First thing’s first, if you haven’t checked out the Avengers announcement trailer or know any of the details released during Square-Enix’s press conference. Check out this summary by our own Conner Walker. His write up gives you all the details you need to know about Marvel’s Avengers alongside the announcement trailer.
Yes. I know there are a plethora of articles that are raving about why the Avengers game is everything they wanted and more. I know there are plenty of hot takes on social media about the Avengers looking “chunky” or “second rate”. That isn’t what worries me about Crystal Dynamics Marvel’s Avengers, though they are some of the reasons for my skepticism.
What worries me the most is that not enough people are talking about these two key issues. One is that there are already games that will outshine Marvel’s Avengers as a game filled with iconic comic book characters (such as Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order and 2017’s Marvel’s Spider-Man). The second being that Square-Enix as a company hasn’t proven that they can pull this type of ambition and support for years now. The last time being when Final Fantasy IVX was rebooted from the ground up.
Hear me out! This isn’t just a post to bash on this new game. Like most of you, I want this game to succeed and break those midling expectations. But, “expectations” are the crux of the issue that this industry has failed to address. Remember Watch Dogs? Remember Anthem? Remember every time a huge game marketed by a big AAA company turned out not to live up to those expectations? Clearly, there were signs that we chose to ignore.
Am I just a lone writer yelling wolf when there is none? Possibly, but let me explain why I feel this way.
Being Burned Too Many Times
Crystal Dynamics has made some of the best Tomb Raider games, with varying degrees of critical acclaim. They are a developer that knows how to make amazing single player content with some multiplayer functionality on the side. What they’re promising with Marvel’s Avengers seems impossible considering not only the trajectory of the industry, but Square-Enix’s financial troubles on top of that!
Crystal Dynamics is promising to update and support a cooperative and single player experience with free updates and no loot boxes. I’m here to say that this is a lofty promise at best. Do you honestly believe that Square-Enix will keep throwing money at this game when it has no problem cutting support to some of its biggest games like Final Fantasy XV? Square hasn’t been in a good place in years and even though they had some mini successes here and there, they are still struggling to find that big success story. Clearly, Life is Strange 2 didn’t sell as well as the first one because they keep reminding players that it is available to purchase. Just Cause 4 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider both under-performed. Let’s also not forget the 33 million loss from the development of Final Fantasy XV which sold around 8 million copies.
We currently live in an industry that relies on addictive micro-transactions to support multi-million development costs. While there are games that made a ton of money, like God of War and Marvel’s Spider-Man, these are the exceptions and not the norm. Marvel’s Avengers needs to be top notch out of the gate in order to become a big success. But, with only a year left to go, it’s not quelling my fears when we have virtually seen only seconds of gameplay. Why didn’t they show more? This worries me to no end when you consider that we have games literally being made in less than 12 months like Anthem and Mass Effect. Creating a situation in which the developers are forced to crunch to the point of mental breakdowns.
I’m highly suspicious that this game will deliver on its promise when you consider how little we still know about it, and all the other signs about Square-Enix’s track record. Again, I hope I’m wrong but we’ve seen this same song and dance before and I’m frankly tired of hearing people crunching to deliver a sub-par product because of unsubstantiated consumer expectations.
Comparisons Will Arise
Marvel’s Spider-Man has set the expectation of what a blast it can be to play one of Marvel’s best and greatest comic book heros. Spider-Man games have always had a rocky history with some being good and some being cash grabs with the Spider-Man sticker attached to the retail box. Even Web of Shadows, despite having a ton of problems, still had some fun twists and turns such as a darker tone and the threat of a symbiote invasion, which would later be revisited as a comic book event. Then Beenox created Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions and Spider-Man: Edge of Time, which were narratively better games albeit for the fact that they were linear experiences instead of having an open world. What they’ve shown of Marvel’s Avengers doesn’t nearly meet the standard of the games before it.
The bar is simply too high. Check out the latest E3 trailer for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order.
Do you see the amount of love and care this smaller game is achieving? This game feels like a true Marvel game filled to the brim with heroes and villains alongside the biggest of the bad of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Thanos. Marvel’s Spider-Man has set another bar by having an amazing story, bigger-than-life characters, and creating a fun world to traverse and explore. Marvel’s Avengers can certainly achieve the same caliber as the games I have mentioned, but there is nothing that I can see that supports this notion.
Crystal Dynamics is a stellar developer, but I worry that the scope of the project is far too large for them to handle considering that many games with “post-launch” support have struggled. The latest Assassins Creed games were able to pull it off, but they have several studios working around the world, and have spent years developing a good formula. Let’s be honest, Tomb Raider is a solid game series with amazing technical feats, but it’s no Uncharted. That’s an unfair comparison to make since Tomb Raider is a third party series while Uncharted has first party support. However, people online are expecting Marvel’s Avengers to be the follow-up of Marvel’s Spider-Man and anything less will create unfair comparisons.
I could be completely wrong on all accounts. But I just want to point out that this is a possibility based on what we’ve seen in the industry, this generation. It could be that we will see more of what this Avengers game has in store during other press events like Gamescom or Paris Games Week. Maybe the addition of free new characters and missions will build up to a giant event mimicking the comics or the movies themselves, but with Crystal Dynamics’ own twist on it. Only time will tell, but from what we’ve seen and who’s bankrolling the development, we should all temper our expectations.
Thanks for reading! and don’t forget to check out my interviews with USC Games Chair Danny Bilson, Shades of Magic author V.E. Schwab, and Black Panther’s Quest voice actor James Mathis III. We manage to get hands-on previews of Control and Journey to the Savage Planet so be sure to check those out too. For more great interviews, reviews, editorials, and news stay tuned to CultureOfGaming.com, or check us out on OpenCritic.com.