Seems like every studio on the planet seems to be jumping onto the Marvel bandwagon these days. Search Google Play for the word “Marvel”, and in addition to the subject of my review, you’ll find Marvel Contest of Champions, Marvel Mighty Heroes, Marvel Puzzle Quest, Marvel Avengers Alliance, Marvel Run Jump Smash!, Lego Marvel Superheroes: Universe in Peril, and a host of other games, each made by a different studio, not to mention the various titles featuring Hulk, the X-Men, Thor and the rest of ‘em. Rummage deep enough, and you’ll discover gems such as an app that adds a cartoon Iron Man “pet” to your home screen. I mean, I get milking a franchise, but Marvel’s strategy of foregoing quality in favor of inundating gamers with cheap junk smells a little…desperate? Which confuses me, because even just judging by the success of their films, Marvel’s hardly in any danger of running out of business any time soon. But maybe that’s why I’m a writer and not a business strategist. On to the review!
MARVEL Future Fight is a run-of-the-mill action-RPG (which in this case means levels, skills and equipment, but no real control of the story or dialogue) with a Marvel twist. Sure the visuals are nice (okay, really nice), but Netmarble Games seems to have really embraced the quantity-over-quality model of Marvel’s games: the entire experience feels like a clone of any other humdrum pay-to-win action title, dusted with some spidey-sense, vibranium, and Hulkbuster armor to entice rabid comic book fans. Even the story, written by acclaimed writer Peter David, falls a little flat, a mere excuse to beat up more robots, goons, and other sundry villainous types. Also a note to the designers: if you reveal to your players early on that evil, alternate-universe versions of our favorite heroes are going crazy and causing mayhem, do you have to make them sit through angsty cutscenes of shock and surprise each time a hero-clone commits a dastardly deed? While playing, you could almost read the developer’s mind, “We kinda need a random cutscene here…Ooh, angst always works!”
The bulk of the gameplay itself feels like a downscale, watered-down version of the successful Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. You pick three characters to fill your team, and complete different missions, all of which involve running around a map (controlling one of your team members at a time, but switching freely between them), attacking bad guys and killing a final boss. No real puzzle elements, no real story decisions: just beat up hapless mooks. Fighting itself is fairly monotonous. While tactical thought is theoretically possible, what with enemies armed with different weapons and fighting styles, I found that it was easier and faster to devolve into a click fest, repeatedly tapping foes to hit them, and tapping my hero’s special ability as soon as the cooldown timer reset. The special abilities are kinda cool, though, so that was a treat. Captain America can boomerang his shield between multiple enemies, for example, while Spiderman can trap them in webbing. Equipment, on the other hand, was again boring. Each hero has exactly four pieces of equipment that are upgraded linearly: no interesting choices or trade-offs.
In a Marvel game like this, the fun should come from the variety of heroes you can pick, and the powers they employ. Unfortunately, you begin the game with a fixed team, and recruiting more heroes (or villains, which is a neat addition) is an agonizingly slow process, requiring either the patience of a rock, or the wallet of a rockstar. To recruit a character, you need to collect between 10 and 20 “biometrics”, which can only be obtained by either repeat-grinding certain missions in “elite” mode, or by paying real money. And that doesn’t even give you a choice of characters: you’ll get a bunch of random biometrics, so don’t get your hopes up. Netmarble appears to have intentionally stunted player progression to encourage in-app purchases, a flaw that I cannot forgive. Even when you do recruit a new hero, for example, you’ll either have to grind for another millennium to level her up to functional capabilities, or buy items from the store to grant her an experience boost. And if you want to use the full spectrum of a hero’s powers, you’ll need to grind even more to find “Norn” stones and more biometrics to unlock them.
Future Fight also employs the irritating and mind-bending currency-conversion model that many other “free” mobile games inflict on their audience: create a mind-boggling array of interchangeable currencies, and let players painstakingly figure out what to do with the mess. In Future Fight, you can effectively trade biometrics, crystals, coins, “assemble points” (I’m still kinda confused about that one), ingredients and even experience, to some degree. And the games not cheap: around $5.00 bought me only spider man, and a couple of small piles of some of the other currencies. Given that I can buy a complete (and way better) Android game for less than that amount (check the reviews of our highest-rated games if you’re stuck for choices), I think I was justified in feeling a little cheated.
So perhaps I’m bitter because my dream-team of Dr. Octopus, Green Goblin and Venom was never realized, but I was very disappointed by a game I had high hopes for. I’d bet that many of our readers can make a much better Avengers game. In fact, go for it: MARVEL will probably give you a license and welcome another addition to their pile of cheap, junky titles.
Is it Hardcore?
Only if you’re a sucker for pretty graphics and a hardcore Marvel fanboy