The Midnight Children are the protagonists of a video game for the first time. Here is our review of Marvel’s Midnight Suns!
- Title: Marvel’s Midnight Suns
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series X/S, PC
- developer: FIRAXIS
- publisher: 2K Games
- Distribution: Digital, Physics
- Release date: 3/12/2022 (Switch version coming soon)
- Gender: strategic
- Tested version: Xbox Series X
In the last period Marvel licenses in the world of video games are not exactly enjoying great popularity or success. Of course, on our pages we especially praised Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxybut the work of the boys of Eidos Montreal has been dragged (unjustly) into the abyss of oblivion after the sensational thud of Marvel’s Avengers.
After the case Avengers, the Guardians have paid the price for an absolutely disastrous management made in Square Enix of its Western IPs. In this climate of dissatisfaction, a decidedly unusual combination has come forward: the publisher 2K and a developer like Firaxis who, with all the honesty in the world, we never expected to see working on a Marvel license.
Yet it happened, Firaxis, well known to the general public for the series of strategic games XCOM, have momentarily put aside their fruitful and much-loved IP to put their talent at the service of 2K and create a licensed title, titled Marvel’s Midnight Suns and based on the eponymous group of heroes from the House of Ideas.
Postponed on several occasions, which have dangerously lengthened its development, Marvel’s Midnght Sons is the unexpected surprise of this end of 2022 and we are here to tell you ours after almost 80 hours spent on the game. Here is our review of Marvel’s Midnight Suns1
Between magic and monsters. Welcome to the world of the Midnight Sons!
Based loosely on the comic “Rise of the Midnight Sons”, Firaxis’ game leads gamers to discover a side of the Marvel universe that is less popular with the general public, despite the fact that it is timidly starting to show itself in cinema and TV in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns arrives with perfect timing on the market, as it poses as a bible on the supernatural world of Marvel, but also a remodeling of this universe by a studio that shows a talent and attention to detail when writing to say the least amazing.
This alternative version of the Marvel world puts aside many already known aspects of its universe to tell a real story of magic and monsters, without sacrificing the most inviting aspect in the eyes of the general public, namely the Avengers. The strongest heroes on Earth are an inevitable compromise, a blatant interference by the upper levels who have not wanted to courageously detach themselves from iconic figures such as Iron Man and Captain America. All in all, an understandable choice if we consider the strength of the brand in the cinema and although it can make one turn up one’s nose to see certain characters within slightly alienating dynamics for those who read comics, Firaxis has been able to exploit the presence of the Avengers to further emphasize a narrative that in its simplicity works and entertains with the right amount of fan service.
As we said, the basic plot is largely inspired by the Rise of Midnight Sons comic, but reinvents and expands it massively.
The main antagonist of the story is the demon Lilith, brought back to life by Hydra and intent on conquering the entire planet by exploiting the powers of the powerful Darkhold, a magical book with incredible powers. While a familiar face in the comics, the developer has reinvented the background of the witch to create a brand new character who will take the place of the protagonist and the player’s avatar, Hunter. This new hero, customizable in every aspect by the player, is none other than the son of Lilith, a sort of Commander Shepard straight out of Mass Effect who will have the task of managing every strategic aspect of the game, including the need to keep a very reluctant group of heroes with a difficult character. In total, the game features 13 playable heroes who will progressively join the roster and in addition to the usual suspects such as Spider-Man, Iron Man or Wolverine, there are much more obscure figures alongside the general public but who also represent the best part of the “package”; among these are incredibly fascinating and controversial characters such as Illyana “Magik” Rasputin, the new Ghost Rider represented by the young Robbie Reyes, or the witch par excellence Nico Minaru, linked to the Runaways group.
Lilith herself will use her powers to put a spoke in the wheels for the heroes, manipulating some historical faces of Marvel to transform them into her personal thugs who will exacerbate the conflict between the two parties during the adventure.
A different strategy
Right from the start Midnight Suns radically distances itself from the fighting style that has always distinguished XCOM, and more generally the approach to the genre that has defined the history of Firaxis. First, each team is made up of three heroes, and each of them manages their actions on the battlefield through a deck of eight skill cards. Each card represents a precise action skill that the hero can exploit on the battlefield: some allow you to activate passive skills, others offer important power ups to the statistics, while still others guarantee the increase of “Courage”, a statistic on consumption with which it is possible to activate powerful special attacks represented by the “Hero” cards. Courage points also allow the character to take advantage of environmental interactions, which go beyond the number of moves available for each turn. The difference with XCOM is therefore very marked because in all respects we are talking about a simple and intuitive card game, however it is only by advancing in the game that one realizes the concrete potential of a much deeper combat system than it might seem. In fact, the cards can be upgraded and at the same time each hero is based on specific builds. The Hunter character is an exception, on which the player will end up investing a large part of his time to develop specific builds. In fact, Hunter is the only character characterized by two orientations, Light and Darkness, and the player can decide his progress through multiple dialogues and the creation of a deck of cards that draws on the power of the two orientations. In general, Light-type cards allow Hunter to be transformed into a support warrior and healing capabilities, while the Dark side instead increases attack capabilities, with the possibility of accessing control skills over the enemies deployed on the field.
