by Matt Porter
previewed on PC
All roads lead to London
When you are told that there is an event in London to play Marvel Heroes and meet David Brevik, cofounder of Blizzard North and creator of Diablo I and Diablo II, it is not the kind of opportunity you pass up, even if it was the very next day. Fortunately, my life allows for spontaneous trips, and I was on my way to the English capital the very next day. Marvel Heroes is an action, role playing, massively multiplayer game where you and many others play as characters from the Marvel universe. With Brevik at the helm, there are significant similarities in gameplay to the Diablo games, albeit with a few enhancements and changes.
The event was being held at The Soho Hotel in London’s West End. I felt a little underdressed when I arrived in my tattered jeans, and a little lost at the outset. Thankfully, I quickly found what I was looking for: a lavishly decorated room with four Alienware laptops ready to showcase the game. Marvel Heroes was already loaded up on the screens, and I was invited to take my place and play. I happened to choose the laptop with Thor pre-loaded, waiting for the player’s guiding hand. “Thor is overpowered at the moment,” joked one of the developer.
Interestingly, as long as you have them unlocked, you can switch to any one of the twenty-two characters that will be available at launch at any time, even during a mission. They each have their own separate contextual story, so you will have to play them all to get them to a reasonable point, but it is a nice thing to have. If you are in a situation which you think Spiderman might be more of a help than Hulk, then you can simply take a moment to swap out. Deciding to stick with Thor, I joined a party with everyone else in the room comprising of Cyclops, Deadpool and Ms Marvel. Each character has three skill trees to dump points into, leading to a huge variety of abilities. I was assured that characters like Hulk and Thing were different enough to remain fresh.
Unlike what people would assume when they hear the term ‘MMO’, Marvel Heroes follows a linear storyline. The massively multiplayer aspect comes in the multiplayer zones. The town area is a non combat zone where a hundred people might be trading, healing up, or just generally relaxing in between missions. Upon receiving a mission, you head out into one of the public zones. These are randomly generated areas which will hold 25-50 people. Public quests will crop up, allowing everyone in the zone to team up and take on a boss, rescue people from fires and so on. You also have private zones which are specific to you and anyone you happen to be playing with. These are smaller locations with a more focused goal.
The most interesting zones were the public ones. Developers Gazillion have an algorithm which will look at where everyone is in a level, and spawn in enemies appropriately. This means that there is always something to do, and indeed, whenever I finished killing a group of monsters, I would always see a new group on the edge of my screen. It did an excellent job of driving me endlessly forwards, and I barely had enough time to pick up the vast amount of loot that was dropping.