Crystal Dynamics Square Enix Marvels Avengers Kate Bishop Taking Aim expansion Marvel's Avengers

I am a supporter of Crystal Dynamics and Marvel’s Avengers. I’ve got three maxed out heroes, putting in over a hundred hours to spec out Ms. Marvel, Kate, and Black Widow. I’ve actually done the questlines to get exotics. Fully developing just one hero can take around 30 hours, but the means of leveling up and expanding one’s repertoire has been fairly reasonable till now, time management aside. However, what’s been proposed in the upcoming Cosmetic and XP Rework is fundamentally the opposite of what new players need to get into the experience.

Like in Destiny, Marvel’s Avengers has you first earn soft level-ups that improve your character’s core skills, but not their power level. Power levels are tied exclusively to gear, and it’s where most of the grinding comes from. The skill levels are just about gradually unlocking new skills, moves, and modifiers like altering Kate’s teleport arrow to be a ranged singularity attack. Some of the more advanced modifiers are basically required for effective solo play, such as ensuring an enemy takedown generates power orbs to recharge your skills faster. While you’ll typically unlock all 50 skill points in no time if you’re playing the game normally, that’s about to change.

Now, after reaching halfway at 25 skill points, you’ll suddenly find that every new level to unlock new skills will require increasing amounts of experience points. The claim is that players were overwhelmed by easily earning the full 50 skill points, but let’s be realistic here — many of the starting skills are functionally identical in execution. I’d go so far as to say you could unlock every standard dodge, sprint, and intrinsic attack move for players by default once they’ve expanded their roster beyond Ms. Marvel and see almost no difference in how players go about learning their characters.

Square Enix Crystal Dynamics grind cosmetic and xp rework update grindy level up changes Marvel's Avengers

Instead of limiting players’ abilities to quickly unlock the remaining skill trees, it’d be vastly more practical to highlight why the specialization trees are important. Most only poke around with them after maxing out the first suite of basic abilities, which is why some assumed that most heroes were redundant in terms of functionality aside from some different moves and abilities. However, there’s a huge difference between default heroes and their potential builds. For example, you can turn Black Widow into a crowd-control disruptor with multiple Widow’s Bite shots and keep her ultimate running as long as possible, or you can turn her cloak into an instant window for easier enemy takedowns that generate bonus orbs.

Yet much of this greater utility for each hero is hidden in two separate menus, one of which doesn’t even unlock until you hit level 15. To exacerbate this unnecessary roadblock further will do anything but ease players into the Marvel’s Avengers experience. A simple video tutorial would more than suffice and require substantially less work than rebalancing a progression system to discourage players from unlocking the full kit of each hero.

Not to mention, by limiting the unlock speed, this also means it will take longer for players to benefit from the faction experience point bonus one receives when they’ve maxed out a hero. It’s much easier to progress with both the Inhumans and S.H.I.E.L.D. when your earned experience goes towards increasing your loyalty rank, allowing for swifter rewards and increased access to more precious items on sale at faction storefronts. It makes the simple act of earning experience valuable for everything. We don’t even know if this will be slowed further still, with each level up demanding potentially exponentially more experience.

Square Enix Crystal Dynamics grind cosmetic and xp rework update grindy level up changes Marvel's Avengers

If anything, all this serves to do is ensure fewer players bother reaching the endgame content, yet it’s not the only perplexing change. The update on cosmetics is also a step in the wrong direction. The free cosmetic shop is a joke at the moment, often offering more emotes and nameplates players couldn’t care less about rather than the more interesting skins. I understand that making bank on a game this large typically warrants premium skins and that the hero challenge cards make for an easy time unlocking premium currency, but removing random drops isn’t the answer. Skins should be what units go towards, with perhaps some of the rare emotes, while more standard nameplates, palette swap skins, and basic emotes would make for interesting lootable cosmetics.

This isn’t an area of progression unlocks that requires drastic rethinking. Overwatch throws lower-tier cosmetics at players regularly while making them grind for something more enticing. Marvel’s Avengers could easily do that while using its more player-friendly means of acquiring currency to invest in the skins they so desire. It also wouldn’t hurt to have the cosmetic shop be more character-specific, much like the frontend premium store offers. The heroes typically advertised often aren’t ones I’ve put considerable time into.

These tweaks wouldn’t undercut the playtime necessary, but it would ensure players felt like they were actually fully unlocking their character. Battleborn did something similar, and it genuinely encouraged me to spend time with each character. I didn’t expect Kate Bishop’s “Hey There” emote to become a defining part of her personality, but now I opt for it despite having far higher-tier emotes. It’s the little things that really add to the narrative design. Turn those into rewards rather than a less important item in a storefront with the skins that players will actually work towards.

Square Enix Crystal Dynamics grind cosmetic and xp rework update grindy level up changes Marvel's Avengers

What’s more, the current system for unlocking exotics could be adapted around certain skins. Star Wars Battlefront II harnessed unique skins as timed events, and there were players furiously tearing through content they might not have otherwise just to get Princess Leia or Darth Maul dressed in a way that intrigued them. With the pantheon of Marvel’s history to pull from, Avengers could have weekly skin challenges and not run out of new appearances for years.

Maybe getting Kate Bishop’s disguise skin is unlocked by completing Our Town as her on Tier 3 or 4 highest difficulty. Or earn an Infamous Iron Man skin by clearing a unique HARM challenge as a solo Stark. I’m not asking for new enemy variants, level geometry, or even drastic changes to characters — there are cost-effective ways to make the most of what’s currently available while still feeling fresh. This Marvel’s Avengers rework isn’t that.

Quite frankly, this all sounds like a very tedious-to-implement, discomforting retooling that no one benefits from. Given the game’s detractors already claim it’s too repetitive, making progress take even longer only hurts Marvel’s Avengers’ chances at swaying those who aren’t already bashing AIM’s forces. It’s particularly ill-advised given the next-gen version of Marvel’s Avengers is on the horizon. Unless you’ve been playing since day one and plan to upgrade for free, you’ll have a distinct disadvantage at catching up with other players. That’s the last thing a cooperative game needs.

I appreciate that Crystal Dynamics indicates long-requested features like the ability to replay the starter Reassemble campaign with your upgraded heroes and an expanded HARM Room challenge set are coming. I will be all the more pleased if we ever get proper cross-play for all supported systems, which Crystal Dynamics has also acknowledged as a much-requested feature. However, many players don’t keep up to date with every little thing the developers are doing. All they’ll notice is it’s taking longer to enjoy the game they bought, and if Marvel’s Avengers is to fare better than the likes of Anthem, it needs to avoid such roadblocks at all costs.

Elijah Beahm
Elijah’s your Guy Friday for Star Wars and all things strange and awesome in obscure gaming. He spends way too much time talking about such things on Twitter @UnabridgedGamer and his YouTube channel The Unabridged Gamer.

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