Another playful aspect not to be underestimated is the fact that Midnight Suns it does not have a system of perpetual death of the characters, however playing on the most demanding difficulty levels, the revives will be limited or absent altogether. Furthermore, even the approach changes compared to the XCOM series: the grid disappears and space is made for free movement within small circular arenas where there is not even room for defensive maneuvers. The best defense remains the attack, which is associated with cards with skills that can guarantee access to counterattacks and temporary defensive blocks.
Socialization will save the world
As we have already made you understand in a few previous paragraphs, Midnight Suns is a production extraordinarily full of content, with a longevity and replayability that will make fans of the genre happy, but it would be wrong to limit the discussion solely to the strategic component, because there is more. Unsuspectingly Firaxis has set up a rich background of secondary activities that want to entice the player to break the repetitive rhythm of the clashes by investing time and resources within the Abbey. This translates into the exploration of the land surrounding the hub, freely explorable and characterized by obstacles, puzzles and treasure chests with varying degrees of rarity that can offer delicious rewards for customization.
Exploration of the Terrains is completely secondary, but periodically dedicating yourself to their discovery by also completing the puzzles they offer, allows you to further explore the enormous work done by the screenwriters in constituting this supernatural side of the Marvel world.
The Grounds, however, are only one of the slices of secondary activities that populate the Abbey, the nerve center where there are also structures to enhance the heroes’ abilities, complete secondary challenges and interface with the various heroes who will join Hunter’s cause.
And it is precisely here that Midnight Suns shows one of its best and unexpected sides. Socializing with teammates is one of the most important elements of production. Each hero has his own stories, his problems, his character and points of view that will not always be frowned upon by “colleagues”. Almost as if he were Commander Shepard of Mass Effect, Hunter will find himself involved in articulated moral discussions that could influence his relationship with the other members of the group.
We don’t want to deny it, sometimes the stories of this group become more exciting than the strategic component, to the point that the player – if involved – could even decide to spend many of his hours right in the Abbey, getting involved in the stories that populate it (Magik is undoubtedly the most successful character) From this point of view the overwhelming narrative part, which is linked to the need to devote part of one’s time to social interactions between characters, may not necessarily find favor with the public and fans of strategic games. At the same time we can’t help but appreciate the developer’s courage in making a licensed production so ambivalent and risky. And who knows if these prominent role-playing/dating sim aspects aren’t a testing ground for future iterations of the XCOM series.
We tested Midnight Suns on Xbox Series X, where the game proved to be quite solid at 60 frames per second. It is also true that we are talking about a very smart production, designed to also run on a platform like Nintendo Switch, therefore some graphic compromises can be deduced: the polygonal modeling is not extraordinary, just as the arenas are structured to contain a limited number of characters and the animations decidedly out of step with the most modern hardware. From the point of view of what should be a strategic game, the compromises used by the studio are clearly children of an extremely multiplatform development logic, but we are sure that fans will appreciate the excellent artistic direction that embraces the dark side of Marvel.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is one of the surprises at the end of 2022. A solid strategy in which Firaxis reinvents his way of playing strategic games by trying the card game formula. It is a multifaceted and long-lived title, in which the developer has not worked to consolidate a mythology of the Marvel side that has always been relegated to comics, also making a virtue of necessity some commercial choices imposed from above. It is a product made up of two souls that meet and work, but it must also be emphasized that the narrative and role-playing component with dating sim fluctuations risks taking over everything else. And this could not always be frowned upon by all players, especially by those who want to throw themselves headlong into strategic gameplay only.
- The card system works very well. There is a lot of customization
- So many things to do that guarantee stellar longevity
- Hunter and all the rest of the team are really well written
- The dating sim component is almost “a game within a game”
- The Abbey shows the obvious effort the writers expended in crafting the Midnight Suns mythology
- From a technical point of view it is a simplistic game
- The dating sim component sometimes takes over the rest of the production too much. Not everyone will like it