Since the closure of City of Heroes, I have found myself missing my superhero MMO gaming experience. For CoH refugees and all other curious folk, then, I present an acceptable alternative: Marvel Heroes.
The premise is quite simple: you play as one of an assortment of Marvel heroes and heroines (like Thing, pictured above), leveling up and growing in strength until you’re strong enough to overtake Dr. Doom and get the Cosmic Cube away from him. You fight many other Marvel bad guys along the way, like the Green Goblin, the Hood, Taskmaster, etc., and several heroes in the game help you with your various quests as NPCs.
This game is free-to-play, with an In-Game Store which allows you to buy access to more heroes, costumes, special items, etc. (When you begin the game, you are given a choice between Daredevil, Scarlet Witch, Thing, Storm, and Hawkeye.). Most people who have played the Diablo series refer to this game affectionately as “Diablo with Marvel characters,” because of the way the game is set up and played.
Playing your character basically involves going on missions (either solo or in teams), defeating bad guys, gathering items, becoming stronger, and the like. One interesting difference, however, is that your character can interact directly with the environment. And by “interact,” I mean smash things. 😀
See these cars and random cardboard boxes?
…Yeah, Thing just happened. POW! (This is Crashing Leap at work, LOL)
Depending on your hero’s powers, you can bust boxes, pick up cars, break open containers, or, as Thing is demonstrating here, smash the ground so that things at a distance explode. 😀 Let your inner child run wild as you explore the various levels–half the fun of this game is smashing stuff and revealing items/money to pick up!
And what about fighting? Well, active battle is hard to capture with screenshots alone, but as you fight, the bad guys drop little amounts of Health (red ball) and Spirit (blue ball) to help you refuel your Health and Spirit on the fly. For instance, the bad guy Thing just smacked into next week in the above image has dropped a Spirit ball.
Also, bad guys drop money and items on occasion. Items and money which appear on your screen from smashing bad guys or boxes are just for you–no other hero can see them. Hover your mouse cursor over anything that looks interesting on the ground; if a title pops up, it’s an item that you can pick up.
(Note: if you drop an item out of your personal inventory onto the ground, it appears on everybody’s screen. If you see another character drop something on the ground, though, PLEASE ask before you pick it up! Dropping things on the ground is the only way at the moment to give items to other players, so you could easily disrupt a gift-giving operation.)
Making Sense of the Marvel Heroes Screen
The above shot is a full screenshot of how a typical game screen appears. (Click on the image to open a new window in which you can see it at full size.)
Your screen contains most all the information you need to know about your character right away. For instance:
The buttons at the bottom left of the screen control, from left to right, Character information, Powers, and the In-Game Store. The big red circle shows you how much Health your character has left–here, we see that Thing has all 4,575 points of Health, because the circle is completely filled in.
At the bottom center of the screen is your power tray (all the little square images are different powers); the leftmost power is activated by clicking the left mouse button, and the rightmost power is activated with the right mouse button. Between these two, each power is activated by a different key on the keyboard–the default setup is A through H on the keyboard.
Above the power tray, you’ll see a little blue bar–in this image, it’s partially filled in. This is your XP bar, showing you visually how far you’ve got to go till your next level. Here, you can see that my level 34 Thing is about 1/3 of the way toward level 35. (Bonus: the more transparent blue off to the right of the filled-in portion is your Rested XP amount. This works like Patrol XP in CoH, building up as you’re logged off the character, and it makes leveling up a little easier.)
At the bottom right of the screen, you can see the big blue circle, representing Spirit (also known as Endurance or Mana for people who’ve played other MMOs). To use most of your heroic powers, you have to use certain amounts of Spirit. To the right of the Spirit meter, you’ll see buttons for your Missions, your Hero Roster, and Game Options.
Halfway up the right side of the screen, you’ll see your Active Mission titles displayed. Also, items that are used over time, like Rarity Boosts, XP Boosts, etc, are shown at a glance just below the Missions.
Halfway up the left side of the screen, your Chat panel (aka the “Chatbox”) can be expanded out (like the picture) or it can fade away into the background as needed. You can open your Social panel using the top button on the Chatbox, scroll up and down in the Chatbox with the arrows, and open/close the Chatbox with the bottom button. The Chat window displays announcements by other characters, notifications of friends getting online, boss speech, and all sorts of other information.
At the top right of the screen, a small map is displayed, with the name of the area you’re in and where you’re positioned on it. You can zoom in or out using the plus and minus sign buttons.
Also, the little “home” button at the very top right of the map panel is your “Bodyslider” button. This allows your character to teleport back to a safe zone (like Avengers Tower, Xavier’s School, etc.), where you can buy/sell items, craft rare items, heal up from damage, play endgame content, and travel to other zones.
Additional Information Panels
Bringing up your Mission Log shows you where in the main Story you are, and what missions you need to work on. (Story Mode contains a Prologue, 8 chapters, and then an Endgame tab where you can play harder, higher-level stuff. You have to play through Story Mode first before you can get access to Endgame content.)
One really annoying thing about the Mission Log: It is a “shared” log, meaning that all characters see the same progress. If you want to play through Story Mode again with a new character, you’ll have to reset your mission progress–you won’t lose any accomplishments on your higher-level heroes, and it’ll enable your lower-level heroes to get mission rewards. (I REALLY don’t like this; I think it should be separate mission logs for every character, but this is how it is for the moment.) The little trophy icons tell you whether your current hero has worked through various chapters of Story Mode already–for instance, I’ve already played through Story Mode with Thing, so he has little trophy icons everywhere. 😀
Your Inventory shows you what items you have, plus your hero’s stats and the gear and items they have equipped. For instance, you can see that Thing is level 34, with 2,582 defense, and he’s carrying some items. He’s also got several purple items he’s wearing–wearable items in the game range from gray (really common, not really powerful) to purple (very rare, usually really powerful). Add to that the various Medals and Medallions for beating bosses, and helpful Artifacts which give your character added stats or powers, and your character can end up with a lot of item bling!
Here, you can see all the powers which make up Thing–all characters come with three power trees to choose from. To get a power, simply put a Power Point (from leveling up) into it, and drag it down to your power tray. As you put more points into powers, they get stronger.
For instance, I’ve chosen to take three powers from the Brawler tree with Thing. One is REALLY leveled up, with 11 power points in it, and the others are moderately powered up. (Note: see the arrows connecting the three powers together? That means that you have to take the top power before you can get the middle power, and the middle power before you can get the bottom power. For all heroes, the bottom-most power in a linked chain of powers is the strongest and should be used as you get into higher levels.)
Your Hero Roster shows you which heroes you have access to (the brightly-colored heroes) and which heroes you would have to purchase to play (the grayed-out heroes). As you can see, I’ve played Thing and Scarlet Witch, and have just started on Hulk. 🙂
Last but not least, your Social panel allows you to see friends, nearby players, and–yes, you guessed it–your Supergroup! (Just like Guilds on other MMOs, and exactly like City of Heroes. :’) )
How to Play
Marvel Heroes is available through Steam and MarvelHeroes.com–the Steam download seems to perform a little better than the MarvelHeroes.com download. As I said, it’s free-to-play, so give it a shot! More information can be found through the Marvel Heroes Wikipedia article.