When I think of the Midnight Sons, my mind conjures up images of the 90s comic incarnation of the team. Never once in my decades of reading comics, would I think that somebody would drag the name into the new century and make a strategy RPG out of it. Ok, so it’s Marvel’s Midnight Suns and not Midnight Sons, but we all know the inspiration.
It’s a weird (but quite pleasant) surprise…
With a couple of weeks of playtime under my belt, what do I think of Marvel’s latest attempt at video gaming domination?
What is Marvel’s Midnight Suns?
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a single player card-based strategy RPG, developed by Firaxis Games and published by 2K Games.
It’s available on the PC, Playstation 5 and Xbox Series X right now.
I admit, when the game was first revealed, I didn’t have high hopes for it. I was picturing XCOM’s (Firaxis developed both the XCOM remake and its sequel) plodding tactical, cover-based gameplay with Marvel characters.
That didn’t excite me one bit.
Thankfully, it’s not like that at all…but let me take it from the top.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns draws upon inspiration from the comic publisher’s Midnight Sons team, a group of supernatural themed heroes who banded together to fight up supernatural threats regular heroes (like the Avengers) weren’t able to deal with.
While the team make-up is different (Blade, Nico Minoru and Dr. Strange are the only members from the Midnight Sons team to be in this incarnation), this incarnation of the team is still tasked with tackling supernatural threats; in this instance, it’s the rebirth of Lilith and the stopping the Midnight Suns apocalyptic prophecy.
The Marvel universe in this instance is both familiar and unfamiliar, drawing upon a mishmash of the 616 universe we all know and love.
Peter Parker for instance, is still working for the Daily Bugle (something he’s not done for decades in the 616). However, the Superhuman Registration Act is also a thing…which means the Civil War has also taken place in the universe.
In this case, Lilith is back to bring about the ascendance of Chthon. To stave her off, Carataker raises from death Lilith’s progeny, Hunter, who stopped her before. You step in the shoes of Hunter and dictate his/her (you can choose whether Hunter is male or female and other features) replies throughout the game.
I actually love that the developers decided to eschew the traditional MCU looks that most Marvel games ape and go with its own style.
Tony Stark for example is heavily reminiscent of his original look, with a mustache instead of the modern version’s goatee.
His armor’s based off the modern ones, so there are no repulsor discs at his hips…or roller skates. A damn shame.
Most of the characters look and sound great…except for Wolverine.
Well, he sounds fine…but he doesn’t look like the Logan (or James Howlett) we know and love. Or rather his height isn’t.
To put it simply, Logan is too damn tall in the game.
He towers above pretty much everybody else. Considering Logan is supposed to be 5’3″ (about 160cm) in the comics, that’s a really, really weird (and unsettling) change.
I’m just not able to accept a Wolverine that’s as tall as Shaq (relatively speaking). It’s just not natural!
It’s ironic considering the game deals with the supernatural…
Thankfully, other aspects of the game fare much better.
One of them is the battle system.
It’s turn-based, like XCOM, but that’s where the similarities end. In fact, the game has more in common with Metal Gear Acid (PSP) than XCOM.
Characters use cards to dictate their actions.
All characters have their specific cards, with their own effects. Some can heal, some can do damage over time, some can transport enemies…there are a ton of cards and all of them reflect the powers of the characters they’re for.
It’s a cool twist that I really like, though sometimes it can be really frustrating.
As cards are drawn randomly, sometimes you won’t get a character card that you’ll really need. Yeah, it’s ultimately up to luck (as in any card game) but I’ve had bad draws kill me in matches I should’ve easily won.
Speaking of cards, not all characters are created equal.
Some are tremendously overpowered.
Hunter, the main character (which you play as), is one of them.
Hunter is unique in that he can specialize in three different skill trees; Light, Dark and Power. As you use cards from one of the three trees, you grow more proficient in that line. Thankfully, there’s no locking out of other cards so even if you’re a Dark Hunter, you can use Light and Power cards without any consequence.
Hunter’s cards are straight up overpowered. He has cards that can one hit even the toughest enemies in the game if buffed properly. He can also heal and even raise fallen allies. He’s EVERYTHING in one character.
I’m not dishing on Hunter being overpowered! In fact, I love it!
For too damn long, games have tried to neuter superheroes to fit into the gameplay narrative. It’s refreshing to see somebody that is actually overpowered in a game and relishing it.
