost 10-15 minutes. I’ve had my entire HUD disappear for almost an hour and didn’t even fix itself upon rebooting the game. I’ve mentioned a few times now that the framerate is awful and frankly, it’s hard to really convey that unless you see it in action. The game is a technical mess and Gazillion is already aware of this and is looking to patch several of the well-known issues soon. I hope that in a few short months that these issues are ironed out because it can really affect how much fun this game can actually be.

Marvel Heroes: Omega is plagued with vast technical problems, glitches, and some design choices that don’t quite work. The menus are slow, unresponsive and feel more like placeholders than anything finalized. Despite these issues, there is still quite a bit to enjoy here. Sure, the PC version still has a decent 25+ more characters than what we currently have here, and the paywall blocking costumes and characters is a bit steep, but you can easily enjoy much of the content here for free or by paying a few bucks to get the character you actually want. The game can be played solo, but the real enjoyment of the game is found in teaming up with a few friends and taking the fight to the numerous bosses you’ll encounter. It’s not perfect, far from it, but it’s still a great time.

Marvel Heroes: Omega was reviewed and played for Xbox One. All screenshots were taken and uploaded to the Windows 10 app.

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