Brawling with your favorite superheroes is an easier sell than placing them in a grid-based tactics game that requires you to flex your grey matter, which is why Marvel’s Avengers was a disappointing blockbuster (the game, not the billion-earning movie).
Some players may be put off by the idea of controlling their heroes’ actions with cards, despite the popularity of games like Marvel Snap. And it’s not even based on the mainstream MCU; rather, it’s based on a lesser-known series from the 1990s that explored the supernatural and darker side of the Marvel universe.
These aspects, however, are precisely what set Midnight Suns apart from being merely another licensed cash-in. Even while creator Firaxis is best known for the ultra-tactical XCOM reboot, complete with a perma-death system and infamously high hit rates, this is no rehash. One of the biggest shocks of the year, this role-playing game features character-driven storytelling on a deep level and is unlike anything else the developer has created.
Gather the Avengers and the Midnight Suns
You haven’t heard of the original Midnight Sons, with their deep cut, have you? Don’t worry; learning about antiheroes like Blade and Ghost Rider, as well as X-men like Magik (from the movie New Mutants) and Nico Minoru (from Runaways), is a crucial aspect of the game. Famous heroes like Iron Man, Captain Marvel, and Doctor Strange from the Avengers are also included. A new major antagonist necessitates cooperation between the two factions.
The terrorist organization Hydra has brought Lilith, Mother of Demons, back from the dead and has quickly been enslaved by her all-corrupting power, along with other supervillains (Venom is one of the first you’ll confront) and even some heroes. Hunter, the player character you’ve created, is one of her offspring who has already defeated her mother once. Since they have been ‘dead’ for several centuries, they seem endearingly bewildered by modern technology as they attempt to learn how to use it.
Even if Hunter isn’t as fleshed out as, say, Commander Shepard is in Mass Effect, the game still features an engaging dialogue between the characters and a light/dark option system that affects their growth. Because of this, there is already a bit of friction between the heroes, since the Avengers tend to adhere to more idealistic principles, while the Suns are more pragmatic. Additionally, you find yourself in the middle of a generational conflict between baby boomers and millennials, providing an opportunity for some classic Marvel humor.
Just know how to play your cards
Each mission’s arena is relatively tiny, thus you may only bring three heroes into the fight with you. You must play as the Hunter in all missions that aren’t tied to the story, and the other character you bring along with you may be chosen at random. Firaxis likely realized that superheroes do not miss and also do not die, so the fights are a far cry from the vicious conflicts of XCOM. However, if they are employed in a subsequent operation, they risk being killed outright or severely injured.
Instead, the unpredictability of battle is determined by the specific attacks and talents that each hero can employ, which are determined by the cards they have in their hand. There’s an entire deck of cards that can be utilized in tandem to provide maximum harm. Use the card that allows you to chain assaults on numerous adversaries with Blade’s “Make ’em Bleed,” and his next attack will inflict a status effect. Some extremely potent cards can only be played when the hero has amassed a certain number of heroism points.
Every round, in principle, all heroes can act, but in practice, you might find that one of them doesn’t have any appropriate cards to play, or that you use all three cards on a single hero (which does give a chance to refund a card). You may not think that’s a lot, but your opponents usually have a way of sending in more troops to greatly outnumber you. However, you can use the world around you to improve your chances of success with every move. Hero points are used in place of cards when stunning weaker foes by pushing them into electrical boxes or pinning two or more goons together utilizing knockback effects. Each additional perk you get through normal play or special story missions opens up even more exciting options.
Even though the Marvel Cinematic Universe has also been leaning a bit more on the darker supernatural side with this year’s Dr. Strange and the Multiverse of Madness, Midnight Suns is a welcome antidote that truly provides something unexpected.
The brilliant tactic system is both tough and rewarding, giving you access to all the cool features you’d expect from a game about superheroes. Stories focused on compelling characters and leisure pursuits are more memorable.
Firaxis, already well-known for its brutally challenging XCOM games, has now joined the ranks of industry heavyweights like Fire Emblem and Dragon Age. This is a Marvel era that has our full support.