Considering its subject matter, one might associate it with the Titanic-esque “too big to fail” theory, but recent updates have got me genuinely concerned about its future. The announcement of a major XP grind rework is perhaps the most worrying sign yet, as the developers continue to fix problems that aren’t actually Avengers’ biggest issues.
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Having spent well over 150 hours in Marvel’s Avengers, its core combat and the way it makes each character’s abilities feel is what kept me coming back, despite a lack of content. Whether that be new mission types, enemy types, or even locations. It’s all lacking. Case in point: six months after launch, there are still only four bosses available to fight, and that has been the same since launch. Only half of these, Taskmaster and Abomination, are actually supervillains.
For the many who haven’t spent all that time playing the online component and grinding their heroes up, but were perhaps considering jumping in alongside the next-gen version launch or new Hawkeye story content, that time will now be even more of a slog.
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As you grind your heroes up each of their 50 levels you unlock abilities that really put on show the fun that can be had with Avengers, and gaining access to these new powers regularly is what keeps it from becoming completely stale. The dev team recently announced an XP rework that will make grinding hero levels a slower process than before, making an already repetitive process an even longer one. As detailed in a blog post, the reevaluation of how quickly XP was born from concerns about this pacing:
“The current XP ‘curve’ isn’t really a curve at all. In most RPGs, the amount of XP you need to level up increases as you gain levels in a curve, but our system is a straight line. This has led to pacing issues, such as skill points currently being rewarded too fast which may be confusing and overwhelming to newer players.”
While most RPGs I’ve ever played do require more XP per level than the preceding ones, these tend to offer a level or variety and replayability that Avengers simply doesn’t have. In fact, the speed in which you level up characters and gain new superpowers was one of the more welcoming aspects of Avengers’ postgame. For an experience designed to let you play as some of the most beloved superheroes of all time, constantly gaining new abilities and mixing and matching them to create your own versions of these heroes is what kept me playing continuously early on, and I never found it overwhelming.
This decision is a little bewildering, especially when coupled with the minimal amount of content added since launch. The XP rework wouldn’t seem like such an unnecessary change if there was enough variety in gameplay to support it, but without that it feels like a step in the wrong direction. Adding more of a grind to a game that is at its least enjoyable when grinding, is not what anyone is looking for.
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It’s especially frustrating because I’ve remained hopeful – on the eve of every War Table stream that’s come along I’ve thought to myself, “maybe this is the one where the problems are addressed.” That thought has yet to become a reality.
There’s been no word of the Secret Lab missions that are meant to test max level characters, and without these there’s very little incentive to grind for better loot at all. Months have passed without any sign of a roadmap for their addition, and it’s just hard not to feel worried by this – especially when, bizarrely, some players managed to accidentally play part of the Secret Lab missions back in September.
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Considering the state of the world right now, there are surely very valid reasons for delays to some of the announced content. But it’s the lack of communication to Marvel’s Avengers dedicated player base, coupled with suddenness of announcements like these, that are frustrating.
March 18 could have been a moment where Marvel’s Avengers rewrites some of its wrongs to bring back lapsed players and attract a new group of players, as Hawkeye enters the fight alongside his series of story missions plus the arrival PS5 and Series X versions. But many may now be put off by the increased grind that awaits them. The XP curve change won’t apply until that date, meaning there’s an incentive for players who currently own the game to play now if they want an easier ride to Level 50, and even the developers seem to know that.
“If you have a character who isn’t level 50 and want to speed up their progress, take this time to do so before the update on March 18”, reads the announcement.
This will leave many caught between the decision of playing the same missions in an inferior version of the game now, or waiting to play a technically enhanced version but for a lot longer. What should have been an exciting new beginning for Marvel’s Avengers may well turn into a stuttering restart with a player base consisting of fatigued veterans and bemused newcomers.
I want to love Marvel’s Avengers. In a year’s time, I want to look back and see the success it’s become. For that to happen though, there needs to be better communication with fans, and a genuine back and forth regarding the issues fans have with the game. Of all the complaints I’ve seen about Marvel’s Avengers, none were about how surprisingly quick leveling up your heroes can be, but almost all have been about the dearth of fun to be had once you’ve done that.
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Hopefully the “too big to fail” theory plays out and I’ll be enjoying this game for years to come, but this week’s announcement felt like an unhelpful shift in the current ahead of a potential iceberg arriving on March 18.
Simon Cardy currently has power level 150 Iron Man, Thor and Black Widow but no reason to use them. Please sympathise with him over on Twitter at @CardySimon.