Worth assembling for? You bet!
Platform: Nintendo Switch
Genre: Marvel Mashup Button Masher
The days of multiple developers and publishers working on various genres featuring Marvel games of back then are slowly creeping back into the fold. This is probably thanks to the current Disney Marvel regime that’s arguably trying to do good by unifying its creative vision. Sure, it’s not as fruitful and elaborate as the mid and late 2000s, but there’s a bit to look forward to.
Like the upcoming Avengers game for Square Enix…no wait, we didn’t like that one. Or how about those dozen Korean auto-battlers with the Marvel license? No, we’re not quite fans of that. But there’s Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, a return to form to Raven Software and Activision’s co-op action RPG brawler courtesy of Nintendo and Team Ninja, the latter being famous for their rather bouncy fighting game Dead or Alive. If anything, the team are better at doing action games than stories.
Tales To Astonish?
Not so in this case. While the game starts off as a chase for Infinity Stones and getting the heck away from Thanos and his Black Order buddies, its narrative caps off in unexpected ways. It also blends in many aspects of Marvel lore in a seamless and fan-service-savvy fashion.
You’ll take a trip down to the X-Mansion and even Ryker’s Prison to fight Sentinels and super-powered criminals. And yes, you’ll see more Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan and GotG Starlord’s making their mark in the game’s many story-tying cutscenes. As long as you remember that the game is combining the Marvel Cinematic Universe and newer Marvel Comics characters and iterations in this package, you’ll enjoy this nonsense of a thrill ride.
Of course, you’re not going to nitpick too much about its portrayal because the game gives you a plethora of heroes to use. See, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 lets you create a team of up to four characters out of a roster filled with 36 heroes and villains (with more on the way). Depending on your setup, they can be buffed up if they’re from the same factions or if they work well together.
If you put Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Daredevil in one team, you’ll get a Defenders bonus amongst other stat boosts that can increase their toughness. Likewise, if you team up Nightcrawler, Psylocke, Deadpool, and Wolverine; you’ll get a huge boost at life and damage via the X-Force and X-Men alliance bonus. If you know your Marvel lore, you’ll want to team up your favourite heroes together for that stats boost and their potential synergy attacks. I’m sure a few of you want to just team Doctor Strange and Ghost Rider up for that Midnight Sons bonus.
And yes, Marvel vs Capcom fans; you can create your own OP team of Magneto, Storm, Wolverine, and Psylocke if you feel that the last MvC game was underwhelming. MUA 3 is the soothing ointment for that long-scarring burn.
A Rollercoaster Ride Of Marvel Fandom Old & New
Most stages in MUA 3 are long paths of corridors and small rooms filled with a ton of enemies. Some of them have stamina bars you need to exhaust so that they get stunned. Sometimes each room has a simple puzzle that changes the brawling up a bit. All you have to do for the most part is beat up anything in your way. Your controls are pretty slick; you have your light and heavy attacks, your jump, your block/dodge button which you’ll need to use a ton, and your special attack hotkeys
All of them are usually capped off with interesting boss fights against Marvel’s insanely-large rogue’s gallery, which are both fun and challenging. From Green Goblin’s fly-by attacks with his goblin grenades and Time Stone shenanigans to Ultron’s laser-dodging party, you may end up dying a couple of times before figuring out their patterns.
Speaking of which, you’ll need to have a balanced group of ranged, damage-dealers, and tanks to at least have various special moves you can synergize with. You can perform synergy attacks with your other teammates for hard-hitting damage, provided they’re close enough to you. You can also press A when you see your teammates doing a special move so that you can create another synergy attack.
All of this, coupled with Extreme attacks (press L and R when your yellow extreme meter is charged for a screen-clearing move) that can stack with your three other teammate’s Extreme move, makes for a very, very messy chaotic time. Even with the markers on your selected playable heroes, it can be hard to see what the blazes is going on once you unleash a lot of synergy attacks like Psylocke’s “psychic purple uppercut” and Ms. Marvel’s ground pound AoE moves.
The camera also doesn’t help as it sometimes can shove itself in a spot where it’s up too close to your characters unless you move further from the corner. Thankfully, the rest of the game gets pretty fun even if you’re at odds with the game’s way of presenting the action to you.
Apart from the Alliance bonuses, your heroes can equip ISO-8 stones that can give you stat boosts, as a way to fill up the RPG criteria of this game. Need to boost up Wolverine’s damage? Put on a giant big ISO-8 that increases his strength to 500. Want to make Nightcrawler take a bit more damage? Slap on a resilience and defence-focused ISO-8. Your characters can equip up to four of these bad boys once they’re at a high level, so you have ample opportunities to tweak your favourite Marvel-branded ass-kicker to be the best there is at what they do.
On top of that, there’s a giant-as-heck hexagonal tree you can level up to boost your current team’s overall stats. The nodes of the tree increase strength, vitality, and even some offensive and defensive buffs like faster XP-gaining.
All of this customization is useful and fun, and helps players experiment thoroughly if they want to make it out in one piece with the game. Example: If I find myself dying a lot at a boss or at a particular obstacle, I just go back to my menus and switch up my alliances, or just micro-manage my ISO-8s. And when your characters are level 20 and beyond, they can be equipped and tweaked up the wazoo.
Speaking of levels, your other neglected superheroes will be left behind. In a game with a 38+ hero roster, 3/4ths of them will not be beyond level 20 or up to par with your 1/4th pack. I got through 10 hours of the game with Ms. Marvel and the majority of the X-Men because those are my favourite characters. It’s friggin’ Kamala Khan; how can you not love her optimism and gung-ho attitude? Everyone else from Iron Man to the other Avengers gets the shaft.
Even with that problem, you still can replay the game over and over again to get the most out of it post-credits. That’s MUA 3’s other superpower apart from fun combat and its simple-yet-custom-heavy RPG system: replayability.
Finishing the game unlocks Superior difficulty where everything starts off at Level 40 and ramps up from there. There are also the Infinity challenges where you earn cosmetic rewards, new ISO-8 equipment, and XP boosters if you complete specific tasks like using Spider-Man alone for one stage or fight a super-powered version of a main story boss with extra stipulations like bleeding lifebars.
In case you think the main game wasn’t tough enough, all of these are sure to keep you invested and playing the game more. And then there’s the co-op aspect; you can play this with online folks or with your pals and loved ones on the couch.
I remember playing a ton of Marvel Heroes before it shut down. It’s pretty much action RPG fun with a group of folks online where you get your jollies from just beating up waves of enemies and getting loot out of it. I get the same kind of gratification in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, albeit in a more personal setting with your close pals, or with yourself if you just want to 100% the game.
It’s been a while since we’ve received a console action-savvy Marvel game that’s better than a sum of its parts. It even brought back some much-needed complexity in its action formula, especially when past MUA games take that away for god-knows-what reason. So if you want a licensed game done right and is content with what it wants to deliver, make yours Marvel.
- Fun combat for all ages
- Challenging gameplay and stages with huge replayability
- Deep customization system with ISO-8s
- Cute handling of story and Marvel lore
- The camera gets wonky and stubborn during hectic bits
- Can get incredibly messy; easy to lose track
- You’ll end up with a lot of unleveled heroes once you finish the game