Marvel's Avengers review in progress: “What exactly is the endgame?”


Somewhere in Marvel’s Avengers there is a really good video game. The campaign could have been a fantastic hero-switching romp to save the world (again), with an exciting narrative filled with the kind of cinematics akin to what we’ve come to expect from the MCU. The story we do have in Marvel’s Avengers is seriously enjoyable, with characters you care about (even if they’re not quite the versions you really want) and a collection of bad guys to hate intensely, but the gameplay that accompanies it all doesn’t always hit the mark. 

One mission tells you the Avengers have found a brand new AIM base, but it’s definitely the one you just battled through from a slightly different angle. Another gives you a tutorial for a mechanic you’ve been using since hour one. And yet, so many systems remain unexplained and left for you to figure out yourself. Did you know there are actually three skill trees to upgrade? And that you can actually tailor your special powers, with three different options to unlock and switch between at will? Yeah, me neither, until last night – over a week into the game.  

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Honestly, I’ve spent more time than I’d care to admit running off to investigate question marks that pop up on the map to find a chest in case there’s new gear inside. I will never truly understand the design logistics for the various gear options for our supers. I’ve been mainly playing as Kamala, and the idea that I can upgrade the insignia (aka the lightning bolt on her costume) to boost her special moves seems incredibly bizarre and weirdly trival. It feels like developer Crystal Dynamics just had to find four loudout options for each character and some make more sense than others as a result. 

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It’s just another sign that Marvel’s Avengers is a game trapped by its format. For what could have been a superhero narrative adventure to rival something like Marvel’s Spider-Man on PS4, the constant grind for gear and loot feels like nonsense. Thor is a literal God, and yet we’re all still having to open chests and kill bad guys to find better bracelets or belts to boost our Avengers’ powers. 

Avengers Grind!

(Image credit: Square Enix)

But of course, with the Games as a Service model that Avengers has been fairly obviously shoehorned into, the never-ending loot gain is the ultimate goal. With the short, 12-hours or so of the campaign now complete, I’m staring into the abyss of the grind with Marvel’s Avengers. Don’t get me wrong, there is some fun to be had with the game, especially an evening with a beer in hand just diving into the first mission I see, but the more you play, the more you realise the world map is a big mess. Trying to find the next mission within the loose chains available as part of the end-game Avengers Initiative mode can be unnecessarily complicated. It doesn’t help that asking it to show you the mission on the map isn’t always available, and some available missions rotate – particularly those more generic options like one “Sabotage” option that’s driving me mad trying to tick off. 

It’s at best confusing and at its worst an impenetrable mess that isn’t improved by the fact that so many of the missions are so very similar. Yes, they might be set in a slightly different locale, but protecting three scientists or holding a trio of access points will feel the same anywhere, against any backdrop. 

“Marvel’s Avengers is a game trapped by its format”

That’s even the case when you get friends involved. The matchmaking is very hit and miss, and working together can be a frustrating experience outside of the core “kill all the bad guys” task. I would love an Apex Legends-style ping system that would let players alert each other to chests, or just the general direction you fancy moving in as you explore. Weirdly, there seems to be an emotes system linked to pressing down on the D-Pad (at least on PS4), and yet it looks like you’ve got to buy emotes from the various faction vendors to actually be able to use any of them. Would a simple wave be too much to ask for as a freebie?

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And that’s without even touching on the various bugs I’ve encountered during my time with the game. Last night we had to reload a checkpoint because the last enemy disappeared through the floor, a huge hulking great spider bot just fell into the developmental abyss. At other times I’ve had endlessly repeating dialogue, or the wrong dialogue for a mission, or another character telling me that all the enemies have been taken care of while I’m still being attacked. At other points, especially when matchmaking, I’ve been unable to attack anything – and yet still take damage. Elsewhere I’ve been stuck in a lift for so long nothing but a restart will fix it. It’s been an… interesting experience.

What’s the endgame? 

(Image credit: Square Enix)

As you can probably tell, I’m massively torn about my feelings towards Marvel’s Avengers. On the one hand, I’m enjoying the kind of laissez-faire attitude of the whole thing. Because although the combat is satisfying and fairly mindless, it never feels like what I’m doing has much value beyond increasing my character’s power. As has been mentioned before in this review-in-progress, those upgrades have very little tangible benefit in a fight, and seemingly just mean access to higher-level versions of missions you’ve probably already done a few times over.

I’ve been switching between Ms. Marvel and Black Widow, not only representing the women of the Avengers world, but also offering examples of what is essentially the two styles of play: Kamala being the smash and grab style (a la Hulk and Thor), and Black Widow being more of the run and gun style (like Iron Man and Captain America). It’s again about that never-ending feeling of repetition. Even maining two of the characters practically simultaneously doesn’t offer that much in the way of mixing things up dramatically. 

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Although I’ll probably keep dropping back in and out of the game to see what the various iconic mission paths have to offer – the character-specific mission lines that tend to be a little more cinematic – I doubt this is going to be an experience that I keep coming back to for months to come. The offering is just a little too hollow for me, and I’ve been left regularly wondering what exactly the endgame is. 

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