We tried Marvel’s Midnight Suns, the new RPG from Firaxis Games, a title steeped in magic and mystery, faithful but not “modeled” on the comic saga from which it is based, equally mystical and full of darkness (here our latest test of Marvel’s Midnight Suns). The famous and ambitious development team has created a playful multiverse which, starting from the traditional skeleton of a strategy, seeks and finds more dynamism and action, also looking to other genres, if necessary. Then, suddenly, it calls for maximum concentration, demanding great attention and painstaking planning from the player. Even if we have not found the Darkhold, therefore, let’s intone the spell and begin the journey in Marvel’s Midnight Suns, waiting to be able to sum up with our review.
From comics to video games
Starting from the texts and faces of one of the darkest Marvel sagas, the developers have carefully reconstructed the main characters of the game, the Midnight Suns, who, as in the comics, trained to oppose otherwise unstoppable mystical threats. The vampire hunter Blade, the witch Nico Minoru, Ghost Rider in the version of Roberto “Robbie” Reyes and the queen of Limbo Magik, are all part of the magical gang.
At their side, a wide range of heroes from the House of Ideas, from Spider-Man to Wolverine, for one of the best-characterized video game variations of Marvel superheroes ever, whose interpretation (honor to both screenwriters and voice actors) looks good even if compared to cinema and the MCU. The formation of fighters that we have seen in action in Midnight Suns is made up of Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Captain Marvel and Captain America, a collective that will gradually be joined by other heroes such as Wall Climber himself and Scarlet Witch.
In all the aforementioned characters, the insiders have managed to instill a much more cartoonish verve, when compared with the other current Marvel productions. Not even Marvel’s Avengers – here is the review of Marvel’s Avengers – has been fully successful in this sense, making the flesh and blood performers feel more than necessary.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns, on the other hand, perhaps even playing with the magical theme, proposes a heroic group that seems to come directly from the comics. We found the characters a little more caricatured, almost more theatrical, as only avid readers remember them. With this, the developers have focused on aesthetics and customizable costumes to make even fans of feats on film feel at home. Finally, to surprise everyone, Firaxis Games has also introduced Hunter into the equation, a completely new face, customizable both in appearance and in powers, based on the player’s preferences. His story is born from the tentacles of free interpretation of the canonical events of Midnight Sons. The antagonist is always Lilith, scary and persuasive queen of demons, but in this revised version of events, Hunter will be the daughter (or son, depending on the player’s preferences) of the infernal lady. Despite the blood bond, however, Hunter is also the entity chosen to bring down Lilith and her evil army of hers. Once returned to life at the hands of the villains of Hydra – which she takes control with disarming simplicity – the queen picks up her mission exactly where she left off: to conquer the world on behalf of an ancient deity.
Thus, the supreme sorcerer Strange understands that reality itself is falling prey to Lilith’s dark magic and realizes what is a fact: the only way not to succumb is to bring back to life the being who was able to defeat her. in the past, namely Hunter herself, buried near a mystical Abbey known only to the most powerful wizards.
A castle located in the “pocket dimension” near Salem, refuge and stronghold of the Midnight Suns. The problem is that Lilith has not only low-level henchmen from her, but also formidable fighters of the caliber of Venom, who have not been able to resist her charm … bewitching her. In this regard, if you want to delve into the history of the Darkhold and the past of the infernal sovereign, we advise you to retrieve the official series of short animated videos, which we found really well done.
With great cards come great responsibilities
We had already understood this before trying the game, when we listened to the words of the creative director of Midnight Suns, Jake Solomon, regarding the careful balancing reserved for the playful aspects of the production. Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a deeply strategic and technical title, both in and out of battle.
First of all, the turn-based fights seem anything but static, thanks to a micro-arena structure with environmental interactions that allow the heroes to move freely to take advantage of attacks capable of repositioning enemies or even making them collide with each other, increasing the damage inflicted. In short, it is a combat system that collects the legacy of turn-based strategy and then adds a pinch of randomness and opens a window that overlooks card games, as several other titles have done in recent years.
In Marvel’s Midnight Suns this particular playful recipe works because the randomness is counterbalanced by the need to carefully prepare before jumping into the fray. Each of the three heroes that we can bring into battle has both a level that defines its basic statistics and its own freely modifiable deck of cards. Each of the cards corresponds to the actions that can be performed in combat, unique to each paladin of justice and divided between offensive, defensive and “heroic”. Know that a simply frightening variety of approaches branches off from this system, which we will be able to adequately test in view of the review. For example, it is possible to define ideal roles that each hero will play during battles, based on the pool of cards and abilities to which he has access. Explosive fighters like Iron Man or Captain Marvel are equipped with very powerful AoE actions from the beginning of the adventure, while others, like Doctor Strange, tend to specialize in spreading buffs and nerfs on the battlefield.
Finally, “sprinters” like Blade are equipped with cards with lower damage, but more frequently with effects such as chaining, which for example allow the character to attack multiple enemies in a single solution. In battle it is therefore essential to keep an eye on the number of actions that can be performed, as well as always be ready to hurl a “heroic attack” on the opponent that can be used by spending a currency called “courage”.
In fact, almost every card, in addition to its own effect, allows you to accumulate courage, up to a maximum of 6 units. Then it’s up to the player to decide how to use it: for heroic attacks, in fact, or to exploit elements of the playing field, explosive boxes, electric generators and more. As we said, Hunter is customizable at will and has a large variety of different cards available spread over three ramifications: light, dark and neutral.
Light has healing and buff effects, while darkness has greater damage at the cost of an amount of health. Finally, the neutral shots range from cards with “push” effects of enemies, up to quick attacks. In any case, over time all heroes become capable of covering more or less all roles with moderate effectiveness.
However, it is advisable to have in mind which builds to exploit, and how to combine them from time to time, so as to obtain a team with a high degree of synergy. There are various ways to acquire new cards, or to upgrade old ones, think of optional tasks, combat and even random “packs” obtainable during missions. Then there is the possibility of exploiting a system of emotional bonds that we will build between the Marvel heroes and Hunter. By reaching new stages of acquaintance and friendship, lovers of completionism and personalization will also have something to rejoice. In fact, each character has a series of battle costumes and civilian clothes at his disposal that the player can freely manage, even setting an automatic timer that will make the protagonists’ appearance change on a daily basis, making them more “real”.
The Wonder Abbey
Midnight Suns is not just about storytelling and battles. In fact, it is played over a series of “days” lived from Hunter’s point of view, during which we can carry out a set of different actions. Among other things, it is necessary to increase the affinity between the heroes by spending time with them, helping them to solve personal problems or issues related to their mission, as well as improving the cards of our decks and crafting disposable resources useful in battle.
All this while having a sufficiently large area available in and around the Abbey, to be explored also thanks to a series of sub-plots. These too, like the main quest, extrapolated and reinterpreted directly from the reference comic saga.
Then there are spells that can only be used in the exploration phases – and all to be learned – small environmental puzzles, quick fights to be solved with Hunter and insights into the lore hidden in every corner. Along with common, rare, or “epic” chests containing cosmetic items to unlock. In this regard, despite having played for several hours, we feel we haven’t even scratched the surface of the options and side-quests at the Abbey.
To counteract a cast of voice actors who, in the current state of our test, seems to have done a commendable job, unfortunately some slightly woody animations, linked to specific sections of the game, think about it. However, the script seemed to us well written and effective, even if placed alongside the film adaptations signed by Cada delle Idee.