Avengers promises a game we haven’t seen yet

The community rushed to a description only to be confused with the reality. Square Enix’s Avengers game has a hard time conveying what kind of game it is. This being an issue after so many failed game marketing campaigns is troubling for Marvel’s Avengers as a product.

Is it all a misunderstanding?

The first bit of information for curious gamers and salivating press alike was the E3 Coliseum description for a showcase of the game. Let’s look at the important piece:

“An epic action-adventure that combines cinematic storytelling with continuous single-player and co-operative gameplay.”

So there’s two sides to the gameplay and that makes sense. The big expectation set upon that E3 presentation was the following line:

“…assemble in teams of up to four players, master extraordinary abilities, customize your heroes to fit your playstyle and combine powers to defend an ever-expanding world under constant threat.”

I don’t think any of these things happen in any substantive way in the gameplay demo on stage. Look at that demo from the stage in case you need to be refreshed:

Marvel's Avengers Full World Premiere Presentation | Square Enix E3 2019

Let’s break it up into pieces based on the Coliseum description: Never are two Avengers in gameplay at the same time. there’s no skill system being showcased. No visible customization for our Avengers. The Golden Gate Bridge is structured as a hallway level and not really an “expanding world”. There’s some tease to a different environment in the Hank Pym level but the whole thing seems disjointed.

The issue is that the description for blockbuster action game Marvel’s Avengers actually looks a lot more like a description for Team Ninja’s Ultimate Alliance 3. The game’s core loop is inconsistent with marketing.

The format doesn’t invite a multiplayer adaptation…

I think my heart sank a little seeing that first QTE prompt. The rest of the action, particularly Hulk’s segment makes everything look carefully placed to come off as witty — like a Marvel movie. There’s another game like that at E3 designed to empower a brand’s sense of adventure: EA’s Jedi: Fallen Order. That game is entirely single-player and has more mechanics on display than this gameplay demo.

The people behind Jedi: Fallen Order are both good at campaigns and multiplayer formats as seen by their work in the excellent Titanfall series. The combat director for Avengers worked on Sony’s God of War, a distinctly single-player romp. It shows because I genuinely have no idea how you’d implement those QTEs in a multiplayer format without slowing everything down or breaking it up into distinct sections. Consistency and visible team-play is important in a multiplayer game, so that you can get big firefights like Destiny 2 and The Division 2 are doing so well. Don’t need cutscenes there.

The issue is that if we can’t even see two Avengers on screen at the same time I’m concerned that it’ll be possible at all in the final build. There’s that tease at a level where our team is shoved into Hank’s shrunken down walker and I really would’ve liked to see that instead. It turns out there’s a leaked video of the “A-Day” demo, that only exacerbates the singleplayer emphasis:

MARVEL'S AVENGERS Gameplay (E3 2019)

…but you can’t campaign together anyway

IGN got them to say it though: The entire campaign is single-player with no multiplayer option. According to their talks with Crystal Dynamic’s head developers on the project, the plan is to let you unlock side content to play through with your team as any Avenger you’d like with their own progression systems. If you wanted to, the game can be played 100% single-player, and offline.

The monetization doesn’t add up

So if the game is mostly single-player with some co-operative segments as some headlines seem to suggest in a very damage-control fashion, what does DLC look like? The brand reps on stage at Square Enix’s E3 presentation declared: all future DLC heroes are free updates. That makes sense in a multiplayer format, so you can get your own team like that Ultimate Alliance game I have to bring up again. Getting more heroes in the pool is like adding more classes. It’s a great reason to keep playing the game particularly if there’s progression involved.

There’s definitely microtransactions though. No loot boxes they insist! What you can buy instead is an assortment of custom outfits, player card options and something for your “player experience” which still means nothing in the context of the E3 demo. I’m personally not enthused about having to buy the equivalent of those COD player banners you got for challenges. Every game is latching onto the Apex Legends / Fortnite of handling in-game stores at this point, and I’m not expecting anything different here.

Not the best time for big promises in gaming

Everything said and done, Marvel’s brand reps still went up there and hyped you up for this game or at least tried. They played that totally relatable reel of the voice actors talking about their work in the game. Cue the cinematic trailer some people didn’t like because it’s just not the idealized MCU faces.

The last time an E3 demo promised us the moon and failed horribly was Anthem. It might also be Fallout 76, but at least that game wasn’t single player advertising itself as multiplayer. The marketing blurbs around the project invoke the worst things you could assume about a game: A “narrative” delivered over “multiple years” might mean the game will be somewhat playable a year down the line. I’m pessimistic, you see. That fact might mean any issues keep rearing their heads in the future, tarnishing the brand.

The best case is “A-day” being an introduction designed to set up the story. The game opens up later and multiplayer gives me something interesting to do on the side (but also not on the side hopefully) and the DLC heroes are fully fleshed out as mission packs to give them story.

We can only hope Square Enix isn’t tight lipped on showing us the game in advance to build our trust. Hopefully this is all a misunderstanding. In summary the game is marketed as a blockbuster living game. The presentation at E3 made it look more like a linear, cutscene heavy game in the vein of Uncharted. That might be just fine though, depending on your idea of fun.

Hey! Thanks for reading. This is the second entry in a weekly column I write to take a closer look at what we might miss in all the buzz of the news cycle. I also appreciate the comments left on my previous article regarding ESO.

About Shib

Hey! I write gaming articles for GBL and keep things looking sharp. You can follow me @shiburizu on Twitter.

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