Unfortunately, there are also characters that fall on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Spider-Man and Iron Man specifically. They’re just lacking in utility compared to characters like Blade or Wolverine who can deal massive damage AND heal. There’s really no point in using them unless you’re forced to.
One thing that you have to know about the battles is that enemies constantly get reinforced.
Depending on the stage, reinforcements might even stream in endlessly at the end of every turn. I get it’s for balance issues; after all, if there are too many enemies on at once, how do players survive?
That doesn’t mean it’s not an annoying mechanic.
Another annoying mechanic is how the game handles enemies. They’re divided into three classes; minions, elites and bosses. Minions die when hit with any offensive skills, Elites have higher health and bosses are unique enemies with their own skills.
My issue lies with the minions.
Minions aren’t easily identifiable, and the only way to be sure an enemy is a minion or elite is to see if they have health bars. Minions don’t, elites do. It’s annoying because you have to repeat it every.single.turn. when reinforcements spawn in because you can’t be sure whether they’re minions or elites.
After awhile, it does become second nature (because the enemies have subtle differences in how they look) but it wastes time no matter how you spin it.
When you’re not battling, you have downtime at The Abbey, the home base of the Midnight Suns team. Here you can run around the grounds, doing optional challenges, finding hidden reports, talk to your teammates to build rapport and even upgrade the facilities.
To unlock the hidden areas of The Abbey, you’re required to complete four different challenges. Hunter and Charlie (his pet demon hound) are the only playable heroes in these, and they have you fighting off waves of demons to survive a certain number of rounds, while also killing a certain number of foes.
These challenges are quite difficult early on but once you have an arsenal of upgraded cards, the challenge becomes trivial. Just make sure to pet or interact with Charlie daily so that you can raise her rapport level.
Rapport level is also essential with the heroes. Gifting them items they like, training with them or just chilling raises their familiarity level with Hunter. Go up a level and you unlock new perks in battle. It incentives you to get to know the heroes and it’s actually pretty cool.
The personalities of the heroes are pretty much as you’d expect but it’s still a unique experience going fishing with Logan or taking a walk with Captain America. You don’t really see these characters during their R&R most times in comics or other media, so it’s a refreshing change.
There’s also the upgrading aspect of the game where you’ll have the chance to upgrade the Forge (where you get new cards and unlocks) and other parts of The Abbey. It’s a worthwhile side diversion from all the fighting though I wish there was much, much more to unlock in the Forge and The Abbey itself.
The Abbey is much more interesting that the base building mechanic in the XCOM games but its exploration and upgrading aspects has its limits. Once you’ve unlocked everything and done all the optional challenges, there’s really no point in venturing out.
From then on, it just becomes a boring routine of unlocking new cards at the Forge, training with a hero to buff them and then taking on missions.
Boredom is the least of your worries though; the bugs are.
One in particular that I’ve encountered crashes the game and kicks you out to the dashboard.
Another, skipped a vital cutscene (*SPOILERS* When Banner betrays the Midnight Suns), and just returned me to The Abbey after that mission was complete.
I had no idea there was even a cutscene until the characters in-game talked about what happened.
I’ve also when into battles without cards. How do you fight then? Beats me! I had to restart the checkpoint for the cards to appear correctly.
Those are really serious bugs and I’m still not sure whether they’re fixed because I sure as hell don’t have time to replay the game.
The Bottom Line.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns could have easily been a rote action game.
Thankfully, it wasn’t and it dared to try something different.
Different doesn’t mean good though…and in Marvel’s Midnight Suns’ case there are a lot of parts that aren’t. Thankfully, those parts can be overlooked because at the end of the day, there’s really nothing even remotely similar to the game on current consoles.
I’m really glad somebody at 2K Games had the cajones to greenlight the game.
For all its flaws, Marvel’s Midnight Suns is unique and more importantly, fun. It certainly stands on its own merits, and provides a rollicking good tale while doing it too!
While I’m not really looking forward to the DLC characters (Storm, Deadpool, Morbius and Venom), I do hope their addition will make the game a more rounded affair with more missions and the like.
Unique but flawed.
- Exploring The Abbey.
- Interacting with the heroes.
- Deep gameplay mechanics and customization.
- Decent plot.
- Nice music.
- Minions aren’t easily distinguishable.
- Draws are based on luck, not skill.
- Constant enemy reinforcement.
- A Shaq-sized Wolverine.