The amount of free-to-play (Referred to as F2P from here on in) games available is exploding at the moment and when I look at my current list of games which I consider myself to be actively playing, I noticed that four of them are in fact F2P games. This has me wondering is how ‘free’ to play are these games really? I realise these games are designed to make a profit for the company, but have they taken that F2P model too far? Would I have been better off actually paying for a full game?
Well hopefully today I am going to answer that question in regards to Marvel Heroes, a Massively Multi-player Online Action Role Playing game from developer Gazillion Entertainment. They have taken your hack and slash dungeon experience and combined it with the wonderfully weird world of comics that is the Marvel Universe.
To decide if the game is worth it or I feel we need to look at three aspects of the game:
- The game play and what content is considered to be “free”
- The store itself and what type of items you can buy with real-life money
- The X-Factor of the entire F2P model in this game.
The Game Play and Content
First off, the game play in Marvel Heroes is surprisingly really solid. They haven’t drifted too far away from the dungeon clawing hack and slash formula but they do offer a large selection of classes to choose from and play. These classes of course are in the form of the many different super heroes from the Marvel franchise which offers a wide variety of play styles to be satisfied. Sadly you only get one hero for free, and that free hero can only be picked from small initial select group. Better pick right, because if you don’t you might find yourself dropping money on this game sooner rather than later.
However, if you do like your first selected hero you will be off a good start because the rest of the game is completely free as far as accessing content is concerned. Every storyline, every quest, every dungeon is yours explore through (once you level unlock it, that is). All items found in the games are yours also, so no dumb “locked” crates which you need to buy a key for. It is a nice looking game so far, but we still need to talk about the elephant in the room that is the in-game store.
The store model chosen by Gazillion sways a bit in both the good and bad directions. If you are unlucky enough to choose a hero who you can’t stand you will be looking at spending $5-$10 to acquire a new hero. Not a bad price in essence, but you can see that will quickly add up over time. Unless you want to spend money you will have make wise decisions about the heroes you purchase. Other items found in the store are different skins for your heroes which range from $5 – $20 each in price–ouch that is hefty but thankfully, they are also purely cosmetic so no need to spend any money here if you don’t want to.
There is also the S.T.A.S.H or bank box which you store you heroes’ items. You only get one active inventory and one 48 slot banking tab (S.T.A.S.H) which you share between all your heroes. These slots range from about $3 to $5, depending on what type of Bank tab you purchase (There are Hero tabs, Crafting Tabs and General tabs which just change what you can actually store in them). Now while you can learn to manage yourself with just the initial slots, once you start to get a few more heroes you will be tempted to buy an extra slot or two.
The rest of the store brought items are fairly unsubstantial in price (Most being under $5 and none necessarily required to play) and this is the model’s strong point. There are no play to win items of any type in the item store. There are experience boosts, item special find boosts, pets, summonable in-game vendors for when you are out adventuring, but no must have items that can’t be found in the game for free (With the exception of hero skins).
The heroes and their looks can be quite pricey, but for the most part you can just skip the store if you really want. There is nothing required of you to buy from the store to “continue” playing the game or become good at it. The store seems to offer convenience (Faster levelling and finding special items in game) then outright pay to win. It lessens the grind but still requires the players to grind, not offering anyone with more money an over the top advantage. However as they say, time is money so it is nice to have the option of lessening the grind if you have the money spare.
Now for that X-Factor in Marvel Heroes and it is in the form of two items. I’m talking about the Eternity Splitters and the Cube Shards. These items combined with two in-game vendors, not surprisingly called the Eternity Splitter Vendor and the Cube Shard Vendor, can be used to not only unlock heroes for free, but also gain access to some store bought items. These vendor bought items can be a bit of a gamble though, as you random up an item which can be from the store or something already found in game, for the most part everything that comes up is “rare” to find in the game. However with the right amount of Eternity Splitters you can unlock your desired hero without needing to random them up. The icing on the cake for this is the method to earning these items is through doing no more then just playing the game, more precisely through just taking down bad guys.
Marvel Heroes is a very solid F2P model. Some things in the store might be pricey but there is never anything you “have” to buy, it is mostly just cosmetic things. It is made better through the fact that I can earn most of the things I want through playing the game itself and never having to spend any more or less money then I choose to. This is a great model and I really hope other F2P games take this approach. Now having said this I can definitely see myself spending $20 for some more storage space and maybe a hero I really like (or a skin for them). $20 isn’t a bad price considering I would be paying $60-$100 (Australian Prices… Madness, I know) for a full game of similar calibre.
Final Verdict: It’s trying hard so you don’t have to pay money, but when you do pay it will be purely by choice. Marvel Heroes can wear the Free to Play with honour.
Tip: If you plan to buy yourself a hero in Marvel Heroes then check out the marvel heroes website store first. They do Hero Packs, bundles and specials which aren’t always listed in the “in game” store. https://store.marvelheroes.com/
Tip:If you are going to buy a hero then look at the Heroes pack in particular (again on the website store https://store.marvelheroes.com/). You get slightly better bang for your buck.
Have you played Marvel Heroes Online? What are your thoughts on the game’s free-to-play model? Have your say in the comments below.