It's been over a decade since the last game in Marvel Ultimate Alliance series was released, and while the latest in the franchise is traditional in a lot of aspects, there have been some changes.
These games are best known for providing players with a large cast of playable superheroes to use as you run through an overarching plot to save the world. They've traditionally featured campaign modes that can be played in either single-player or multiplayer modes and this one is no different. As you can tell by looking at the artwork, this game has a more cartoony feel compared to its predecessors, which attempted to look more realistic. That's partially due to the fact that unlike previous games in the series which have released on multiple platforms, this reboot is a Nintendo exclusive.
That decade also allows the game to give us this playful retelling of the Infinity Stone saga with plenty of material to pull from. You'll start the single-player campaign game off playing as the main characters from Guardians of the Galaxy racing Thanos and his followers to gather all of the Infinity Stones. As the game progresses you'll come across other Marvel characters and can add many of them to your team.
This game is perfect for anyone who's anxiously been awaiting for another entry in the series or for Marvel fans who want a way to engage with their favorite Marvel superheroes. The new look gives it a fresh feel and the new take on the Infinity saga can appeal to Marvel fans of any kind.
As much as I enjoyed playing this game, there were a few too many control issues that kept me from rating it any higher than I did. Either way, in the video games of life, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is popcorn — light and pleasant, but not as hearty as some other games. Still, it makes for a great campaign multiplayer that you and your friends will get hours of fun out of.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order
Beat the baddies and save the world
Bottom line: This game offers a fun way for up to four friends to engage in multiplayer co-op with a full fledged story line and a roster of characters, although technical issues bring down the experience.
- Awesome roster of characters
- Interesting story line
- Sweet combat mechanics
- RPG-style leveling up
- Play campaign mode in either single or multiplayer
- Clunky camera controls
- Online multiplayer issues
- AI complications
Play as your favorite characters
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: What I like
Like previous games in the series, you team up with a large cast of Marvel characters in order to take down various baddies. In this case, it's Thanos and his terrifying followers. You can play the main campaign in either single-player, local multiplayer, or online multiplayer modes. Heck, you can even mix it up between the three options as you play through the story. While playing in single-player you'll take charge of a team of four heroes, and you can easily swap between team members as you play. Up to four people can play campaign mode at a time.
A roster of 36 playable characters means that you and your friends will have plenty of favorites to choose from.
Something I really love is how seamless going from single-player to multiplayer is in campaign mode. I can be playing single-player for a while and then friends can join me in local multiplayer simply by waking up another controller and taking control of one of my team members. It's not quite as easy going in the other direction, but it's possible.
This game definitely improves upon the older games by providing an enormous list of characters, featuring simple-yet-rewarding combat mechanics, and by allowing you to play with up to three others — either online or in local co-op.
Most playable characters are unlocked simply by progressing through the story, but a few are only available upon completing Infinity Rift challenges, which are trials that require you to meet a certain amount of requirements. After you've unlocked everyone, you'll have 36 characters to choose from. We also know that more characters are coming in future DLC, so there are plenty of opportunities for you and your friends to play as your favorites.
Story Line: Well done and engaging
While this game is definitely influenced by the MCU, the plot is a little different and definitely feels more like a cartoon you'd watch on a Saturday morning. Each character gives out witty quips as the story progresses, but don't expect a whole lot of depth. After all, there are dozens of characters — both heroes and villains — that need a moment in the spotlight.
Considering how many characters there are, this game does a good job of giving them all just enough attention without detracting from the overall story. You'll typically meet new characters in a setting that makes sense for that character.
The plot will feel somewhat familiar for anyone who's watched any MCU movies, specifically the Infinity War saga, but it has enough differences that the game doesn't feel like a total rehash. Part of that is due to the fact that you'll be able to see any of the playable characters fighting next to each other regardless of whether or not they'd been in a show or movie together. For example, seeing Thor and Jessica Jones in the same scene or seeing Deadpool next to... well, any other playable character, is delightful. This has always been a draw to games like this, and that continues here.
Combat Mechanics: Simple yet rewarding
Each character has four different unique attacks, which can be combined with other characters' attacks for a more powerful combo. In addition to having their own unique abilities, each character also has their own attack styles. Some characters like Star-Lord or Scarlet Witch primarily attack from afar, while others like Venom or Hulk attack in close quarters. Although there are some similarities, each character's attacks are different and provide unique fighting animations during battles. My suggestion is to have a mix of attack types in your group so you'll be prepared for any situation.
Fighting is pretty straightforward and relies more on button mashing rather than complex button combinations, although you'll need to be more specific if you want to guard or dodge. You can unleash special attacks when specific characters are next to each other or when you've built up your Extreme Gauge.
If your characters run out of health in battle they will faint, but you're given three revives during any given fight. Heal a fallen hero by standing next to them with a non-fainted character and holding the A button until the gauge fills up. If all your characters faint, the game will end and you'll have the opportunity to start the battle or level over. I definitely died a few times, but I never felt overly frustrated. I was able to come back to the game more prepared and move on relatively easily.
