SALT LAKE CITY — Marvel returned to gaming this last week with “Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order,” a new take on familiar heroes that turns the high stakes of “Avengers: Endgame” into a light-hearted beat-em-up.
What is the game about?
According to the game’s website, “Ultimate Alliance 3” is a Nintendo Switch-exclusive game that challenges players with guiding four heroes — or villains — across the Marvel Universe to find all the Infinity Stones before Thanos does.
The basic plot involves the Avengers teaming up with the Guardians of the Galaxy and the X-Men to save the world from Thanos’ Black Order, but the comparisons mostly end there thanks to the inclusion of characters not seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, like Wolverine and the Inhumans.
How does it work?
Kotaku notes that the game features simple combat that relies on knowing when to use certain attacks or evasive abilities. Each hero can use four Special attacks, which help chip away at a purple “stun” meter and can be combined into Synergy attacks, which feature two heroes teaming up together.
Extreme attacks, on the other hand, act as massive signature finishing moves that can be used to clear a room of smaller enemies and bigger boss characters like the Green Goblin or Ultron. As players level up heroes they unlock new moves and abilities.
Most characters feel similar and fall into either melee or ranged classes and also have different traversal mechanics. Star-Lord fights using his laser pistols and Spider-Man spins webs, but Captain America and Daredevil often rely on their fists to take down waves of enemies. Learning how to take advantage of each heroes’ strengths and abilities make for a fairly engaging puzzle.
Which characters are playable?
IGN reports “Ultimate Alliance 3” first puts players in control of the Guardians of the Galaxy, which includes Star-Lord, Gamora, Drax the Destroyer and Rocket Raccoon. After a brief introduction, characters like Spider-Man (voiced by Yuri Lowenthal, who played the character in “Spider-Man” for PlayStation 4), Black Panther, Doctor Strange and Captain Marvel.
Some weirder picks include characters like Ghost Rider, Hawkeye and Wasp, while characters like Spider-Gwen, Crystal and demon hunter Elsa Bloodstone are new to the series. Overall, the game’s website notes that 34 heroes are available, with more to come.
According to ComicBook.com, three paid DLC packs for the game will add new levels and characters from the Fantastic Four, the X-Men and the Marvel Knights, which includes characters like Blade and Moon Knight. The DLC is available for $20 via the Nintendo eShop and will be released starting this fall.
Is it fun?
Yes, for the most part. The game is mostly focused on straightforward combat and simple puzzles that can be frustrating on higher difficulties. However, I enjoyed leveling up my ever-evolving team of heroes — which in turn helped unlock Infinity Trials, various challenges that can unlock new costumes and characters, like Loki.
“Ultimate Alliance 3” is also a numbers game — fighting and exploration grants currency and powerups in the form of ISO-8 crystals, both of which can be used to level up stats and abilities. A massive upgrade screen offers increased vitality, defense and attack statistics, which can help make the difference when fighting against powerful bosses like Kingpin and Nebula.
I also enjoyed mixing and matching my team of heroes, which changed frequently over the course of the game. I started out with Spider-Man, Wolverine, Captain America and Thor before cycling each character out for new unlockable heroes like Iron Fist, Ghost Rider and Nightcrawler — each of whom required a change in tactics.
Characters are inspired heavily by their movie and cartoon counterparts and feature returning dozens of voice actors, all of which do an excellent job bringing their heroes to life. Even though the story is predictable, interactions between various heroes and villains feel fresh and entertaining.
The game is also great in solo play and co-op — Team Ninja provides easy-to-access button combinations to launch attacks and ally artificial intelligence is generally smart enough to revive fallen characters and to perform team-up moves. Online or local co-op mode also allows for four players to grind through enemies and can drop in and drop out any time.
“Ultimate Alliance 3” also nails the Saturday morning cartoon feel of the story mode and is great for younger teens and up. According to the ESRB, the game is rated T for mild blood, mild suggestive themes and violence.
The game costs $60 at retail, which feels fair considering the story mode is over 12 hours long and post-game Infinity Trial challenges are available to be played over and over again. Constant fighting can feel repetitive at times, but character dynamics and extensive character customization provide plenty of reasons to dive back into “Ultimate Alliance 3.”
Note: A release copy of “Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3” was provided by Nintendo representatives.