Insomniac’s Spider-Man gave fans hope for a shared universe, but Avengers’ misguided direction and mixed execution show the obstacles to building one.
In the months leading up to the release of marvel’s avengers, many Marvel fans theorized that the game would kick off a connected universe of games similar to the structure of the MCU. When the game’s launch did little to assuage players’ worries about its execution, the possibility of such a universe forming was seemingly shelved. In the end, rather than becoming the foundation for a new universe, marvel’s avengers proved why attempting to create one is so risky.
marvel’s avengers is a live-service action-adventure game that, as the title suggests, puts players in the shoes of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes as they battle all manner of foes. Despite the fantastic implications of its premise, many felt that the game underdelivered on its promise. Since its release, a number of controversies have plagued marvel’s avengers, including its “appreciation” of arbitrary numbers that pervade the gear and skill systems, the stiffness of its combat, and the lack of depth in its semi-open worlds. The abilities and powers of its ensemble cast were inconsistently implemented, and they rarely reached the heights of other games in the genre, such as the arkham series and Marvel’s Spider-Manwhen it came to fully realize the potential of its protagonists. marvel’s avengers has performed poorly thus far, and its rocky reception serves as a cautionary tale for future Marvel games.
While the concept of a connected Marvel game universe sounds exciting, the mixed success of marvel’s avengers has shown why Marvel games aren’t connected like the MCU: building a universe isn’t as simple as the MCU made it seem. The MCU has been driven by a relatively consistent creative vision since its inception, which has allowed for the maintenance of a certain level of consistency and the cultivation of a distinct brand that sets the cinematic universe apart from its comic origins. Without that level of oversight, a game universe would be extremely difficult to build. Marvel’s Spider-Man from Insomniac Games has been lauded as one of the best adaptations of the character, and it gave fans hope for a game universe rivaling the MCU in scope, but relying on different studios’ creative visions to not only all be well-executed, but to mesh with other studios’ choices as well, would be next to impossible.
Marvel’s Avengers Tried And Failed To Emulate The MCU
By trying to capitalize on the popularity of its titular heroes, marvel’s avengers did itself a disservice. The quality of Insomniac’s spider man game was largely thanks to its level of focus and attention to detail. In addition to its writing and characterizations, the game’s combat and traversal systems benefited greatly from only having to account for a single character. Sincere marvel’s avengers had to contend with an entire team of heroes with disparate abilities and playstyles, many of them were left feeling incomplete or not utilized to their fullest potential. Building a team of heroes and giving each their due is easier on film since gameplay is not a factor, but featuring the same heroes in a video game necessitates tangible individuality, which marvel’s avengers wasn’t wholly able to accomplish.
if marvel’s avengers had been more original, it might’ve been received in a more favorable light. The size of its roster of playable heroes was certainly a source of pressure, but marvel’s avengers was also clearly chasing the MCU. Among the heroes initially available players, all but one were part of the MCU’s original six Avengers, with Ms. Marvel being the exception. Hawkeye was the only member of the original team not playable at launch, but he was part of the team, and became playable at a later date. In addition, the Avengers’ default character designs were clearly inspired by their MCU counterparts, which created a kind of uncanny valley effect where they simply looked like knock-offs rather than unique adaptations. Some of these designs have been changed, and the game offers a plethora of alternate customs, but that controversy definitely impacted fans’ anticipation prior to the game’s release.
Building A Marvel Game Universe Would Be A Herculean Task
Building a game universe with multiple creative teams would be unreliable at best, but the only alternative would be putting the bulk of the responsibility on a single studio’s shoulders, which would cause an entirely different set of problems. While other games with ensemble casts such as Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy were more promising than marvel’s avengers, a full game universe would require far more differentiation between characters than either of those games provided. Placing the burden of implementing such a wide variety of mechanics on one studio would drastically increase the effort needed to produce a polished product. AAA games are already expensive and time-consuming projects, and matching the ambition of the MCU would only strain any developers involved even further.
Aside from the effort needed to produce a connected universe, the time required to do so would also be substantial, even if the work was spread among multiple studios. Insomniac Games, for example, has released two Spider-Man games since 2018, and those projects had many mechanical similarities. They have begun to branch out beyond Spider-Man, with their next adaptation being Wolverine, whose straightforward abilities make him a fitting and relatively simple addition to the heroes of Insomniac’s Marvel universe. neither Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 nor Marvel’s Wolverine have confirmed release dates yet, which is an indication of how long the development process is, and how many years it would take to build a game universe as expansive as Marvel’s films.
The popularity of the MCU has given rise to a feeling that things need to be connected. While this is often a profit-driven directive from producers, it is also desired by a substantial number of fans. Seeing iconic characters interact can be exciting, but if marvel’s avengers has proven anything, it’s that that eventuality should not be creators’ highest priority. marvel’s avengers favored fan service over optimization, overwhelming players with as many elements as possible without considering what would best fit their characters. and though marvel’s avengers may have reached a premature end, its lost potential can ease the weight on future developers’ shoulders if they learn from their mistakes. Marvel has become intrinsically linked with the concept of a shared universe over the years, but the successors of marvel’s avengers need not be connected.
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