Leveling up: Several ways to get stronger
Making your characters stronger can be a grind in any game, but in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 there are several avenues to check out.
When playing locally the four characters you have out will all earn experience points as you defeat enemies. If you're playing online multiplayer, then only the characters that you use will receive experience points. You'll also find ability points as you explore levels, which you can spend to increase a character's abilities.
As you encounter new playable characters, their overall experience points and stats will be higher to match where the game thinks you should currently be at. Since there are so many characters to choose from, you'll likely find it difficult to keep them all at a decent level. The trick here is to gather XP Cubes to level up characters quickly or you can replay courses with different characters to help them gain enough experience points. If you collect rare Isotope 8 (ISO-8) gems you'll be able to equip them to provide better stats.
You can also influence the overall team stats by purchasing strength, durability, vitality, and other increases in the Alliance Enhancement hexagon chart. Additionally, you can get team bonuses based off of the traits of each character you have playing. For instance, I created a team with four traits in common including X-Men, Anti-Heroes, and X-Force and the result was a noticeable strength and vitality increase.
Online Multiplayer: Less issues than other online Nintendo games
I was honestly surprised by the number of ways you can play with others online. You can participate in Infinity Rift trials where you and your teammates need to meet certain requirements in order to win, or you can play any of the campaign mode levels you've gotten to previously. The game allows you to create a multiplayer room based on specific criteria like the difficulty level and the course you want to play, or you can join a room another player has created.
I was super happy to find that this game didn't suffer from the ridiculous issues that plagued online Super Smash Bros. Ultimate or Super Mario Maker 2 at launch. When I played online multiplayer, the game itself wasn't laggy, meaning the character and the enemy animations worked fluidly. However, the other players I played with online sometimes skipped from one area to the next probably due to a faulty internet connection on their end.
Some wonky controls
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: What I Don't Like
Unfortunately, this game has a some technical issues that keep it from being the most enjoyable experience. While the mechanics, gameplay, story, and character roster are top notch, small hiccups can ruin it.
Camera Issues: Bad controls
In single-player mode, there are stretches where you have control of the camera using the right analog stick. But there are certain areas where the camera remains fixed and makes it difficult to see around corners to locate items and enemies. The minute you add another player in local co-op, camera control is completely taken away so neither player can control it. It's like the camera tries to straddle somewhere between the characters playing, which isn't always helpful and proved to be a huge nuisance on a few different occasions.
There are certain areas where the camera remains fixed and makes gameplay difficult.
For instance, I took the screenshot above while a buddy and I were in the middle of a boss battle. The camera maintained this distant view point and made it super difficult for us to land hits on the enemies. No matter what we did the camera remained in this awful position until the battle concluded. Just to be sure, I went back and played the boss battle again in single-player. The camera was much more helpful when only one person was playing.
When you're playing with others online, you each have control of the camera in areas where camera control is available. It really only affects local multiplayer gaming, which means couch parties won't be as fun.
Synergy Attacks: Not so team-friendly
Throughout the game you will come upon obstacles like special boxes or breakable walls that usually shelter rare items, ISO-8 gems, or Infinity Rifts. These obstacles can only be broken when two characters initiate the necessary attacks displayed on screen. When I played the game in single-player mode, I was able to take care of these walls and boxes without complication. However, when I was playing with a friend these controls didn't always work correctly.
The AI interfered with us a few times, making a completely different Synergy attack happen, or ensuring our attacks wouldn't land. There were multiple times when we ended up dropping the second player so I could take care of the obstacle on my own. Then we'd bring the second player back in once it was taken care of.
Online Multiplayer: Getting started can take forever
There are almost too many options for creating an online multiplayer room in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. It's great if you're creating a specific room for friends who you know will be joining. But, having too many specific room settings makes it difficult for you to find another random online player who wants the same things. There is no countdown timer so you can be stuck in queue for quite a while.
Since you're playing in a 3D environment solving puzzles, and fighting enemies with random people online, this game would really benefit from better communication tools. There are four distinct comments each character can make, but that's it. You can't type messages or be more specific when communicating with others online.
A fighting game that allows you to play as your favorite characters
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Bottom Line
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is a great game for Marvel fans and longtime fans of this gaming series. It's one of the few Switch games out there that allows up to four people to play campaign mode together. Since there are 36 playable characters, you and your friends will have plenty of options to choose from. If your friends are busy, you can always jump online and find random folks to play with.
The plot line is familiar but unique enough to feel fresh. It also does a good job of focusing on all of the individual characters and locations while allowing the plot to naturally progress. Unfortunately, camera controls and other wonky technical issues, especially during local co-op, keep the game from being perfect. Overall it's a fun game that will provide you with hours of lighthearted entertainment.
Warning! Some pictures contain spoilers.
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