Stray Avengers thoughts

  • None of the purchasable costumes seem to be based on anything preexisting. That’s really weird. One of the fun things about Marvel is that there’s just mountains of existing stuff in comics to mine. I would’ve expected to see a lot more recognizable stuff in this game. Legally distinct characters, not based on MCU, yes. No comic book costumes? What in the world are you doing?
  • There are fewer recognizable Marvel villains than heroes, and that’s real weird. They’re not really treading new ground here either. I can count three bosses/villains and two of them are movie retreads. It’s a real surprise considering how Spider-Man was throwing villains at me every hour. This game doesn’t even namedrop, and it’s not an origin story. The player comes into it with an established Avengers team. They’ve fought villains.
  • This game is distinctly separate from the MCU, but I can read into it that they intended to keep it in MCU canon. Let’s just say the plot has a ton of overlap with things that were big themes in MCU adjacent properties four years ago. That’s around the time when the game was teased.
  • A surprising amount of the game is HARM, which is the training room. Every hero has a HARM training mission. There’s a string of HARM missions that are just wave-based combat scenarios in a small room. I guess it’s a good way to pad out a big, pretty, expensive game.
  • I’m working through the story expansions, so I may have more to add here.

Marvel’s Avengers

I remember a game called Marvel Heroes. I remember it because I played a lot of it, but you can’t play it anymore. It was a free-to-play Diablo-style game. It shutdown in 2017, but I don’t recall ever learning why. It seemed pretty popular at the time and the developers kept cranking out new stuff for it. If I were a deeply cynical person, I might assume Marvel Heroes had to die so that Marvel’s Avengers could live.

Avengers has a surprising amount of things in common with Heroes. They both sort of flatten out the differences in superhero powers to make the game easier to play and understand. Some characters are shootier and some are punchier. Some can fly, but the others can grapple or double-jump or stretchy-arm. Everyone has four slots for equipment that are wholly separate from what they look like. They’re total nonsense, like I’m choosing which rib cage is stronger for Hulk, but Heroes did this too.

Like Heroes, you can spend a whole lot of cash money on your character’s appearance by buying costumes. Like Heroes, you can also just play the game a lot to accumulate the currency you need to purchase these costumes. They rotate on a daily basis, so you don’t necessarily get to choose whichever you want unless you want to spend cash. I never accumulated enough in-game currency to buy a costume by the time I got to the end game credits.

Heroes was free to play. Gameplay was entirely unlimited, though I was limited to a selection of free heroes to start. Though the characters weren’t free (without playing for currency or paying cash), it was adding characters all the time. It was alive for four years and had over 63 characters before it shutdown. Avengers is full retail price, and seems to be giving heroes away, but we’ll see if that continues beyond the current selection. Since release, they’ve added two versions of Hawkeye, and a Black Panther expansion is on the way. I can’t figure out if that expansions will be free or not.

Whether directly inspired or not, I think it’s pretty clear that Avengers learned a lot from Heroes. But is Avengers good? It’s okay. It’s not endlessly playable like Heroes though. It’s obviously a more expensive game and that translates to a better looking game, but it’s also a game with less to do, less to do it with, and just as much, if not more, exploitative monetization of things that you want in a superhero game. I think I was having more fun with Marvel Heroes before it shutdown.

Cloudpunk

Cloudpunk is delightful little game, even if it’s not very delightful and not very little either. It’s as simple as it gets, gameplay wise, but the writing kept me hooked the entire time. Before I played, I saw jokes that it was the real Cyberpunk (compared to Cyberpunk 2077) and it’s not really that far off from the truth.

There’s so little here as far as gameplay. You drive a hover car and make deliveries. That’s sort of it. Criss cross the map, try not to pinball off other cars or buildings. Your car can get damaged but it’s so sturdy that I never blew it up.

What the gameplay is doing is giving me something to do while I soak in the world. On this night, in the city of Nivalis, it doesn’t stop raining. There is no ground to drive on. It’s only ocean below, as if the rain hasn’t stopped in a decade and city just grows upward to escape it. Every building is painted in neon colored advertisements. People and androids who aren’t in the upper crust of society live below the cloud ceiling and never see the sun. Everyone at the top is a CEO and we’ve long forgotten what that job does. They just exist with everyone else in service to them. If you want out, you can live in the fringe, eating mold and never feeling warmth.

What makes this game is the writing. I remember these details because the characters, especially your character, Rania, are so compelling. I wasn’t racing to each delivery. I was taking a stroll while I listen to the discussion between Rania and whoever I was making the trip for.

The city and its people make Cloudpunk work. Maybe this could have been a visual novel, and I would’ve never played it. But it gave me an interesting place to explore with characters I wanted to learn more about.

Today’s Gripe

A common problem I have with starting a new game is that it takes way too fucking long for the game to get started. Between tutorials and world building and exposition, too many games won’t just let me play it. This is particularly frustrating when I want to play something like a JRPG. They all start with long cutscenes, lots of establishing of the world, walking around and talking, and then maybe it might drop me into one fight where my options are hobbled because I haven’t completed the fight tutorial yet. Sometimes the tutorial is so awful that I can’t tell what I need to do to get through it. I drop so many games after only 15 minutes of playing them.

Hey video games. Get to the fucking point. Please let me play you within the first 15 minutes so I can figure out if I even want to keep playing.

Cruelty Thoughts

Something I learned really quickly was that death is expensive. In my first mission, I busted in the front door, shot a couple guys, and got mowed down by their friends. Barely got started and died immediately. Then I noticed that my respawn fee is $500. I didn’t have any money, so my balance is in the negative.

Alright, back into it, round 2. I slink around. I don’t go in through the front door. I manage to get a couple kills that drop organs. Yes, organs. Kidneys, livers, intestines, etc. And then I die. My balance is -$1000.

This game has a stock market. One of the tabs in it is “parts”. This is where I can sell those organs I found. Neat! After an even slower and even more cautious run, I finish the first level. I’m paid $1000 for my troubles. Considering the cost of implants and upgrades, this is a pittance. For $1000, I can’t buy anything worthwhile. All the cool stuff, higher jump, grapple, armor piercing ammo, is way too expensive for this. I’m going to have to sell these organs if I ever want to get cooler stuff.

On the second mission, I am a ghoul. I’m not making money completing missions. I’m making money harvesting and selling parts. I don’t know of a more reliable way to get to parts than kicking corpses, so I’m football kicking these dead motherfuckers all over the place. When I kick a corpse over a wall, I curse. Fuck, there goes my parts! Civilians got parts too, so they’re not special. I’m going to get their parts. What passes for dogs in this game have parts. Give me those parts!

I’ve walked into a residential neighborhood, killed a lot of people, and walked out with a sack full of intestines, livers, pancreases, brains, and kidneys. I got paid $2000 for three of those kills, but I made four times as much selling parts. And look at these jump boosters I just put in my legs! I can leap right over fences now! Makes it easier to get to those hard to reach parts.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, I’m talking about Cruelty Squad. Trailer below.