As it stands, the Avengers initiative failed, with the shimmer lasting just mere weeks. The promises to deliver additional content which was front-loaded as early as E3 2019, has yet to be delivered. By this concept, we can most likely assume that the game has reflected the similar level of success akin to EA’s Anthem. Yes, I am aware that I am beating a dead horse, but as long as people give Ains and Dan $5 superchats about Anthem during the Bitcast, then I will continue to discuss the Avengers whether you like it or not. Anywho, we are still laughing at Anthem as we slowly let Avengers fade away, becoming a faint memory. The current relationship Crystal Dynamics has with their audience is all but gone, as reports of massive financial losses ($48 million) come to light along with a dwindling playerbase. The game is riddled with issues, most of them pertaining to overall performance and even though I cannot attempt to rectify something like that, I can try to hypothetically fix a game that is inherently broken to the core.
The Avengers is one of the titles that plans on promoting a multi-year, Destiny-like lifespan. Additional story elements and characters would be released over time, hooking players into the game. Many folks already saw this as problematic due to the unreliable history of “games as a service” titles. Unfortunately, much like Destiny, we must endure up to a year of terrible experiences before the game becomes good enough to enjoy. As we all know, the game has a lot of issues, and I have been mulling this idea over for the last several months: “how to make Avengers better”. But now I ask myself, “can we make Avengers better?”
I ask this because there are clearly aspects of this title that just don’t fit into the appropriate cutout. Right now, as I ventured back into editing this piece, I try to think if this is all worth it? Do they bother fixing this game in order to get a small amount of players to return or has the damage already been done? Do they cut their losses and run or perform an overhaul? For the sake of my sanity, I say they cut their losses and understand where they went wrong. But for the sake of my article and time I wasted writing this, let’s hope they try to do a revamp.
Needless to say, I am not a programmer or developer. I make this statement in order to make myself seem smart, yet also give ample amount of room for error and allow the cognitive ignorance sink-in, getting ahead of the others will clearly point that out in the comments section. I am aware that development is hard, and if it was easy then many more people would be filling up my Steam library with half-baked ideas more than usual (looking at you Dustoff Z). So let’s look at three areas that need improvement in order to fix some of the core aspects of this game and at least make it playable for longer than three weeks.
Splitting The Game
Much like the superheroes and their secret identities, we need to separate the single player campaign from the multiplayer. There are some good bones here, and I think the single player campaign stands as the true skeleton to this title. But then there are these missions forcing you to gather resources, feeling like giant time wasters. Get rid of that! Don’t waste a player’s time when they want to experience a story! The story is well crafted and if you can only play it single player then why have it threaded into a multiplayer realm? The line needs to be clear from the start: Story or Multiplayer.
Having a story only mode means that a lot of stuff can be scrapped. This means we remove the whole factions aspect, remove the war table, and remove the gear grind. Simply because for a single-player campaign, you don’t need all of these extra systems, and we will revisit these concepts later. We could keep talent trees but even to an extent they don’t feel very useful, so we could also remove those since you play as multiple characters throughout the entire story. As for now, side missions could have a place. But it may require conversations to be had, which means more solid story beats. This would enable us to experience more intimate moments with these heroes, continuing the trend of a team coming to terms with their personal situations and more of the classic villains we have come to know over time. They could even choose lesser known enemies as well, since the game has a comic book collecting thing going on with it currently. Seriously, just pick any of these guys, not that hard.
How would we get these missions? Like I said, you have to have story beats (c’mon guys). If the players are also going to use Kamala as the main focus for characters to play as, simply have her walk around and talk to some of the characters to obtain information. Let’s take Thor for instance. He has a rich backstory, so why not acknowledge that? Thor literally comes out of nowhere looking like some retail Bagger Vance, so let Kamala sit down with him and he can tell a story from his perspective, allowing you to play as him. This also serves as a way for Kamala to be widely accepted as an Avenger down the line (which no one acknowledges at all). She builds these relationships with characters and becomes important enough where the rest of the team values her presence on a deeper level.
I can’t think of any other type of sub-system to implement into the game. That is because you don’t really spend a lot of time with each character to allow a full blown out talent tree. Gear doesn’t matter for the same reason. But if you want to implement a loop, perhaps instead of thinking about each individual character, you think on a team level, after all, The Avengers is a team! You could unlock stuff that would apply to the entire team. Increased health, additional combos, maybe some minor gear concepts that allow you to consider aspects like “do I want to hit faster or harder?” Bottom line, a game with more systems and a short story does not belong together. That concept cannot coexist at all. Players do not want half-baked ideas, they want a tight, focused story with little interruptions from overblown and unbalanced systems. Save those aspects for multiplayer.
A Better Multiplayer
Multiplayer is going to be the area where we really harness all of the elements that we scrapped in the single player story section. To think of this on a critical level, do we need to stick with the main characters of The Avengers at all? I have a better idea on how we can implement their presence and that is to not play as them at all. Instead we utilize the Inhumans aspect that was implemented in the campaign. How could we forget about it? They seem to pack in how important these marginalized people are yet never give them a moment where they feel empowered to fight back. Instead they stand in rooms, just blinking for all eternity.
Here is how I see it, you make a character unique to your liking. Hell, make several if you want. You design the character and make them look however you want with a character customizer. The sky’s the limit as we have already seen what some inhumans can look like. Storywise, we can say that your character broke out of an AIM facility, and your powers were sapped, but you want to fight and do your part. You have potential but you want to hone your abilities and become stronger.
