There appears to be a recurring theme in my life as of late. I’ve found myself returning to games that at one point I’d decided were not enjoyable to me. What’s even more interesting is that they’ve started to ‘click’ and I’ve found myself sinking hours into games that were at one time so unappealing that I couldn’t understand what others saw in them. First it was Guild Wars 2. Then, I jumped back into Skyrim. Now, thanks to an irrational pull prompted by my viewing of the latest Avengers movie, I’ve re-entered a game that I never thought I would enjoy: Marvel Heroes. I’ll just chalk all of this up to being hopelessly slow to catch on to “new hotness”. I’m full of examples of things that I did not “get” at first but changed my opinion about at a later time – MMO’s, twitter, blogging. Heck, maybe I’ll come to the point where I even enjoy MOBA’s someday.
My first attempt at playing Marvel Heroes was an earnest one. Back in 2013, when the game launched, I had been following some of the coverage by some of my favorite podcast hosts over at The MMO Reporter Network and was impressed by the vision for the game and the fact that they were designing it in conjunction with Marvel. It sounded like both parties considered the game a long-term investment and they planned to continue the relationship far into the future. One of the things that always seemed “off” to me about LOTRO was that it was never fully embraced by Warner Brothers or Middle-Earth Enterprises. Tie-in’s were scarce. Marketing opportunities were wasted. Instead of being part of the Tolkien “family” (and with all of the disagreements over IP, maybe you could argue that there’s really no such thing as the Tolkien family), LOTRO was treated as a one-off. With Marvel Heroes, Marvel seemed to understand the tremendous synergy that comes with exposure via multiple channels, and with keeping a close relationship with those using your IP. In this way, they are able to make the world feel like one continuously flowing story. The events within the movies influence the stories within the game, and the stories within the game help to further flesh-out the concepts from the movies.
However, as much as I loved the business concept and the assurance that the game would have longevity, I just couldn’t get into the game. I excitedly rolled a Hawkeye character and pew-pewed my way through countless mobs and confusing drops on my way to level 6. Coming from an older WASD MMO like LOTRO, I really struggled with some of the UI and concepts of the isometric genre. The character movement felt like I was clicking ALL THE TIME (and I was!). It was frustrating to not be able to rotate the camera. And wait…only slots for eight skills, INCLUDING consumables? What are all of these crafting drops? Essences, globbities, neroscinties, isotainments? I didn’t realize I’d actually have to BE Bruce Banner in order to make sense of the crafting ingredients.
Anyway, that was my FIRST first impression. I played for about a week and walked away. I never did figure out how to try a different character, but by that point the gameplay had turned me off to the point that I didn’t care. Fast forward to 2015. I’ve just returned from seeing Avengers: Age of Ultron with my kids, and the tug begins. That little voice that says “maybe you just rolled the wrong character” and “perhaps it’s time to give it another look” and, ultimately, “YOU NEED TO BE IRON MAN”.
So, while the launcher downloaded and patched Marvel Heroes onto my gaming rig, I surfed around their website looking for an interesting character to try. Fortunately (or, more accurately, smartly), the game was selling an Avengers bundle that included Thor, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye, The Hulk, The Vision, Scarlett Witch and all associated movie costumes for $65. I wavered, my finger hovering over the buy button. These were nearly all of the characters I was interested in playing at the moment. But, $65 to a game that I swore off nearly two years ago? $65 to a game that I didn’t like in 2013, and possibly still wouldn’t like? It would be a foolish purchase. It made zero sense.
So I made it. HULKBUSTER!
The day that I re-downloaded Marvel Heroes also happened to be the day that they were giving away the free Iron Man outfit. I didn’t even know that until I logged in, so – happy accident! I’ve been pulsar-ing my way around New York ever since. Strangely, I now “get it”. This is not a game that requires intense coordination of complimentary classes. This is not a game where you sit back and plot out the best route (or give up and head off to YouTube to learn how) to climb up to that pesky vista. This is a game where you don the persona of a larger-than-life character and mindlessly blitz your way through hundreds of lesser beings. And sometimes, that’s just what you need.
I AM IRON MAN
İron man final by Cihan Unalan on flickr