Everyone loves a freebie, don’t they? That’s what developers Gazillion are hoping is true with their Marvel themed MMO Action-RPG game Marvel Heroes Omega.

Slapping the Marvel name on anything at the moment is a great way to draw in the masses. Being a free-to-play title doesn’t always mean success though, so that’s why I’m here to figure out whether it’s worth your time and effort. Is it a comic book fan’s dream, or is it just a micro-transaction filled hell?

It’s worth pointing out from the off the similarities it has with the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games, using an isometric viewpoint along with other little quirks – as you wade through labyrinth designed layouts. There’s not an awful lot of difference in terms of the visuals either, which might worry some given how old those games are. But I used to enjoy them and looks aren’t everything. So don’t write it off just yet.

The basis of the story in Marvel Heroes Omega sees Doctor Doom acquire the incredibly powerful Cosmic Cube and he looks set to use it to wreak devastation upon the world. That is until the superheroes of the Marvel Universe catch wind of the plan, meaning they must work together to foil it. Doctor Doom has a few villainous pals of his own though, so it’s going to be no easy task that’s for sure.

Everything cutscene orientated starts off really well, with a properly animated opening sequence showing Doctor Doom battling against The Watcher, as the latter attempts to prevent the use of the Cosmic Cube. It’s all very exciting, but then the budget must’ve been tightened because all the rest of the custcenes are basically comic book style stills with minor effects and voiceovers to keep the narrative going throughout the story missions. I feel like it’d would be better received if there wasn’t such a good opening as the difference in quality is so big.

Speaking of story missions, they are the meat of the game, spanning across nine chapters and generally follow a straightforward pattern for each one. You speak to an NPC, roam around areas filled with random baddies to find the place you want to be and then work through the henchmen until you get to a boss.

Other than partaking in the story, Trials are present and these feel a lot like a horde mode, with you needing to beat up a couple of enemy waves. Then there are Patrols which see you, yep you guessed it, patrolling the streets and defeating the super villains who dare show their faces to invade. Last up are the Operations and these are the coolest of the extra missions; for example, in one, I had to defuse bombs and work my way up through the Daily Bugle building, taking down members of the Sinister Six as I went.

It may well sound like a repetitive game design, but I can’t argue with the fact that there is a large variety of personnel to beat up. If you know of a villain and their respective minions, then you’ll probably find them here. Expect to be waging war against The Hand, HYDRA agents, A.I.M.  Scientists etc. along the path towards confronting a boss – hell there’s even bloody dinosaurs. The bosses included in the game are the likes of Elektra, Kingpin, Venom, and then the lesser known ones of Sauron, Gorgon and the Wizard, to name just a few. Bosses are jacked up health-wise, unleashing powerful attacks which can, and must, be telegraphed to stay alive. Picking your moments wisely is vital; something I realised when Bullseye almost one-shot me because I didn’t take notice of his incoming attack.

To enable you to defeat any and all enemies, there are up to eight different moves you can allocate to the four face buttons and a second lot of manoeuvres which can be accessed by holding the Left Trigger, whilst using the same buttons. Starting with just the three moves, more will unlock periodically and it’s entirely customisable as to their placement – if a move is used at all, as there are far more moves to unlock than it is possible to equip. The simple nature of initiating the attacks does make the combat a little stale eventually, to the point where my mind isn’t truly engaged in what is happening. It’s rather mind numbing.

Each playable character has a unique set of abilities, talents to boost those abilities and an ultimate power move, all relevant to their heroic style. Wolverine has lots of claw related actions and is a melee specialist, whereas Nova fires special beams from range and can perform health draining energy fields. Deadpool however gets the best of both styles; a bit of slicing and dicing mixed with gunplay. I have to say I’m rather impressed with the amount of moves on offer and it does entice me to try different characters out, levelling them up to see what tricks they have up their sleeve.

Being a free-to-play title though, there is a small catch… the character levels are capped at 10 for all of them until you take the plunge and buy them using an earnable in-game currency (Eternity Splinters), or via the micro-transaction route of parting with real cash. You will have enough to buy one from the start, increasing the level cap to 60, but to be able to earn anymore you’re going to be in for a proper grind.

To put it all into perspective, after finishing the entire story, maxing out my main character and playing other types of missions, I still don’t have enough of the necessary currency for more. One thing I’m still not keen on is the false sense of being able to use them all for free, when a level 10 character barely gets you through the first chapter alive. The grind is real, but hey, at least you can sort of try them all out first.

Having such a large roster at 30+ heroes, you are going to be tempted to throw money at it. The sheer variety of names chosen to be a part of Marvel Heroes Omega is great, mainly because it’s a combination of fan favourites X-Men, Avengers, Guardians and the not so popular Magik, Moon Knight and Squirrel Girl. There’s someone for everyone. Should you want to skip the grind, there are packs available to get handfuls of characters at a discounted rate compared to buying separately, but I can’t recommend doing such a thing.

One of the more enjoyable aspects is in gaining the loot. Defeated enemies not only provide XP, but they can also drop anything and everything, from helmets and boots, to gloves and artifacts. All of it has different rarities, stat boosts and can be equipped to the character it’s relevant to. The joy of switching in new and improved pieces of loot is glorious, especially when it’s drastically better. Visiting one of the Headquarters is the safest place to organise your kit, which is where different vendors are found to use other in-game currencies to buy and craft a multitude of items. Honestly though, the vendors do nothing for me as I am priced out of most things, plus the inventories have limited space unless you pay up. A crafty move there it has to be said.

As previously mentioned, this is an MMO, and so most of the areas are shared instances, allowing random people to aid and assist with certain events that can occur. This leads to a whole lot of issues because, truth be told, the game just can’t cope. The rendering is clearly affected by the sheer amount of people in the same environment, preventing textures and parts of levels from fully loading. There’s also a lot of slowdown due to the fact that so much is going on and it isn’t able to keep up the pace, something which happens in the private sections also. It’s quite frustrating when the graphics are of such a low standard and yet Marvel Heroes Omega still struggles to avoid such problems.

Local and online co-op is possible, but after trying the online side with a friend, it became a little annoying because even though we were in a party, it didn’t let me drag them into the next area, they had to do it themselves. It’s the simple things that bug me.

Overall, Marvel Heroes Omega brings together a plethora of heroes and villains for a frantic Action-RPG, with exciting manoeuvres galore and an extensive loot system. There’s an awful lot to do, from story missions and Trials, to Patrols and Operations, but it does wear thin after a little while. Sadly, the story isn’t the best and the cutscenes aren’t great as the effects are basic. However most worrying are the issues in regards to bugging out moves, not loading sections properly and really bad slowdown. The micro-transactions are very disappointing in the way that it forces you into a hellish grind if you don’t want to spend any money too.

That said, it’s worth remembering that Marvel Heroes Omega is free and if you love Marvel then I have to say you should give it a try. Once you buy into the grind and ignore the issues, it’s pretty fun to have a little go on here and there.

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