In recent years, movies depicting characters from the Marvel universe have almost reached a fever pitch. We’ve had no shortage of t-shirts, games, or big-screen interpretations of your favorite comic book hero or villain. But, that wasn’t always the case.
There are few gamers who remember the times when there weren’t many superhero video games. Sure, we had the occasional X-Men or Spider-Man beat’em ups. But those often focused on a repeating cast of characters, especially Wolverine. This was a time much before everyone and their mothers were theorizing or dissecting post-movie credits. Then came the Marvel Ultimate Alliance franchise, which found success with its ability to mash up characters from all across the vast Marvel universe.
These games were nothing short of a celebration and fan-service to those who had grown to love the X-Men, Avengers, and Spider-Man. However, the franchise all but disappeared a decade ago (aside from current-gen ports), leaving many to wonder if it would ever return. In this case, the game series has indeed made a comeback, finding a new home on the Nintendo Switch.
Welcome to the fan service
I’ve spent more than a handful of hours thus far plugging away at the main story in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. During my first few hours of the game, it was clear that there was a little something for everyone. From the blue and yellow shades of Wolverine’s classic attire to the cast of the Avengers, and even down to the more recent line of Marvel heroes, Ultimate Alliance 3 has a multitude of flavors within it to appease all types of fans.
The callbacks combine a mix of old school heroes and selling to the recency effect with new school additions. Characters like Scarlet Witch and Iron Fist are sporting their traditional comic book garb. I don’t know if it’s because of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse or Netflix’s series of Marvel titles, but I found myself giddily enjoying the number of recognizable characters on screen. I found this effort to tie-in current and older generations of content a positive thing, wrangling multiple age groups in the process.
An exercise in team building
You have a variety of different ways in which you can build the ultimate team within the game. As previously mentioned, there are a number of Marvel characters that will join the fight. With each level completed, you usually have three to four new characters introduced. You can choose to exercise patience and level up the ones you are currently using or swap them out. Replacing characters can be done when you approach a S.H.I.E.L.D. point, opening up a number of different upgrade options.
When accessing the S.H.I.E.L.D. point, you can exchange characters, look at hero-specific traits, or upgrade pieces to your overall Alliance Enhancements under the Lab tab. These are upgradeable perks that work depending on the composition of your team. For example, you’ll get bonus buffs for having multiple members of the original Avengers in the same squad. The same can be said for members of the Guardians of the Galaxy. Individual upgrades can be done on the fly within the pause menu screen. But, it is worth it to take a look, tinker, and swap out teammates when given the chance.
To be transparent, the majority of what I’ve talked about gets introduced fairly quickly, almost to the point that it’s overwhelming the amount of content that you are now in charge of monitoring. But after about 45 minutes to an hour in, things started to become second nature. However, as the game continues on, a number of different attributes and upgrades become a consideration factor.
At its core, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is an action-adventure role-playing game. However, combat is very much a part of its DNA. This was one thing that stood out to me most when playing the game for the first time on the E3 2019 show floor.
For those unfamiliar with the game, you have a four-player squad of characters. Each has their own strong attack (X button), weak attack (Y button), and special abilities. For example, the initial combat set for someone like Iron Man allows Mr. Stark to call upon his Unibeam chest blast. You can upgrade these moves over the course of the game, while also unlocking new ones.
Outside of these standard moves, you also have access to Synergy Link and ultimate abilities. Synergy moves occur when two characters can deploy their special abilities together outside of the ultimate abilities themselves. There is a listicle of different types of attacks; however, these are best saved for the full review.
More filling than shawarma
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is shaping up to be quite a meaty experience. There are a number of different attributes for players, rare items to discover, and unlockable characters out the wazoo.
Each time I’ve picked up my controller thus far, or have taken it out of the dock to play in handheld, I keep finding myself sucked in. I’m hoping that the game continues this trend all the way through until its end.