So in order to regain your full capabilities, you decide to go to one of The Avengers and adopt a fighting style popularized by the character. After all, they are unique combatants who can’t be everywhere at once. They could use your help to save the world and fight AIM. This is where we begin this experience that can easily pull players in and create an immersive experience.
You make your character, you break out of AIM in a quick little tutorial mission that may introduce gear to you. Let’s say you fight an enemy and they drop some armor or something, and you apply it, showing you something physical on your character. It could have stats which can follow the current system. Once you break out you are introduced to The Avengers aboard the helicarrier. From there you can explore and see what is currently there now.
To help build this idea of a fighting style, using Black Widow as an example, you could approach her and make her your mentor. This would outfit your character with a weapon type, armor type, a moveset, and three unique talent trees based upon Black Widow’s overall concept. She seems to be a stealth character with guns and deadly close range attacks. So let’s make a Stealth tree that focuses on cloaking and being silent. A ranged tree that uses her guns and allows deeper ranged combat tactics. Finally, the melee option which will focus on more in-your-face moves and delivering devastating blows. Allow the special moves to be changed up but keep the overall ultimate ability.
In my perfect world here, you would level up with your mentor the more you used that fighting style. It would further unlock new abilities and what not, sort of like evolving in martial arts with belts or leveling up in basically every game you have ever played. Eventually, at certain intervals, you can get side missions tied to that character. This is where we could see more villains from the comics.
Now, if you get tired of rolling a specific fighting style, talk to another character and then adapt their fighting style, but you won’t start at the same level. So if you get to, let’s say level 10 with Black Widow you don’t start at level 10 with The Hulk. You gotta start from the beginning. But if you ever want to go back to the previous style, then your level will still remain. This does a lot of things for players, allowing them to choose what they want for specific situations and playstyles. It’s also a point of progress and starts to build up that gameplay loop in a clean way. It also allows the ridiculous element in, which can be hilariously fun, like having big characters move faster than lightning. I have seen it in many games and it is never boring and only hilarious to me.
One thing this also does is give players choice. As I said before, you cannot have multiple of the same characters because Crystal Dynamics chose that. This avoids the entire situation, if you want four characters using shields, so be it, let it happen. Will it be silly, of course, but this is already a game about superheroes, so realism is already out the door. Also, embracing the more silly aspects can make for some fun moments for players. You remember what fun is, right guys? We could have that again! I mean, we could have had that, this isn’t real, which is upsetting. Sorry to bring you back into the real world for a moment.
Most importantly, introducing new characters and fighting styles would be super easy! Kate Bishop is coming, eventually, maybe, so instead of just having everyone fighting to play as her, you just have her character there with a baseline kit for you. Boom, done. No worrying about how she is going to fit, and if you want, give her a brief introduction mission or something. Maybe you have to go find her in the battlefield and help unlock her as a mentor. C’mon guys, did any of you folks think about this? It’s getting embarrassing now.
Gearing for the Grind
Okay, gear, the big elephant in the room. I know this would handle well more in the multiplayer aspect than the story mode, but this is how it should be done dammit! As I said before, gear needs to be physical on your character. You get a new belt, I want it to be shown off. I want people to look at that like I spent a lot of time unlocking it and not luckily getting it from a loot box that “isn’t a loot box.” I also don’t want people to think I bought it with real life money. It should work like itemization does in literally every other game that does this. Not too far fetched of a concept, right?
How do you obtain armor though? Well, you can have the specialized factions such as Shield and The Ant Hill, which can stay. Maybe add another to keep things interesting and fresh. It also makes sense because you will be working to build your relationship with these factions. Iron Man doesn’t need to build a relationship with Shield. Agents know who Iron Man is, do they all of a sudden need him to show his punch card for a piece of armor that he can make? No! He’s Iron Man! But you, a no named character who is fresh on this hybrid boat, need to prove yourself to these factions that you are worth your salt. So building relationships with these factions for gear would be another gameplay loop to keep players engaged. Maybe get to a high enough relationship level and you can use Tony Stark’s replicator to make high-end items out of the materials you have earned.
The gear grind also makes endgame events more important, as it is in every other game. You get these pieces of gear that you can show off to friends and it looks sweet, so you help each other like you do in every other game. But at least you earned something and you have a real way to display it. What do you get currently? Skins that drop randomly or you buy. How exciting and thrilling is that?
On The House
Once again, I understand that all of this would take time to be implemented, and of course an overhaul like this would take years to do. But with my experience in playing games like World of Warcraft and Destiny (for literal years, mind you), I seem to understand how these concepts work. I understand the gameplay loops that keep people interested. I also get the urge to visit these games more because I love how the games control and new content seems thrilling. Right now as I type this, I am attempting to find a place that I can fit Destiny’s Beyond Light expansion into my life. Not Avengers. Never Avengers.
I know this is not a new concept and seems rather similar to what other games do, but this is how it works. This is the bare minimum for all games that are currently out there. As I said, Avengers has some solid bones, but it has no muscles or skin, so it’s inherently useless. Not only do I feel that this is a better way to approach a massive Marvel universe, but it can feel so much more authentic in comparison to what we got, which is the Wish.com version of Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Square Enix, you can have this for free, it’s on me. Seems like you need it if you keep on going down this path.