Shining through

Marvel’s Midnight Suns
Rating: 4.5/5
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publisher: 2K Games
Platform: PC, XBS, PS5
Price: PC: Rs 3,399; 
XBX/PS5: Rs 4,399

Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a new game from Firaxis, the guys that made XCom. The game puts you in the shoes of Hunter, a mouldable character that seems like they are more interested in being best friends with famous Marvel superheroes than they are interested in saving the world.

The story is about Lilith, who also happens to be Hunter’s mother, is corrupted by the Dark hold (an evil spell book) and is hell-bent on destroying the world as we know it. The only things standing in her way are her daughter/son and a rag-tag bunch of Marvel superheroes. The story actually plays out pretty well and the campaign mode is very long, close to 70 hours.

Midnight Suns is a little overwhelming and frankly boring for the first few hours because it takes its time to explain the complicated card combat system and the initial story. Combat is annoyingly slow, and you don’t have a huge selection of power cards to choose from initially. The game sort of forces you to play the campaign the way it wants you to at the beginning, which gets a bit annoying. However, after powering through that section, the game improves dramatically as more characters and power cards are added to your deck. You also get to play with a bunch of Marvel characters, including Wolverine, Spider-Man, Blade, and even Nico from Runaways. It is a treat for any Marvel fan. 

You get to have deep conversations and bond with these heroes as well. The better your relationship with them, the more perks you get when teaming with them for a battle. The process to get to that friendship is a bit tedious and actually goes nowhere, as you can’t romantically get involved with any of the characters. Just spend a lot of time with them doing a couple of activities. It also seems like a lot of focus has been placed on its game mechanic, considering it involves a lot of dialogue and thoughtful gift-giving. Chances are most users will find it annoying. However, it does influence the gameplay, and it is an unavoidable part of the game.

As you progress through the game, you can also unlock upgrades and collect extra skill/combat/special move cards. These can be merged to make them more powerful. Arranging your heroes’ decks with the appropriate cards is also a huge part of this game. You can do it before every game to get optimal results, but in lower difficulty levels, it isn’t necessary.

Combat in the game is third-person and turn-based. It is more about strategy and doesn’t require you to learn a bunch of complex keystrokes to execute special moves. Instead, you calculate and place your attacks in a way that gives you the most advantage. It is a similar strategy to XCom, but here the cards randomise the strategy on the go making each encounter unique. The combat is also peppered with excellent animations. Some involve combo moves with two heroes taking down a single opponent. It is a treat to watch, and since these combo attacks don’t happen very often during a scene, the long-drawn animations are fun to watch. 

If you don’t like all the cards in your deck, you can always redraw a new one during the round. You also have Moves, which lets you either move your character around the map or use the environment to damage opponents. The combat for the game, even in Story mode, is not easy, there is a learning curve, and you have to reach a certain level with most of your characters before things get easier. However, it isn’t discouraging like a game like Dark Souls, where you have to start from the beginning, or like XCom, where you could lose an operative forever if they die in battle. Here you can revive your heroes as long as at least one of them is alive by the end of a move and you have a spare card draw. It is a great way not to cause catastrophic failure during missions but keep things challenging at the same time. 
The battles also have sudden additions of super villains at times, like a mind-controlled version of Venom and Sabre tooth. It again makes things a little unpredictable, which adds to the fun element.
There is also a bit of exploration involved in Midnight Suns, where you have to explore the Abbey, and its surrounding area has a lot of places to discover, ingredients for portions, and secrets to unlock. It is another part of this game that influences the overall gameplay. You need the ingredients you discover to make portions and skew the game in your favour. Unlocking secrets unlocks aspects of the game that influence the story, which means the game will force you to explore at times. There are puzzles and hidden areas to discover as well, but these puzzles are too simple to even call them puzzles.  

I tested the game on an Xbox Series S, and despite the updates, the game is still very buggy. During my 50+ hours of gameplay, it did not only randomly get exited but also backtracked, forcing me to play entire sections that I had sunk a few hours playing. This included all the sucking up to the heroes forcing them to be my BFF, so it was very annoying when all that effort disappeared. The final bug, I had a problem with was you needed to place Hunter in a particular position to have conversations. Most times, it is in the vicinity of the person, but a lot of times, Hunter has to be standing and facing a particular way to get the conversation dialogues, which was again very annoying.

That said, Midnight Suns is a fun game that draws you in and keeps you engaged for a long time. By my estimates, only to finish the main story and skip through all the conversations along the way, you would sink in at least 60 hours. It is also hard to tear yourself away because the game is so engaging, so be prepared for some sleepless marathons. Midnight Suns is a game I recommend despite its flaws. Every Marvel fan or turn-based strategy fan should invest in it. It’s well worth the asking price.

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