Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order Review
It’s been a decade since the last Marvel Ultimate Alliance game was released. Before the Marvel Cinematic Universe, these games allowed fans of these comic properties a glimpse of what it would be like if our favorite heroes teamed up through a Diablo-esque isometric action RPG. I spent a lot of time with the first two games, mostly playing with friends after school and I even got introduced to characters that would eventually become some of my favorites in the Marvel Universe, so I was more than excited when Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order was announced.
Ultimate Alliance is a top-down isometric action RPG where players can jump, leap, and fly through the familiar landscapes of the Marvel Universe. In single-player and online co-op, you can move your camera around freely to navigate through numerous explorable areas to find currencies to power your squad of characters up. However, if you decide to opt for couch co-op you’re immediately stuck into a fixed perspective which can sometimes be nausea-inducing if you try to move in too many directions at once with the camera trying to accommodate all players occupying the same individual screen. This was arguably my only gripe when playing through the game as everything played exactly, if not sometimes better than I remembered it.
While this is a new installment and reboot to the already established franchise, it doesn’t vary too much regarding the gameplay. Players can utilize a handful of skills during combat to add a greater sense of depth to what would otherwise be fairly straightforward encounters, and each character has varying strengths and weaknesses so it doesn’t feel like you’re playing a reskin of an already introduced member of the already sizable roster. You can also use the Lab, a new feature to the Ultimate Alliance series, to level up general stats to your group. These cost Enhancement Points and Credits which can be earned through playing the game. By leveling up various traits through this spider-web of passive skills you can unlock more specialized traits like reducing damage while guarding and so forth. Keep in mind when leveling up abilities everything costs some kind of in-game currency so if you don’t want to grind too much I’d suggest saving the several types of Ability Orbs you can find throughout the stages for the characters you want to use.
Boss encounters are a bit more difficult than I remember them being from the first two games; even on the easiest difficulty due to screen clutter sometimes being an issue I struggled with during a couple of the fights. I never had to re-attempt any fights but preparation and leveling up was essential to victory since sometimes there is so much going on it can be a little overwhelming or visual clues were lost in a mess of fireballs or character effects.
Characters are an amalgamation of all pre-existing iterations - some sampled or directly inspired by their designs and established personalities from the MCU, others more or less their comic variants, and you’ll even find some Marvel vs Capcom designs sprinkled here and there. It’s a nice combination that hits points of nostalgia for anyone that has been introduced to any Marvel property throughout the past two decades. Introductions are done Borderlands style, but without exaggerated splash art, giving you two sentences to familiarize yourself with their personality right off the bat. This goes a step further if you check out the Records which are written through the perspectives of various characters. It’s small touches like this that help add personality to the cast since cutscenes are often fairly short and straightforward, moving you from objective to objective within the story.
The story of the game is just like the multitude of cutscenes - extremely straightforward. You have a tutorial level which explains all of the mechanics of the game and allows you to test out a premade team of heroes to check out a few different play styles that you can switch between freely by changing your active hero. The game opens up with progression and as you go through the story, allowing you to access a fairly sizeable roster as more characters are unlocked. In the end, I had a few different teams all comprised of some of my favorite characters and some I had never heard of before like Elsa Bloodstone. That being said, I feel like Ultimate Alliance 3 caters to all fans in some way.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order doesn't try to be more than it is, a fun romp with characters everyone has come to know over the past decade. While fighting with the camera can be frustrating at times, the game itself is extremely enjoyable especially if you’re a fan of Diablo-style RPGs. Additionally, it serves as a great stepping on point for anyone unfamiliar with the franchise and is accessible to any and all fans.