This week saw the release of the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games to the PS4 and Xbox One, albeit one that’s not going as smoothly as could be expected. Originally released fairly early into the PS3/360 life cycle (and the middle or late end of PS2 and Xbox’s), Raven and Vicarious Visions’ pair of action-RPG games were some of the best co-op fun you could have back in the day.
While it’s too early to call it, the release of both games on current gen could possibly hint that a third entry in the series is something the folks at Marvel have cooking up. Let’s face it, they’ve got to be doing more than just mobile games and Insomniac’s Spider-Man title, right? To that end, we’ve come up with five things that a third entry in the series would need to kick ass on current consoles. Starting with…
Clothes Make the Hero
One of the nice little touches of the previous two Ultimate Alliance games was that each character had their own alternate costumes to wear. It wasn’t absolutely vital to have them, but if you preferred say, the look of Ultimate Wolverine over his typical t-shirt and jeans, or wanted to pretend you were Symbiote Spider-Man rather than classic red and blue, you could do that. They were nice little threads that acknowledged a hero’s specific history, and also served as an example of how far we’ve come. (I see you, ugly yellow and red Daredevil costume.)
Obviously, this has to return for the third game, but with more costumes. The previous two games gave you a total of four costumes–one main and three alternates–but why not go bigger? That’s not to say that these alternate skins for each character should reflect literally every aspect of their history, because that’d be outright ridiculous for a lot of these guys. Just saying, four is a little slim for the cast of heroes we’ve got on hand.
All-New, All Different Ultimate Alliance NOW!
The Marvel universe is in a very troubling time just months after it got out of a collision with a parallel earth and everything got all cosmic Game of Thrones (look, just read Secret Wars, it’s easier than explaining it). The universe is always in danger, and the House of Ideas’ heroes will always be around to protect it, even if they all spend too much time fighting each other. After the second game touched on Civil War and divided up the roster, it’d be great to just get back to basics and have all the heroes fighting the bad guys instead of bad guys and each other.
Both games have had general rosters of about two dozen heroes, not counting platform specific heroes. It’d be great for the third game in the series to just go all out and get bigger, giving us a lineup that consists of the best parts of each branch of the comics: the Avengers, the X-Men, the Spider-Family, the Supernatural (Ghost Rider, Doctor Strange, etc.), the Cosmic (Silver Surfer, Guardians of the Galaxy), Street level heroes, and the Inhumans. Ideally, the lineup would try to reflect the current state of the comics–both the All-New, All-Different branding and the upcoming Marvel NOW–meaning adding new characters like Ms. Marvel, Jessica Jones, America Chavez, Thor, Odinson, Squirrel Girl, and yes, that also includes Victor von Doom as Iron Man.
As for what could bring these heroes together? Well, the first game did end with a tease of Galactus seeking vengeance for the heroes ruining his chow time, but that would definitely run counter to the comics, since he’s currently no longer a world eater, but a lifebringer. But there are bad guys like HYDRA and the Red Skull still lurking around, not to mention a little bad guy by the name of Thanos who hasn’t been in any of the games before.
Gotta Get Dat Marvel Loot!
Loot is important for any action-RPG. There’s a game in and of itself when you pick what trinket to put on your character or what skill class that they should have. The first game included loot that boosted character stats, while the second one lacked any loot at all. A third Ultimate Alliance should definitely bring that back, but something in the vein of Diablo.
Injustice 2 is including gear, both as a way to mix up combat, and as an inventive way to include alternate costumes. It’d be nice to take inspirations from that game; while this doesn’t have to substitute for alternate costumes, gear that’s specific to each character would be nice. It could be something as simple as a piece of AIM tech that increases Sunspot’s power, to a ring from space that widens the distance of Medusa’s hair. Just as an extra bonus, the item has to be visibly seen on the character in some capacity.
Change the Combat
The first pair of Ultimate Alliance games were very much in the dungeon crawler mold akin to Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance, top down view and all. While that was perfectly acceptable in the late 2000s, the games were bad with camera issues, and it’s an issue that’s persisted with other games of its ilk to this day, such as Diablo 3. As blasphemous as this may sound, it may be time to adopt more of the Dragon Age model and go for the camera of a standard action game. Going along with the camera should be the combat system.
Not to say that the next game would have to let you pause so you can set up attacks (although that would be pretty cool), but a third-person view is much more preferable to just suddenly seeing a bunch of bad guys pop up on screen. Another element that could be taken from Dragon Age that would work great here is the multiple powers; while the other Ultimate Alliance games let you use different abilities, you were only given four, and you could switch them in the menu or in quick select. Having seven abilities to work from is a lot better for combat when compared to three, along with a buff.
Ultimate Alliance 2 introduced the idea of Fusion powers, wherein two characters could combine powers for a powerful area of effects spell. It was a replacement for the Xtreme attacks on the first game. There’s no reason to not combine the two; while it’d be a bit difficult to choose between the two types for single player, in co-op, it’d be great. Not everyone wants to perform an ultimate attack when everyone else does in co-op, and for those who want to use Fusions, it’d benefit them as well.
None of the Ultimate Alliance games have ever flirted around with the idea of PvP, but if any series was perfect for these characters to take out their frustrations on each other, it’d be this one. No one in the Marvel universe can stay friends for longer than about six months, so it’s not like it isn’t keeping current with tradition. Not to mention the various fighting games that Marvel’s been putting out for mobile games. Yeah, those are one-on-one fighters, but they can also provide the basis for how competitive multiplayer could be.
Multiple heroes fighting each other on a battlefield is no longer the nightmare that one would think it is, as both the Civil War movie and Overwatch have proven. It’s definitely possible to make an action game where people of different abilities go up against each other, the trick is just to keep it manageable. Anything more than eight or 10 players would be an absolute nightmare, even if it doesn’t entire do its own concept justice. Such sacrifices would have to be made for fun.
As far as multiplayer goes, it couldn’t be anything too crazy. Deathmatch, sure, maybe whatever the Marvel equivalent of escorting a payload would be, definitely. But for other stuff, it may just be something simple as having races with all the flying characters to something akin to Halo 5’s Super Fiesta mode, where everyone is playing as different heroes with incredibly souped up abilities. Go nuts with the whole thing and let this shit run wild!