Friday, September 6, 2013

Marvel Heroes: Patch 1.2 Review

As of yesterday, Patch 1.2 launched for Gazillion's ARPG MMO Marvel Heroes, and it's their largest yet, bringing a slew of changes. While the patch arrived a few days later than its expected time (it was supposed to be the large August patch), it went through without the problems of previous additions. There were a few hours of maintenance then servers went back up, nothing close to the debacle of the last patch, which was released, reverted, and released days later for a second time.

Once logged in, I immediately went to my highest level hero, Human Torch, and changed his setting, for Patch 1.2 introduced two new difficulties for Story Mode: Heroic and Superheroic. The enemies in these modes are tougher with more health, more damage, and new affixes, designed for higher level heroes, and they have a higher rate of loot and special drops, as well as currency; throughout four chapters of Superheroic, I've received scores of epics, cosmics, relics, crafting mats, and roughly 250k in credits (Marvel Heroes' in-game currency).

Players that haven't been on in a while are probably wondering what relics are. They are a new gear slot added this patch. A total of seven different types drop at a fairly regular pace, offering a bonus in stats. There are melee or ranged power boosts, health  and speed boosts, spirit and thorns, and leeching, all of which stack from 1 to 999 per hero. It's going to take the casual gamer such as myself a good deal of time to gather 999, so, in a way, this new system reminds me of the Paragon used in Diablo 3.

Also reminding me of Diablo 3 (other than the new format of blue and yellow aura mobs that are reminiscent of Champions), is the introduction of Uniques. These brown lettered pieces of rare gear that are loaded with stats--sounds like a Legendary, right?--are either tailored for specific heroes or universal. While I haven't received one yet, I have seen screenshots of a few that look interesting. For instance, there's a SHIELD Enhanced Biosuit or Wolverine's Bone Claws, and they have amazing stats...along with unique buffs/debuffs such as losing health or taking damage when dealing damage or summoning health orbs. I can't wait to get one.

On top of the new loot and what appears to be an increase to the rate of splinter drops, Emma Frost was added to the Hero Roster. I haven't saved enough splinters to purchase her yet, but I've seen a lot of players running around as her. One of her main abilities is mind-controlling enemies and making them a pet. The only limitation I have seen on this ability is that supervillains can't be controlled; everything from symbiotes to evil Cyclops to robots and dinosaurs are fair game, and if you capture an enemy with an aura, they keep that aura and buff you along with your group. At this point, I'm a little tired of the stream of X-Men. There's a total of eight of them, a third of the roster, and there are two more in the works (Gambit and Nightcrawler), so I won't be purchasing Emma. As someone said on the forums, "Why not call the game X-Men Legends 3 and get it over with?" So many heroes to choose from: Ant-Man, Reed Richards, Invisible Woman, She-Hulk, Ghost Rider, Silver Surfer, Dr. Strange, Adam Warlock, etc. and they're hurrying on more X-Men--I don't get it.

There were game performance updates, though I can't really tell what they were. I believe they had to do with graphics, yet I'd rather the game run smoother than look prettier. In high traffic areas, it gets laggy for me, especially when I click on a crafter or quest giver. I can't tell if the problem is my PC, which can run any game on the market with no problem, or Marvel Heroes.

Defense, dodge, crit, and damage were all revamped. The numbers on gear went higher. Breaking points and diminishing returns were added. While powers were amped synergies were nixed to allow players more freedom in their builds. When all is said and done in this department, these fixes to the game are welcome, but there are still heroes in desperate need of attention. The devs are aware, and weaker heroes that weren't improved this time around have overhauls coming in the following weeks.

For endgame, level 60 terminals were added. I don't quite understand their inclusion. From level 20 and up, which is forty levels, players are forced into terminals or Story Mode, both of which are essentially the same zones. There really hasn't been any additions in the form of new content, other than a couple new missions and Midtown Patrol (endless dungeon). Playing one or several heroes, low level or maxed, you're doing the same thing over and over with few differences, mostly differences relying on difficulty. It's not appealing and part of what drove many players away from Diablo 3. Hopefully the release of the X-Mansion event will be the start of new content.

Also, I have my fingers crossed the devs are analyzing the leveling process. Level 20+ is a nightmarish grind, and the redistribution of XP needed for all levels is horrendous. I've given up on all my other heroes due to how long the lower levels take now, so this morning I spent 4 hours--half an hour of that I had an experience boost potion on--to grind from level 49 to level 50; I completed half of Superheroic mode. At that rate, I will be level 52, at best, when I complete the hardest mode in the game. That means I'll be back in terminals for a minimum of 32 hours just to max out and then only have the option of doing more terminals at max level. Just thinking about it makes me cringe.

Marvel Heroes has come a long way since its June 4th launch, and Patch 1.2 is definitely a huge step in the right direction, but the developers still have a long way to go to make it one of the most addicting and fun games on the market. As of today, I find myself in that peculiar zone I was in while playing Diablo 3 and Torchlight 2, that place where I have to ask, "Am I still having fun and have I seen and done everything the game has to offer?"

Patch 1.2 breathed new life into Marvel Heroes; will it last?

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