Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Review #448: Marvel Ultimate Alliance(PS2)

 Not the marvel I remembered.
 Raven Software had a pretty neat thing going with their Marvel-infused Diablo-clone X-Men Legends franchise, and Legends II took a lot of steps in the right direction, so one would expect that they'd follow the same trend with their next enterprise, the much more ambitious Marvel Ultimate Alliance, right? Well, they took some steps in the right direction alright, but they also took a few backwards.

 Dr. Doom, Loki, the Enchantress, Ultron and Baron Mordo have teamed up, probably due to their affinity with the color green, as the Masters of Evil, and their first order of business was taking down SHIELD. Nick Fury issues a call to arms, and over 20 heroes of the Marvel Universe heed the call, teaming up on a 5-act romp to stop the evil doers. The story is pretty tame and bland, but it's alright as an excuse to gather all these villains and heroes from the Marvel universe. The game has more sidequests than before, but the game, as a whole, is about as long as Legends 2(13-15 hours). And if you intend to play it, the sixth generation home consolse and PC versions are the worst, since they have the least amount of characters. PS3 gets Colossus and Moon Knight, X360 has those two as well as other six(Including Dr. Doom and Hulk), PSP gets Ronin, Hawkeye, Captain Marvel and Black Widow, while the newest PS4/XOne ports get all 8 X360 characters
 Plenty has changed since Legends II, I assume in an attempt to streamline the game, but not everything worked as intended. You still take control of a 4-man unit, going from 'dungeon' to 'dungeon', beating enemies, leveling up, learning new abilities and getting loot, and the controls are more or less the same, but a few key elements have been tweaked or removed entirely. Shops are a thing of the past, what little equipment there is you'll find on chests or dropped from bosses, and you can sell them on the spot while on the equip menu. The equipment variety is very small, I'd say even smaller than Legends I's paltry selection, and now characters can only equip a single item, for whatever reason.

 For whatever reason, Auto-leveling and Auto-equipping is set On by default, so unless you turn it off one by one on every single character the moment you start the game, you'll have to deal with
the CPU distributing all skill points when you switch to a new character, which sucks. A lot. Skill points are gone, kinda, stats still increase upon leveling up, but you no longer get bonus points to spend on each. Probably for the best, since let's be real for a minute, in both Legends 1 and 2, 'Body' and 'Focus' were the only stats worth a damn. Still, I would've liked for them to make melee worth it rather than can the stat distribution entirely. Passive Abilities are now tied to costumes, every character gets 4 different costume and each costume has 3 different passive abilities each, these abilities are upgraded with.... money. And if you want to level up a special move but lack the points(you get one on each level up), fret not, you can spend in-game money to level it up, which is kinda odd.
 I'm not done. Health and Mana Potions have been given the axe, instead, now enemies may drop health and mana orbs upon defeat, which can be picked up to restore either. Melee combo strings have been reduced to strictly 3-hit minicombos which is baffling. You can block attacks now though, for whatever that's worth. Reviving characters no longer costs money, but rather.... Time? What the hell? You have to wait four minutes before you can revive a character, which is a very dumbfounding. Since when is wasting a player's time a good idea? But the cherry on top? QTEs made it into the game, because why not?

 Not everything's gone down the crapper though, the core of the game remains the same, so it's still a fun game, just not as fun as it could be nor as fun as Legends II could get. There were a few improvements too, abilities such as Flight and Might no longer cost precious ability points and come by default on characters, and the obstacles requiring specific powers are almost entirely gone, save for a very few optional roads. Xtreme Moves(I guess they are 'Extreme' now since it's no longer an X-Men game?) no longer share an energy pool, which makes it so that you'll want all your characters to learn theirs'.
 I know I've been very critical of the game, but I can't stress this enough: The game is fun to play. It is, there's no denying that. But a lot of the streamlining really hurt the game. Customization is too shallow for my taste, it's a shame they gave up on stat distribution rather than making other stats useful, and making equipment so banal was a bad choice. QTEs were a terrible idea, but they are not too pervasive, luckily, but why they reduced melee combo strings is beyond me.

 Marvel Ultimate Alliance could've been a great thing. The concept is pure genius, and the fact that the game is still fun despite how many steps back it took from X-Men Legends II speaks leagues for the potential behind it and how well they executed the core mechanics.
 7.0 out of 10

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