Marvel’s Midnight Suns is the Sleeper Hit of 2022 (review)
Playing cards with heroes
WACO, Texas (KWTX) -
Released: Dec. 2nd, 2022 on Xbox Series S/X, PS4/PS5 and PC
Developed by Firaxis Games
Code provided by publisher
Well, Firaxis, you did it. You made a turn-based action strategy game with deck building mechanics that I actually enjoy. Marvel’s Midnight Suns understands the god-tier powers that make superheroes fun to watch. The savage weightiness of a Hulk smash appropriately sending a Hydra soldier through a stone wall, the satisfying way enemies are yeeted around by your friendly neighborhood Spider-man, and even the powerfully dynamic slashes of Magik’s sword cutting through space and into Limbo really sell the super-human excelsior of it all. Smack that together with one part XCOM the card game, and two parts Marvel’s Persona and you’ve got a turn based strategic RPG that reaches heights far beyond my expectations. All this excellence is wrapped up in a intriguing story of family, apocalyptic prophecy, and the friends we made along the way. I’ve been playing games for a while so I knew the second I looked at this game it was going to be a deep time sink which as a father of two with two jobs to do is a painful realization. Yet despite it’s best efforts to cringe me out of liking it I loved every second of this game.
Following the resurrection of an archaic ancient evil igniting the start of a doomsday prophecy that leads a winding path of death and decay coming to a stop at the foot of an Elder God’s chaotic wrath. Now The Midnight Suns along side a disjointed team of familiar faces like Iron Man, Doctor Strange and even Spider-Man must raise The Hunter(aka YOUR CHARACTER ) from the dead to stand once again against Lilith. Firaxis has brought it’s tactical strategy gameplay over from XCOM offering a chess like cerebral since of strategizing. Luckily for me they ditched the cover system, expansive maps for more intimate, focused combat arenas. Alongside that, Midnight Suns uses a pretty fun deck building card system that effectively work like spell slots in an RPG. You get 3 card plays, 2 redraws, 2 moves and 1 item use initially giving you plenty of room to make use of the best cards to chain the most effective damage out. Each character has an array of card attacks, skills, and heroic abilities that leverage their unique talents, and you feel the power of each character grow to higher and higher measures as you accrue and upgrade new cards. It’s honestly way more fun than I expected.
Now most games feel slow when incorporating this kind of gameplay, but man Firaxis nailed the pacing of movement and action. This keeps match ups feeling frenetic and action packed while giving you all the time you need to find the best move for the situation. Every card has a special animation bringing out more personality from each character, and the battles look beautiful as they play out. Magik’s portals create fun ways to knock enemies around while Captain Marvel goes binary offering her additional protection. I mean everything here feels like the perfect fit for a superhero brawl. I loved seeing the ways characters took down and combined to take down enemies. Blade staking a demon through the heart applying bleed damage, so Captain America can shield bounce off like 5 dudes and take out most of the field is exhilarating every time. Then you add in the environmental actions like using crates for sick smack downs or dropping a light post on a hydra soldier and you’ve got a fun playground full of opportunity.
The gameplay is excellent but does fall short in its presentation. Though adequately rendered and decently detailed, the characters often have those, “I’m not sure you really see me” eyes. Environments have some nuance, but a lot of the textures came across as muddy. And I ran into a fair number of glitches where I’d get sucked into the never-ending black hole at the bottom of the maps, or Hunter would inexplicably descend into the depths of hell while navigating menus. Which sucked because like I said the animations for the various moves in combat look sick as all hell, spider-man does the “Thwip” and ties a guy up, every time Wolverine gets hit, he does a satisfactory snikt to rearm his claws, and even Tony’s kind of rocky landing add so much character. But it’s not just our heroes who get sweet moves because you’ve also got the cinematic attacks of the boss characters, like the nest mothers spinning scythe or the Lillian defenders strong rock shield pose that make these interactions feel very dynamic no matter how many times you’ve seen it. But the real kicker as far as flair are the abilities locked behind the max friendship. Hellfire blasts, masterful magic, demonic explosions and even a storm of blades all with the coolest of animations.
And since we’re talking about friendship, let’s talk about the almost dating sim portion of this game. Because it’s not enough that the world is ending, noooooo, you also have to convince every single recruit that you are worthy of being besties. Go on friend-dates doing everything from picnics on the hillside to playing a video game? Weirdly I’m not sure the developers know what other games look like because.... like...what am I even looking at here?... Anyway, there are benefits to giving gifts and being chummy, as each level of friendship boosts stats and offers passive abilities. Making spending time with your favorite heroes a must if you want a powerful, well-balanced team. Unfortunately, the dialogue is at times beyond cringy, like a bad fan fic where Iron Man talks about how cool you are and Wanda swoons over your deadly good looks. Interactions with staples like Spider-man, Magik and Captain America feel the most natural but man some of the things these heroes say are just so poorly conceived. MORE IMPORTANTLY how dare you bring me into this game, force me to get attached to characters, let me flirt with them and then FORCE ME TO BE FRIEND ZONED BY EVERYONE. You’re telling me we have time to fish, play video games, attend book club and star gaze but the end of the world couldn’t wait for me to romance Magik or Wolverine? Fine. At least these interactions grant you one of the many types of resources used to upgrade, enhance and style up your team. At first seeing all these resource items I was initially overwhelmed, I quickly felt relieved at the ease of applying and earning them. All of this friending and training happens at the Abby, a sort of HUB area where all the doomsday summer campers gather, de-costumed to live and chill in between missions. Exploring this space reveals mysteries to uncover and lore to discover as Agatha Harkness’ ghost tries to help you understand both the past of The Abbey as well as yourself. It’s a mostly enjoyable excursion into a hauntingly painted area but man is it boring at times. You’ll find no wondering NPCs or new side quests out there, just lore pages and new areas to take your “NOT DATES” on adventures later. The mystery part is cool but not much else there for me. Though I did enjoy the puzzle like challenge modes you unlock for each playable character upon reaching a maxed-out friendship offering up some great mind games.
That being said, the superheroes of both magic and non-magic variety coming here forces some really fun interactions as teams and egos clash, ideals are challenged. And ultimately, it’s you and the power of friendship that must unite them against the threat of Lilith. The queen of darkness’ lieutenants range from Crossbones to Venom bring familiar faces drenched in demonic power to battle. Spidey fighting to spare Eddy Brock at every turn, Doctor Strange struggling with his failures at the beginning of the game and even Tony Stark admitting his faults really make these characters fill out this extraordinarily lived in world. Inspite of its harrowing situation brought on by supernatural forces Midnight Suns never gets too serious and remains a fun light-hearted and bombastic ride from start to finish. If you love marvel, you’ll love these versions of your favorite characters, if you love XCOM you’ll love this take on the familiar formula and the difficulty it brings with it. With this entry it the Marvel gaming pantheons Firaxis has shown they not only make great strategy games but an amazing super-hero game. I can’t think of another team who could have pulled this one off. Marvel’s Midnight Suns is easily an 8/10 for me and I hope we get another adventure with this team again soon. For more game reviews and news Subscribe to Hardwired.
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