Of the many Marvel projects in production, Marvel Midnight Suns is one that has caught the most attention from gamers. For good reason, it’s a tactical role-playing game developed by experts in the genre: Firaxis, known for the XCOM saga. While the title is scheduled for the end of the year, we were able to play it for several hours and we give you our first impression, which is surprising to say the least.
- The midnight suns, the avengers of the occult?
- Unprecedented gameplay unlike XCOM
- Storytelling at the heart of the experience
In recent years, games inspired by the Marvel universe have been ubiquitous in the video game landscape. With titles like Marvel’s Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers, or Guardians of the Galaxy, we see that Western studios are entitled to significant budgets to develop AAA productions based on superhero licenses. Of course, it’s primarily thanks to the popular success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, MCU, that developers and publishers have begun to take an interest in this universe, which the general public knows better and better over the years. But if the majority of the studios choose to create titles around the most famous characters from Marvel, conversely, The Firaxis teams preferred to focus on more discreet characters: Midnight Sons.
The midnight suns, the avengers of the occult?
In the comics, Midnight Sons is originally a group of motley superheroes who have in common a connection to the occult. When they first appeared in 1992 at the event Rise of the Midnight Sonsthis strange team gathers to meet Lillith, the mother of demons in the Marvel universe. But if you’re paying attention, you’ve definitely noticed that Firaxis’ baby is named Marvel’s Midnight Suns, not Midnight Sons. In addition to the closeness between the two words, this title change is there to emphasize that the game does not faithfully adapt to the events of the crossover, and that it is rather a free interpretation.
By this decision, Firaxis offers itself the opportunity to compose a grid of playable characters as it sees fit. Moreover, this is felt from the beginning of the adventure as we finally find very few original members of the Midnight Sons, with the exception of Doctor Strange, Ghost Rider and Blade. Instead, Midnight Suns offers a 5-star cast with the most famous heroes from Marvel, with both Avengers (Captain America, Iron Man, Captain Marvel…) and X-Men (Wolverine, Magik…), not forgetting important characters from the occult at Marvel (Scarlet Witch, Nico Minoru, etc.…). The icing on the cake, the title even introduces Spider-Man, which will surely attract the general public.
Level scenario, Midnight Suns recaptures the essence of the crossover it is inspired by. Using Darkold, this book on black magic as we have seen in Wanda vision and Doctor Strange in the multiverse of madness , Hydra’s physician Faustus revives Lillith to claim her power. It is to misunderstand the Mother of Demons who corrupts everything she touches, making Hydra her personal army. To deal with this threat, Doctor Strange accompanied by Iron Man will go to meet the midnight sun led by Caretaker to revive the hunter. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s usually an original character created in collaboration with Marvel which the player can completely physically adapt, and which is none other than Lillith’s child who managed to defeat her 300 years ago.
Throughout the adventure, we face both minions and villains from the Marvel universe, destroyed by the forces of the demon. If the stakes are high, the exchanges between characters are often rich in jokes and a touch of humor, which testifies to a strong inspiration from the MCU. The references to comics are also numerous, but remain completely understandable to those who have followed the latest movies and series from Marvel Studio.
Unprecedented gameplay unlike XCOM
Who says Firaxis, of course, says role-playing with turn-based tactical combat. Logically, since we are still dealing with the developers of the XCOM series. But while most gamers expected a simple XCOM set in the Marvel universe, the Midnight Suns are actually quite different.. If we want to go even further, we can even say that we stand with a proposal that is the opposite of what the study has done so far. Specifically, after selecting your team of three superheroes, each mission begins in the middle of the action without having to look for the enemies. When it comes to attacks, forget all about coverage, probability and limited moves, your characters move anywhere and never miss their shots … because they are superheroes! If the concept of chance in XCOM was symbolized by the chances of a successful shot, it is in the Midnight Suns represented by the abilities that the player draws at the beginning of each round.
And if we’re talking about drawing, it’s because the title features a map system that has disrupted more than one since the announcement of the project. More than a real deck building mechanic, these cards are more of a way of representing the abilities of your characters. Before each mission, we actually choose eight different skills per mission. superhero symbolized by cards, which are divided into three categories: offensive, skill (to heal, strengthen or apply effects) and heroic. As the name suggests, these hero mod points are consumed, collected with other cards, and are among the best skills in the game. In addition, hero mod points are also used to interact directly with the background to attack your enemies, without even having to activate an ability. . A rather practical action, as only a limited number of cards can be played per. trip. In general, the environment plays a central role in the experience thanks to the capabilities that benefit from the effect Setback which throw enemies at elements of the device or their congeners to inflict maximum damage.
With this card mechanic, a large number of different combinations are possible to adapt to all situations, especially since each character has their own specialty (attack, tank, healer, support …). And as we draw different cards each turn, it is difficult to predict what we can do in the long run, which forces the player to be much more in the moment and use everything he has on hand. This makes the experience feel more accessible than XCOM, which makes sense with a famous license like Marvel, but also more dynamic.. This feeling is especially given by the animations of the attacks, which are very impressive and which increasingly iconize the superheroes, especially by insisting on their most charismatic poses.
Storytelling at the heart of the experience
In addition to this new gameplay, Marvel’s Midnight Suns is also the first for Firaxis in its focus on history and characters.. At each end of the fight, we return to Abbey, a sort of Midnight Suns HQ, where we move in third-person sight in the hunter’s shoes. In the four corners of the building there are various activities to prepare for the next mission. If the garden is for training with an ally, Blade’s role is to strengthen your abilities if you have duplicates, while Captain Marvel sends your heroes to the four corners of the world to bring back various items, including chests. These include skills after being opened by Tony Stark, who is in Forge, alongside Doctor Strange, who is responsible for the construction of new buildings and research, a mechanism already found in XCOM. And rest assured, these kind of chests are obtained only with in-game activities, as the only microtransactions present in the game are only used to purchase cosmetic items (like costumes) that have no bearing on the game’s balance.
The Abbey is also a place where you interact with other superheroes to strengthen your friendship with them. In addition to choosing dialogue options to please your conversation partner, you can especially have appointments with the members of your team and offer them gifts, just to strengthen your ties even more. Clearly, this almost “dating simulator” aspect is very similar to Japanese games like Persona 5, but especially Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which is also a turn-based tactical role-playing game where part of the action takes place not in a monastery, but in a monastery. Great for a Western production in the Marvel universe!
Unfortunately, it is during these kinds of conversations that we realize it the facial animations sometimes lack life and look a bit dated. The same for some 3D models that do not always offer a very convincing rendering. If some characters really look like their equivalent in comics like Doctor Strange, it’s hard to say the same for Tony Stark, whose design is surprisingly smooth. And then it must be acknowledged that the staging of the dialogues is sometimes very flat, with simple field-reversed recordings that do not help to provide energy for such moments. A great result when you see how powerful the campaign animations are.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is clearly not just another XCOM in the Marvel universe, but a radically different proposal. By completely rethinking its approach to tactical role-playing games, Firaxis offers confrontations that are certainly more accessible, but above all more rewarding and dynamic thanks to impressive campaign animations. This result is especially made possible by a much simpler and more intuitive card system, which some might have feared at first. The narrative aspect also plays a central role, especially in providing an important space for interactions with other superheroes. After all, it is on the visual part that the title seems a little more sinful, with designs and animations that are not always successful. See you at least on October 7 to get your fingers in this exciting title.