Be honest: who in the world hasn’t wanted to step into the shoes of Iron Man, Black Widow, Captain America, or the Hulk? This fall, True Believers will be able to do just that as epic gameplay and the Marvel Universe collide with Marvel’s Avengers. The new PS4 game features an entirely original story as well as a mix of classic and new characters. And based on what we’ve seen (and played) so far, it promises to be the team fighting game of our dreams.
Following the recent War Table event, Nerdist had the opportunity to speak with Crystal Dynamics about how the team approached putting together gameplay for the highly anticipated title, integrating a longtime villain into the storyline, their thoughts on creating and promoting accessible heroes, and what fans can look forward to—not just in this game, but in the many games to come.
A Diverse Set of Characters
When the Marvel Universe debuted, every hero looked pretty similar. Over time, and as characters have grown and evolved, heroes became more diverse. We now have Asian superheroes like Silk and Amadeus Cho; Pakistani-American superheroes like Kamala Khan; and Hispanic/African-American superheroes like Miles Morales. Kamala is the game’s protagonist in Marvel’s Avengers, and there’s also an NPC Inhuman named Cerise who uses a wheelchair. When we spoke with the development team, they doubled down on their commitment to creating a game that included accessible, diverse characters.
“We’ve recently hired a director of accessibility based out of Montreal,” explained Scot Amos, the game’s head designer. “So as an organization, we’re paying much more attention to help showcase anything that helps with inclusion and diversity”. That includes, Amos says, “looking at ways to say these types of heroes, these types of characters…you know, these people as a general world that we want for the Avengers, we want to show that side of things and how much these characters matter to us at the heart and soul level.”
One of the biggest pieces of news to come out of the War Table event? The reveal of the game’s main villain, M.O.D.O.K. (otherwise known as George Tarleton.) While the antagonist is a familiar name to comic readers, it’s likely that he’ll be a mystery for newer fans. Particularly those who are only familiar with the Avengers through the lens of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In the game, the Avengers aren’t exactly lauded after the events of A-Day. They’ve pretty much destroyed San Fransisco and unleashed the terrigan mist that creates Inhumans. According to Amos, that opening event—and the terrigan accident—affects two main characters of the game in different ways. Kamala becomes infected and reveals her powers while for Tarleton, a scientist and the head of Advanced Idea Mechanics (A.I.M.), it’s his origin story into becoming M.O.D.O.K. “Now you have these very diametrically opposed perspectives,” explained Amos. “We have Kamala, who’s about fitting in and unifying and justice.” Tarleton, on the other hand, is very much “science over superpowers, the world needs to be controlled. And you can see how that creates a very natural tension and friction for us for the main campaign story.”
During the War Table, the developers confirmed that each character will have the ability to be customized for individual play styles. Combat director Vince Napoli expanded on this confirmation, explaining that when they built out the heroes in the game, they were “looking at really building out as diverse a move set as possible.” That included “building out each of their core abilities and adding as much depth and nuance as possible.” Pulling from each hero’s favorite aspects and focusing the specific moves that set the heroes apart helped refine the customization process.
“For example, Thor can change the way that Mjolnir works when he throws it,” continued Napoli. “You can change sort of the way that that his own force abilities work or his Bifrost ability works. And then the gear system sort of really builds on top of that. It allows you to go through and say, if I’m creating this style of Thor, then when I see items that have these type of perks or these abilities, these are the ones I’m going to want to use. Because they exaggerate the powers or play off those effects.”
The team admitted that even now, they’re still fine-tuning and finding different combination and different builds for players. As an example, warzone director Phil Therien talked about how he chooses play Hulk as less of a “tank” and more of a “ranger,” where he has gear that allows him to infuse boulders with different powers.
Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…And Beyond
Marvel’s Avengers is here for the long haul. That means that these heroes and storylines are just the start of what the developers hope is a long legacy of gameplay. The world that will be added post-launch includes new heroes that come with full skill trees, full gear set-ups, and their perk system. That will come at no additional cost to players. But don’t expect to get any of those details now.
“As soon as the next War Table, or in our next couple of War Tables, we definitely want to give more details on what that world looks like and then the heroes that we’re looking for,” teased Amos, who added those heroes would come with a full narrative story and villain. “And then on top of that, the regions that you get to explore will also come online as we have new things and new places to go. They have new story threads from front to back with new heroes and new villains and whole shapes of content. So there’s all that when these new heroes drop and when the new expansions drop.”
As for how long the main campaign is going to be, that’s something the developers haven’t quite settled on—or are ready to divulge. That said, Amos promises “it’ll be a satisfying and fulfilling campaign from front to back”. He adds, “the intent is always to have this world and all these missions and all those war zones narratively steeped so that as you go into them, you get a sense of, hey, this connects in some funky way to this idea. And if you’re a comic fan, you might be like, I know where that’s from. Or if you’re just a Marvel fan in general you might be like, this sounds familiar. I wonder if they’re going to do this, this and this. So we’ve got lots of little easter eggs included in there.”
Marvel’s Avengers launches September 4, 2020, on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Stadia, and PC.
Featured Image: Square Enix