Marvel’s Midnight Suns Review – Superhero Demon Hunting

When I first heard about Firaxis making a Marvel game, I was excited. Developers of the franchise that is pretty much the king when it comes to a Tactics/Tactical RPG game making a superhero game? Anyone who has played an XCOM game in their life would definitely be up for that. However, that excitement dulled a bit when it was revealed that instead of the traditional XCOM style, Marvel’s Midnight Suns would play more like a card game (although not a typical Hearthstone/Gwent-style card game).

On the surface, Marvel’s Midnight Suns still had me intrigued since I’m a big Marvel guy and absolutely love Midnight Sons as a team. But I just couldn’t shake the feeling that being a card game, there would be just too much randomness and luck involved in combat encounters instead of actual strategy and planning. After all, unlike XCOM games, the outcome of a battle will be decided by the hand you are dealt instead of what weapons you have in your arsenal or how you place your units.

Thankfully, with the release of Marvel’s Midnight Suns, that worry has been put to rest, to some extent at least. Despite being a card game involving a lot of luck, Midnight Suns shines in its combat for the most part and I must say it is one of the few things it does very well when a lot of other things in the complete game package suffer.

In a surprising departure from the usual XCOM combat style or games like Gears Tactics, Midnight Suns puts players in a much smaller arena with pretty much no way to move around and position themselves for attacks. Hero positioning is all done as a result of abilities or cards as they are in the game, with one regular move allowed for the entire team per turn. This does feel kind of a bummer as you have very few options to play around with when it comes to combat or exploring the areas of the map. The flow in missions basically just goes from combat to cutscene to combat. Rinse and repeat.

Despite having a massive roster of characters, missions in Midnight Suns are only carried out by a team of 3 heroes, each with their own distinct card decks which determine the abilities they can use in combat. Unfortunately, despite having a stacked deck, your progress is hindered by luck of the draw. While the game does try to present you with a wide mix of cards, I did have instances where not a single card could be used for offense and drawing new ones also gave me nothing useful, thus prolonging the combat further.

While a longer fight wouldn’t normally be a bad thing, you get to see superheroes in action, after all, the fact that luck prolonging a fight ends up determining your end-of-mission score is really annoying as that score rewards you with Gloss, a currency used to purchase character cosmetics and upgrades for The Abbey. So on the one hand, you have a gameplay system that rewards you for finishing missions as quickly as possible while another actively tries to hinder that by adding randomness to combat scenarios. This duality of core combat in Marvel’s Midnight Suns didn’t really sit well with me and I really hope Firaxis improves upon it while also not fully going back to XCOM-style combat.

One of the welcome additions with the new combat system however is the complete removal of the chance-to-hit system from XCOM games. It would be pretty weird if heroes missed shots on regular HYDRA goons or undead enemies which is why all your attacks in Midnight Suns will ALWAYS connect with an enemy. On top of that, the attack animations and the spectacle is a sight to behold and truly make you feel like a superhero.

Coming off the amazing storytelling of Guardians of the Galaxy and still a decent main campaign of Marvel’s Avengers, I had high hopes for Marvel’s Midnight Suns when it came to the narrative department. Despite storytelling not exactly being Firaxis’ forte, given the playground they had to play with and the cool roster of characters in a supernatural environment, it was inevitable not to hope for a good superhero campaign with elements of occult thrown in.

Unfortunately, Midnight Suns fall short in that regard. The storyline.. well it’s just there and is serviceable enough but it’s not really something that will hook people or keep them playing if they aren’t a fan of the gameplay.

Firaxis did a decent job of setting up the world of Midnight Suns with animated prequel shorts and an ample amount of cutscenes in the 50-hour runtime of the game but the core narrative just doesn’t really go anywhere or does anything new.

The story revolves around The Hunter (played by you and not a pre-established character in the comics, made specifically for the game) and their centuries-long battle against their mother, Lilith who serves the old god Chthon. Throughout the game, in and out of combat, Hunter will have to deal with morality choices that have a hand in deciding how things play out and how you are perceived as a character.

A big part of the lackluster storytelling might have to do with the forced hub area, The Abbey where almost half the game takes place, asking players to constantly interact with other characters. While normally this would be a welcome thing, after all, superheroes are humans too (well most of them) but The Abbey has very little charm to it besides the few side missions involving ghosts and puzzle solving, which soon wear out their welcome. Every other activity in The Abbey feels like a chore, talking, and spending time with characters to improve your relationship with them so you can unlock better abilities just feels weird.

On top of these awkward interactions, another thing that really puts you off from the entire narrative of Midnight Suns are the character performances. Everyone comes off so wooden as if the entire voice cast submitted their lines over a phone call. Not only do the character animations in cutscenes and cinematics range from average to bad, their voices are so monotone that you can’t help but look for the button to skip dialogues or the entire cutscene. This would be an acceptable trade-off in some games but when Midnight Suns is a fully AAA-priced title, you can’t help being annoyed at such small things which ultimately compound to a lot of issues.

The performance of Midnight Suns, at least the PC version is pretty decent aside from random stutters whenever you play a big flashy card in combat. In my playthrough, I only encountered one crash and was able to play the game without any bugs so Firaxis at least has the technical polish side of the game nailed down.

In conclusion, Marvel’s Midnight Suns offers a nice superhero game package from the legends of tactical games, although one that is flawed in many ways and stuck in old gameplay and narrative direction from back when Firaxis and XCOM games were at their peak. While offering a unique playstyle in terms of superhero combat, there is little in Midnight Suns to engage players outside of combat scenarios.

6.5

Review Score


While combat holds potential, the ho-hum narrative and some odd and forced gameplay mechanics hold Marvel's Midnight Suns in the past and from becoming the next great tactical RPG.

Enjoys all sorts of games except those made by Nintendo. Trying to stay up to date with all games, entertainment media and memes.