Xcom+Deck Building+MARVEL. Sounds like a good combination on paper. But so did Marvel’s Avengers, and we all know how that turned out. How will turn based strategy mix with over the top flashy superheroes? Will grunts be able to one-shot Ironman? Do superheroes really feel like superheroes in this game? Let’s find out.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a tactical role-playing game developed by Firaxis Games in collaboration with Marvel Games. The game was released for the PS5/4, Xbox Series X/S, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch and PC on December 2, 2022.
Who Are The Midnight Suns?
Midnight Suns shares its name with a comic book arc from the Marvel universe that saw superheroes like Ghost Rider, Morbius and Blade take on supernatural threats (think Justice League Dark if you are a DC fan). The video game adaption takes heavy inspiration from it and puts you in the shoes of “Hunter”. A completely new customizable character who has been revived from his slumber of centuries to fight against ‘Lilith’, a witch who has been revived by Hydra and plans to capture the Darkhold (the same book Wanda was after in the recently released Doctor Strange Multiverse Of Madness). The zinger, ‘Hunter’ is also Lilith’s son.
Helping you against this threat are Marvel heroes both niche and well known. While Doctor Strange, Iron Man, Captain Marvel and Captain America represent the main stream Avengers. You also find yourself aided by Ghost Rider, Magik (Colossus’s little sister), Nico, Blade and Wanda who form this game’s version of the Midnight Suns. There is also Spiderman and Wolverine to round out your brother in arms. All led in part by your aunt and Lilith’s sister, Sara or as she likes to call herself, The Caretaker (yeah I know its a regular family feud).
You do all of this from the comforts of ‘The Abbey’ a little piece of inter-dimensional land that you will call home and see how The Avengers and The Midnight Sun bicker between themselves.
It’s an eclectic mix of niche and main-stream and for most part it works. A big challenge in telling stories with a diverse cast is that you can’t marry the tech and the mystic world well, but in making the threat 2 pronged (Lilith+Hydra), the game allows for both fields to make sense and even work together in various aspects. Plus having ‘The Hunter’ as a placeholder character allows for you to play alongside your favourite characters instead of playing as them, which I believe works better.
Finally, it was refreshing to have a character with a back-story that I wasn’t aware of. This increased my interest in lore, journal and collectibles that I found strewn around as they filled in backdrop for the Hunter.
Do You Feel Like A Superhero Though?
Short Answer. Yes, Firaxis manage to make a strategy card game that preserves the superhero essence. The HOW of this question however is a little more layered.
A big reason for that is the absence of perma-death. A big feature of games like Xcom, perma-death of team members made you think about who you want to take in the field and how you wanted to use them. But that formula would not have worked with big names like Iron Man, Spiderman and Ghost Rider. Instead heroes can only be downed during encounters and even revived in lower difficulties.
Another is how losing a hero on the field does not mean that you lose one-third of your moves. Unlike Xcom and other strategy games, Marvel’s Midnight Suns, allows you to build a deck of cards for every superhero, which is combined into a common pool when an encounter starts. Each turn you have a listed number of moves, redraws and card plays that can be executed by any of the heroes. This means that even when one of your colleagues is “Resting” the rest of the team can still all the moves and cards available to them every turn.
Keeping up with making the game more super trend, its the actual cards that make your moves feel in-line with the characters. While Captain Marvel is a powerhouse and has attacks that can damage all the enemies in a straight line, Ghost Rider can open a literal “Hole To Hell” which has the chance to one-shot even stronger elite enemies. Iron Man, has crowd control actions that let him damage multiple enemies at once, while Blade likes focussing on single stronger enemies with attacks that inflict Bleed and Lifesteal.
So, every character feels very different from each other and you really need to think about the kind of synergy you want to bring into an encounter. It also forces you to mix it up time to time, by setting hero requirements on mission, asking you to send off heroes on side missions which makes them unavailable for a while, and/or by injuring them during encounters which reduces their efficiency in consecutive missions.
Then there is the standard stuff of crafting items, researching upgrades, customizing your room, your character and all your team-mates, collecting items across the Abbey grounds to unlock areas, and cohorting with your colleagues to bring/unlock even more moves/card for them. Firaxis do understand that having a large cast does mean that some will be left behind, hence it allows for auto-levelling of characters along with you, so you are never forced to take a noob to battle.
Plus there is the Persona 5 like relationship roulette that you play every night. Firaxis encourages you to spar and converse, and hangout and give gifts to characters in your off-time, increasing their friendship level with you and in turn offering you bonuses. Increase your friendship level enough and you may unlock synergy moves that are strong tag-team attacks, also they talk nicer to you.
But How Do They Look?
This is probably the only and the biggest stumbling block for Marvel’s Midnight Suns. IT DOES NOT LOOK PRETTY.
For someone who jumped onto this game from God Of War Ragnarok, this game looks as if belonged to the Skyrim era. Thank god I had played a bit of Evil West in the middle or my judgement of its visuals would be even worse.
I mean the faces lack expressions, the environments lack fidelity, motion lacks fluidity. Even the cutscenes. It’s not bad, as in it doesn’t break or glitch out. But it’s like playing a game on the lowest setting.
Never is this clearer than when you are talking to one of your team mates. While the voice over is passable, it’s their faces that I can’t get over. They lack details and expressions, and feels like very cheap copies of their inspiration with shiny face cream slobbered on. I am sorry but a 2022 game AA game should not look like this.
This Review is Long
That’s because this game is pretty long too.
I felt I was still playing the tutorial about 10 hours into the game. It took another 6 before all playable characters were unlocked for me, and another 8 before the entire Abbey was open to me. That’s a lot of content with a lot of things to do, and a lot of encounters to take on.
In total I would think that you are looking at about 50-75 hours of gametime with the main story. My only recommendation, don’t get too caught up with side-missions and try to unlock as much as you can through the Main Story, as that is where the strongest upgrades lie.
The only real problem with Midnight Suns is that it doesn’t look that great. But maybe its because it can someday run on a mobile. Apart from that Marvel’s Midnight Suns has deep and varied gameplay mechanics that will keep you engaged both during and after battles. You will be making up strategies on how to best massacre Hydra minions, all the while increasing your friendship with your favourite characters.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a good middle ground for turn based strategy enthusiasts and Marvel fans. Its also a great starting point for someone who wants to get into deck-building and a little deeper into Marvel lore. Marvel’s Midnight Suns can make you feel like a superhero team, but only if you are good at it.