It’s been a decade since the last “Marvel Ultimate Alliance” game first graced the PS3 and Xbox 360 consoles. Due to some complicated rights issues, it seemed like the series was destined stop at two great games.
For the uninitiated, “Marvel Ultimate Alliance” plays something like a superpowered “Diablo.” Most of the time it’s played from a three-quarter overhead perspective with a variable motion camera (it moves when the designers want it to).
The chosen team of four heroes clear stages of baddies, solve puzzles, collect loot and fight fearsome bosses — super villains, of course.
You can play solo with the ability to switch between party members at will, or you can gather up to three other friends for some great multiplayer action. Whether you choose to dock your Switch and play couch co-op on a big screen; link four Switches together locally; or play online, the fun of tackling hordes of baddies is addictive.
The game’s familiar story won’t set the world on fire. The Infinity Stones are out there, and Thanos wants them. You’ll need an alliance of heroes to stop the nefarious villain. Instead of just the Avengers, however, you’ll team with a plethora of Marvel’s finest.
Starting with the Guardians of the Galaxy, you’ll end up recruiting members of the Avengers, Inhumans, Defenders, Eternals and X-Men. This allows a greater diversity of characters, including a wonderful roster of powerful super women finally getting their due.
The team I chose for my initial playthrough consisted of Captain Marvel, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen and Deadpool. Only active characters level-up, so it’s easier to stick with a core group (with perhaps an extra couple of alternates) for a single playthrough.
The game isn’t long — clocking in at only about 12 hours — but it offers plenty of incentive to keep coming back.
Initially, players can choose from two difficulty settings — Friendly and Mighty — with two more waiting to be unlocked. Once you beat the game, you can play through again with all of your items and experience carrying over.
The harder your chosen difficulty, the better the rewards. Enemies will drop higher-value items and chests will contain ultra-rare items not available at lower levels.
Regardless of the characters and difficulty level you choose, the game plays largely the same: hack, slash, repeat. However, different characters sport different powers, and Synergy attacks allow characters to team up for an extra powerful attack.
Characters also build a meter for their personal Extreme attack, which can also be stacked to devastating effect.
In addition to the main story mode, there is a series of Infinity Trials that will test your mettle. Often with specific conditions, the trials replay sections of the game in a more difficult fashion.
Earning stars in the Infinity Trials net players a nice variety of power-ups to enhance your characters in the main game, making them well worth your time.
The game cycle of fight, progress, enhance, rinse and repeat is very satisfying. If you don’t stay on top of your characters’ progression, you’ll have a much harder time facing more advanced threats.
On the downside, the game can become repetitive. Unlike “Diablo,” the maps are not randomly generated, meaning that subsequent playthroughs feel more and more familiar. This is helped slightly by how well the levels are designed, but I imagine that won’t matter much after three or four times through them.
Overall, however, the game is everything a Marvel fan could ask for. The dozens of playable characters, even more that pop-up in supporting roles or as enemies mixed with familiar locations throughout the Marvel Universe, are beyond satisfying. And the razor-sharp writing and voice acting that spotlight every character are icing on the cake.
“Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order” isn’t the perfect game, but it fills a niche for fans of the series and the subject matter. Let’s hope the upcoming DLC brings even more galaxy-spanning goodness for fans to dig into.
‘Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3:The Black Order’
Who it’s for: Marvel fans and those who like “Diablo”-style games