Last weekend, I started early on Marvel Heroes, Gazillion's massive multi-player online action roleplaying game (MMO-ARPG). I spent twenty dollars on a Punisher pack, then used the extra Gs to purchase Iron Man at half price. My intent was to play these characters and grind out other heroes.
After the prologue, starting with Hawkeye, I received Thing as a quest reward, and I thought it wasn't going to be that bad of a grind for heroes. When I beat Doctor Doom as Iron Man, I received a second Hawkeye--I shrugged that off, learning I could use the duplicate to upgrade his Ultimate Power at level 30.
I began my endgame, grinding daily missions. Until I had a decent set of hard-hitting gear with specialty boosts, I did not start farming bosses. I figured I would stack my gear (I believe I had some potions too) and a new hero would be a cinch to obtain. One hundred hours and then some into the game, I have yet to receive a hero drop, and for me, it really puts a damper on the game.
Don't get me wrong. There's fun to be had. The controls are easy to learn, as they are no different than other ARPGs like Diablo 3, Path of Exile, or Torchlight 2. Each of my four heroes plays different, and the skill trees aren't bad. While picking talents might appear unforgiving, there's a quest in the game where a free Retcon Device is given upon completion (Chapter 4, killing Bullseye), allowing a player to respec, and it can be repeated for the reward by restarting Story Mode.
Throughout Story Mode there are Event Bosses, including Venom, Green Goblin, Blob, Rhino, and others. Since they appear in the free-roam world, there can be upwards of twenty players taking these villains down, and the villains scale in health and damage to the amount of players beating on them.
There's also a Crafting System, which a player levels via gear donations. Rather than selling items, you give them to a vendor or crafter. This increases the level of gear sold or expands the list of crafting recipes--crafting is essential. With it, you can add bonuses to costumes, make potions, change rares into epics, or change Cable's gear into Iron Man's gear. Its only setback that I have seen is that materials are not stackable, and they will fill an entire stash with ease, if you don't constantly merge them into stronger versions.
At endgame, downing bosses in daily missions will net a Cube Shard once per day per boss in both green and red rooms; collecting ten shards grants a Fortune Card. These cards are pure luck. Sometimes, you'll get a new costume, a pet, or (I've heard) a new hero. Most times, you'll get some sort of timed experience bonus or rarity find boost.
What's troublesome about endgame is the lack of variety in missions. Despite there being three places of increasing difficulty, as well as green rooms and red rooms, the latter being much more difficult, the missions are identical. Not only are they identical, you can't loot a shard off the same boss at different locations, so killing Shocker in the Abandoned Subway in green three times a day does nothing for you. Yes, there's really three green room versions of Abandoned Subway and three red versions. To break it down, there are three green rooms of Abandoned Subway/Shocker (that's 1 cube shard), then three red rooms of Abandoned Subway/Shocker (another shard), which require a cosmic key to enter. That formula repeats for each green room and accompanying boss. They're progressively harder, yet they're still the same. Doing a red room will give you an extra shard, but it will not give you better loot, despite a considerable boost to difficulty. There are also purple rooms, which require a group to complete. It's definitely less appealing than it could be, especially since there's a whole host of super-villains left off the daily grind list. On top of that, it's really the only way to grind from level 30 to level 60 with any efficiency--this is the endgame.
PVP is in Beta, but I haven't really given it a shot yet. I don't know that I will. PVP in an ARPG has never really appealed to me, and I don't Brawl in Diablo 3 either.
Back to my original point: rarity of hero drops. The only true carrot on a stick in this Free-to-Play title are heroes and costumes, as gear upgrades drop at a fairly regular pace, so I was disheartened to learn the rate at which heroes drop was significantly lowered from Beta. In Beta, I could expect to receive at least one hero, even if it was a duplicate, between level 1 and 30. Now, I've marched Iron Man to 35, Punisher to 30, Thing to 17, and Hawkeye to 26 without a drop. I have stacked specialty gear while farming every boss every day since I cleared Story Mode. For my effort, I have not received a single hero; it's worse than finding legendaries in Diablo 3 after its launch.
*Update: In the latest patch, the drop rate of heroes was increased. There was also a weekend of increased drop rates. I did receive two hero tokens, but they were both duplicates.*
I completely understand why the rate was lowered (to get us to purchase our favorite hero), but at the same time, the cost of heroes was increased. Iron Man and Spider-Man, for instance, cost the same as my Starter Pack--twenty dollars. Others, like Rocket Raccoon and Wolverine, are twelve dollars, and there's a slew that are nine or six dollars. By the time I reach either level 60 on Iron Man or level 30+ on all of my heroes, I can't foresee myself splurging on more heroes; it would cost more than a full Xbox 360 or PC game to get all the ones I want.
In other words, I have to ask myself: if the carrot on a stick is too far away, will I continue on this journey? I don't think I will. When they add new zones, I may wander back, yet I feel as if my hope for this game's future and my plans to make Marvel Heroes my next addiction have already been crushed. I'm a Marvel fanboy, but unless the carrot is brought closer and soon or the cost of heroes decreased, Gazillion's title will very likely face a mass exodus, myself included.