Marvel’s Midnight Suns Preview
In the genre of turn-based tactical RPGs, the XCOM franchise is hard to beat. When it comes to oversize characters, dramatic storytelling, and explosive combat, the expansive universe of Marvel superheroes is equally stellar. Put the two together and you have what could be one of the best new tactical RPGs to appear in a very long time. We had the chance to preview Firaxis’ upcoming Marvel’s Midnight Suns and came away incredibly impressed. Firaxis and Marvel are calling Midnight Suns the “ultimate crossover event” and it’s hard not to agree.
Unlike XCOM, Midnight Suns doesn’t rely on the follies of the RNG. Instead, this new, delicious combo meal of Marvel and tactics uses a deck building system that’s incredibly deep but easy to understand. There are essentially three types of cards. One category is your bread-and-butter offensive moves, called Attack Cards. Another stack holds the Skill Cards, which amount to buffs and debuffs. The third type of card are the game-changing Heroic abilities. Those cards require a steady build-up of hero power, and they decimate the enemy and turn the tide of battle. As Creative Director Jake Solomon describes it, “Superheroes shouldn’t miss their shot,” so using a Heroic card is a guaranteed success. Building to it requires strategy and planning.
In practice, the flow of combat is intuitive, engaging, and simply a lot of fun. The deck-building mechanics are streamlined and while Midnight Suns is a turn-based tactical game, the flow is fast-paced and highlighted by impressive action animations for each attack or response. Midnight Suns merges the kinetic feel of an action RPG with the opportunity for deep strategic thinking.
A Hero is Forged
The Marvel universe reaches far beyond MCU films and television, of course. Its branding is ubiquitous, with Marvel superheroes plastered on everything from tubes of toothpaste to home appliances. People know and love the iconic characters. For Midnight Suns, Firaxis took a different approach and loosely based the game on a comic series from the 90s called Spirits of Vengeance. Filled with the supernatural, the series ended with a book called Rise of the Midnight Sons. The new game doesn’t follow the comic slavishly, but the battle between supernatural forces and the Marvel heroes is the engine that drives both.
Fans of Marvel lore will naturally vibe with Midnight Suns’ narrative. It begins with Hydra using the Darkhold to free Lilith, the Mother of Demons from a centuries-long sleep. Oh, and she was put there by you, the player character, who happens to be her offspring. Lilith wants to summon the ultra-evil Chthon, and your goal is to stop her. You must defeat her army of supernatural minions and heroes.
Naturally, you have help. You’re joined first by the beloved Avengers, and later, a new group of heroes called the Midnight Suns. Altogether, you’ll have a choice of 13 superheroes to add to your squad for missions. You play as The Hunter, resurrected from your tomb to help defeat Lilith once again.
Hearth, Home, and Heroes
For the first time in Marvel games, you create your own version of The Hunter, and customization opportunities are pretty extensive. As you play, you add cards to your deck and upgrade your heroes by increasing the power and selection of cards. This allows for an almost alarming depth and the chance to forge a genuinely unique hero.
In Midnight Suns, your home base is The Abbey, a moody and dark church of the supernatural. The Abbey is an explorable environment with several key areas. At the Forge, you can perform upgrades to cards and characters. Tony Stark and Doctor Strange are there, and you use artifacts you collect in battle and in the world to both strengthen your heroes and unlock new areas of the Abbey. In The Yard, you can upgrade your character’s combat abilities and spar against heroes. Finally, there’s the War Room where you select missions.
Whether roaming the Abbey, chatting up the Avengers or the Midnights Suns or fighting together, you create bonds with the other heroes that pay off in battle. The Abbey does a great job of tying together narrative threads and bringing to life both familiar characters and heroes new to the Marvel universe.
Dressed for Success
All the lore and iconic characters in the world don’t matter if the game isn’t fun. I’m happy to report that Midnight Suns does exactly what it promises. It brings together the excellent strategic combat that Firaxis is known for, with the stable of Marvel heroes you know and love. Creating my own version of the Hunter and fighting side by side with Dr. Strange, Blade, and Ghost Rider was a memorable good time. I can’t wait to play the game — by Firaxis’ estimation, several dozen hours of goodness — when it releases on December 2, 2022. Christmas is coming early for fans of Marvel and outstanding tactical RPGs.