Avengers Disassembled

In true superhero fashion, Avengers has entered our living rooms with a resounding thud. It’s been about a week and I think most of us have now settled into the smash-and-grind of the Post-Campaign game.

I’m not quite at the True Endgame of max level and max power just yet, but after 30 hours I’ve completed the introduction campaign, all but one of the hero storylines, and worked through most of the second campaign. I’ve put enough time into this game that I feel qualified in my opinions.

Sidebar: I have died a lot.

Any Stadia Specific Notes?

In the week before it released, I played the demo on Xbox, and although I never had full-on crashing in either system I did encounter plenty of bugs in both (world tearing, falling through the world, world textures missing, faces missing, etc), so I wouldn’t call that a win for Stadia.

One area that Stadia continues to excel though is in load times. The initial launch boot-up seems the same for me between Stadia and Xbox, but missions and scene loads are significantly faster.

There are no Stadia specific features in Avengers at this time. I can’t see this being a good candidate for Crowd Play since there’s no drop-in, and missions are quite long.

So How Is The Game?

Let’s talk about the good things first. This is a really fun game, and there are a lot of small delights here. Crystal Dynamics has really nailed the feel of these individual heroes, and managed to make them feel very different from each other. Subtle things like how Thor and Iron Man can both fly, and they’re obviously using the same flying mechanics, but they feel different. Thor flies through the air silently, propelled by his godly power, while Iron Man feels heavier, with a slight rumble in the controller and a thicker rocket-powered… mouthfeel? Sure.

Captain America and Black Widow are both melee combatants, but again they play very differently. Cap has a brutal in-your-face style of combat reminiscent of those classic beat-em-up games which will probably feel very familiar to most old-school brawler players. Conversely, Black Widow’s abilities are based around evasion. Out of the current group she’s the only ground-level “mortal” type character (Tony is a robot and Kamala is indestructible stretchy-pants so they don’t count) and the gameplay really embraces that. She can take a couple hits, but dodging and parrying and countering are where her abilities truly shine.

So.. How About The Powers?

Speaking of abilities, I wasn’t at first a fan of how the character ability points work in this game. Abilities are spread out over 3 different pages, each with 3 or 4 trees. At first glance there are a lot of powers to read through, and it can be intimidating. Most of the ability trees unlock over time as you level up, but with the majority of them unlocking between levels 5 and 10, it’s still a lot to digest. I’ve even seen a few people mention that they’ve put 10s of hours into the game before even realizing that there’s a third page to spend point on. It’s a tad overwhelming.

My initial complaint with the powers system was that it just… ends. You spend 10 to 15 hours with a character, levelling up, learning how to fight with them, unlocking all these cool powers, and then it’s just over. You’re expected to continue playing with this character for an indefinite amount of time in this Game As A Service, and yet we’ve already unlocked all the cool stuff in the first 3 days. Compare this to Destiny 2 where you only get a handful of powers, but you have all of them at the start so there’s less of that feeling that you’re progressing towards something that then simply disappears.

The gear on the other hands works pretty much exactly as you would expect it to from other looter games. You get new loot, your numbers go up. I honestly can’t complain about much here, it’s very standard fare. Avengers doesn’t take any chances on new systems here, you get exactly what you expect.

My pet peeve? Your gear doesn’t show up on your characters, and that’s really disappointing. Characters have “skins” or “costumes” that you can unlock by either completing daily/weekly challenges, or with real money through micro-transactions. That’s how they’re making their money though, and supposedly all upcoming story and character content will be free, so it’s a small trade off that I’m okay with.

But Why Are You Giving Off Such A Negative Vibe Through This Whole Review?

Because there just isn’t much to do, and ultimately that’s my biggest gripe with this game. If it wasn’t for the Marvel IP, this game would have been a footnote in history. I loved the campaign and Kamala is a fantastic character. Her story is just the right amount of hero worship and begrudgingly coming to terms with her own heroics, and the way she allows us to play the outsider perspective is comical and refreshing. The campaign was good enough that I honestly didn’t even notice that I was running down the same hallways 15 different times in 15 nearly identical missions.

