Sunday, March 4, 2012

Game Review -- Marvel: Avengers Alliance / Playdom

As a general rule, I avoid social games.  They're pointless, time-wasting activities that can be deceptively addictive if you let yourself get drawn in.

I've given a few of them, like City of Wonder, Glitch, and Dragon Age Legends a try, and while they all have their charms, I can't justify spending the amount of time and/or  money on them, day in and day out, that would be required to get more than a trickle of satisfaction from those types of games.  I understand that the premium content and pricing helps you get further faster in the game, and I understand that they make it possible to create a gaming experience that is fun and, ostensibly, free.  It still feels like a turn-off though, and I've found myself unable to shell out money for any of these games, since I couldn't see myself playing them for any appreciable length of time.

Then Playdom comes along, and designs a social gaming experience based around an intellectual property that's right up my alley.

I admit, I was more than a little intrigued when I first heard about Marvel: Avengers Alliance.  A social game experience that involves commanding and leveling up superheroes I've loved for years sounds a whole lot more interesting than creating a city, or a pet, or some other Macguffin to customize and maintain until I lose interest. The screen shots looked pretty, the premise sounded engaging, and the mechanics of the game, as explained, sounded much like I'd heard other similar games work.  Still, if they could dress it up Marvel-style and execute it well enough, I'd probably be willing to change my tune and be a semi-regular on a Facebook game.

A few days into the launch of the game, I have to say I'm enjoying it quite a bit.  The level of customization, while not stellar, is also nothing to sneeze at, as you take on the role of a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent who must work with Nick Fury and the Marvel pantheon of heroes to investigate a planet-wide phenomenon that threatens the entire world (of course).  The game design is interesting, from the five-class combat system to the rather clever ability to use various items as permanent player-versus-player (PVP) stat boosters.  The storyline is a fairly typical, get the troops together so we can save the world plot, but the level of detail put in the story so far has proven very satisfying for comic book geeks such as myself.  I've seen heroes and villains in here that I haven't seen in some of the bigger Marvel games, which is refreshing.

You can recruit heroes throughout the game by use of Command Points, which aren't very easy to come by--they can be traded for gold, which you can of course buy plenty of if you want to shell out the real-life money for it.  Heroes can earn experience through combat, PVP, and crew missions, and can be leveled up when they get enough experience to reach the next level.  New levels mean either new abilities or new slots in their costumes for upgrading their stats, like Health, Stamina, Defense, and Accuracy.  The better your hero's stats, the better they'll be in the many fights you'll participate in over the course of the game.  It's a fairly standard roleplaying experience in that sense, but one that lends itself well to this kind of mythology and story, and one that I don't mind undertaking.  I find the training times, which increase as your heroes advance further in level, to be a little frustrating, but like with so many obstacles, these kinds of things can be addressed through shelling out money if you wish.  You can't say they don't give you options in this game, at least.

Some of the better heroes--like Spider-Man--are particularly expensive, meaning you'll either have to pony up the cash to buy him, or bear down for a long, slow slog as  you save precious Command Points to afford him.  Others, like Iron Man, come early at the beginning of the game, for virtually no cost.  This makes sense--we need a few starter heroes to get us interested in acquiring (hopefully by spending money on) the rest of them.

I will say that it's an enjoyable experience for a game of this type for me.  While it's not Marvel: Ultimate Alliance in terms of action or engagement, there's a stronger strategy element that supersedes the need the for the button mashing you so often see in console games of this genre.  Iron Man's class, for example, is a blaster; he tends to inflict damage from afar, and is particularly effective against bruiser-class opponents, like Colossus or She-Hulk, who use their strength and toughness to get in close to others.  But he's also vulnerable to tactician-class opponents like Hawkeye and Cyclops, who get an extra attack when they come into conflict against blasters.  This makes battle planning a necessity that you just don't think about in console based games, and makes PVP a very interesting experience, as you don't see the make-up of your opponent's team until you're facing them.  The animations for the various attacks and abilities are also satisfying to behold, as they're very true to the characters to whom they belong, based on everything I've seen so far.

Overall, I'm enjoying this game quite a bit, and will say that it's the only game I will play on Facebook with you, at this point.  Will I stick with it?  Only time will tell.  But for now, it's got a surefire hold on my attention, one that I'm sure will last at least until the release of The Avengers film due out in May.  Will I pay for premium content?  That'll depend on how long I stay interested.  In the meantime, if you want to send me some Playdom gift cards, I certainly won't stop you!

Marvel fans should definitely check this game out.  I can't guarantee you'll love it, but it should at least give you a few moments of amusement.

1 comment:

  1. It’s not easy, that’s for sure. We are a small dedicated team that is very passionate about Marvel and “Avengers Alliance.” After three and a half years of releasing content on almost a weekly basis, the team has grown to become something of a well-oiled machine. From stunning Marvel Avengers Alliance art and challenging combat to a compelling story written by Alex Irvine, we do our best to breathe new life into MAA with each new content release.