But then the campaign ended and the veil was lifted. That’s when you realize that you just had a really enjoyable 15 hour single-player (or co-op maybe) experience, and you’re now playing The End Game. We all know that old South Park meme “now we can finally play the game.” And that’s what happens here. The campaign and the “post-game state” referred to in-game as the Avengers Initiative is almost an entirely different game. It’s a new set of menus, it’s a different login from the boot-up splash screen, if you accidentally log in to the “campaign” mode like I did a few times, you can’t see any of the new Avengers Initiative missions on the map. It’s very confusing.

From that point on, you’re firmly entrenched in GaaS territory. If you like Destiny or Anthem, you’ll feel right at home here, but the more I play games like this the more I realize that it’s just not for me.

Before you start playing, make sure you travel to both of the Social Hubs, and sit through at least 2 loading screens each to get there, and pick up all of the daily missions from the two Faction Leaders. Then check on your daily Hero challenges, you’ll want to keep an eye on those too.

Now you’re ready to run a random mission, or maybe progress in the post-campaign campaign. The grind is real. You’ll either be in a forest, an underground complex, or a desert. You’ll run those same 3 maps over and over and over and over. First you’ll have to eliminate 5 high-value targets, then you’ll have to stand on a button, then you’ll have to smash a reactor. I played a lot of Destiny, and they do the same thing there, but because this isn’t an open world game the repetition here feels much more obvious.

It’s especially frustrating when every “story” mission presents you with a small piece of pre-mission dialogue to set the stage. “We need to make sure Taskmaster doesn’t get away with this horrendous crime!” And then it drops you into literally the exact same short stretch of 3 hallways that you just went through a minute earlier to beat down Abomination. I could go on, but I’m sure you get the point by now.

Looking Toward The Future

I think this is going to be amazing game in a year or two. They’re working quickly to squash all the bugs that are currently in the game, so I’m not worried about that (even though there are a lot of them). There’s a huge amount of DLC planned, and all of it is supposedly coming for free. There are new characters, new story missions, and new villains all on the horizon. Supposedly all of those things will even be coming in the next month, so that’s very exciting.

In spite of that though, there are a few things I’m concerned about.

DLC being too same-y

This comes back to what I complained about earlier. The maps are all incredibly similar right now. That needs to change. If the new story content boils down to a few new lines of dialogue used to set up smashing the same robots in the same corridors, I’m going to be extremely disappointed. We need not only new biomes, but new objectives. Smash this, stand on that is not going to be interesting enough to last.

New characters being too same-y

Along the same lines, the upcoming playable characters that have been data-mined so far will need to have new and interesting play-styles. So far this has been the saving grace of the game, and it’s the reason I’m still playing it. The characters feel amazing. But looking towards upcoming characters I’m seeing a lot of similarities with characters we’ve already seen, or with each other. That doesn’t mean Crystal Dynamics can’t make them feel unique, but it does mean they need to. Otherwise, we’ll end up seeing that Winter Soldier is just Captain America in a new skin. Kate Bishop and Hawkeye, Hulk and She-Hulk, Iron Man and War Machine, Ant-Man and The Wasp.

I hope they play differently, but I have my worries.

Should I Buy Avengers RIGHT NOW Or Maybe I Should Wait?

Short Answer: You should wait.

Long Answer: You should definitely wait.

Avengers is fun the way it is. It’s a blast to run around as these heroes and it genuinely feels like you’re playing as them in this game. But there just isn’t enough content here to justify the price tag. If it’s on sale, if it’s free on Stadia Pro or Gamepass, if someone buys it for you—then you should absolutely play this game. If you’re the type to invest in the future and you plan to pick it up again every few months just to see what’s new, then again yes you should buy this game.

For me, and people like me, who want to enjoy what the game has right now, and will likely not pick it up to play again after the next big game drops—it’s not worth it at the current price.

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