Firaxis takes the Marvel universe and creates something wholly unique. Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a tactical triumph, but some uneven pacing and superfluous features hold it back a little.
When I was younger, I wanted nothing more than to be part of the Marvel universe. So many colorful, iconic characters, I used to watch the X-Men and Spider-Man animated shows religiously. As it turns out, that superhero life, at least as seen in Marvel’s Midnight Suns, is just like my own — for all of those hard-fought battles that see Captain America bouncing his shield all over the place, there’s refurnishing my room and scrolling through Superhero social media.
That dichotomy is at the heart of what makes Marvel’s Midnight Suns one of my favorite games of the year, but I also found myself wishing for a slightly leaner experience more in line with Firaxis’ XCOM titles. Still, what’s here is a fantastic introduction to a new Marvel subuniverse, and one I intend to revisit even having seen the end credits.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns: Key details
- Developer: Firaxis Games
- Price: $59.99 USD / £59.99 GBP / $89.95 AUD
- Release date: December 2
- Platforms: PC, PS5, Xbox Series S|X (PS4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch versions coming later)
Marvel’s Midnight Suns Trailer:
The Witching Hour
The story of Midnight Suns has been revealed in countless trailers and animated shorts (which are very good, by the way), but the key details are that Lilith, Mother of Demons, has been resurrected by those cheeky Hydra fools.
With a squad including Scarlet Witch, Doctor Strange, Iron Man and even Captain Marvel outmatched, our heroes dig up The Hunter. This new custom character is the player’s avatar, and also happens to be Lilith’s son or daughter, depending on your choice.
What follows is a romp that sees the Midnight Suns of the title grow in number, adding the likes of Wolverine and Spider-Man to your roster, along with lesser-known characters like Magick. It’s a great setup that allows Firaxis to pull from all parts of Marvel’s mystical side, and pull it does — there are characters referenced in early chapters that emerge in later ones, as well as fun “out of nowhere” moments where characters bust in.
Compared to XCOM’s po-faced sci-fi soldiers, this allows for Marvel’s Midnight Suns to offer drama, comedy, and everything in between. In fact, I’d say that Midnight Suns is one of the most well-written games this year, with every character given their time to shine.
Much of this happens between combat segments in the Abbey, an almost-certainly-haunted hideout within a pocket dimension, and the resting place of the Hunter before their awakening.
You’re free to roam the grounds and build relationships with characters, and while it was fun to discuss the potential poltergeists of the building with Tony Stark, the transition from XCOM’s menus to a full 3D RPG setup hasn’t been an entirely smooth one.
Characters look a little bland in terms of facial expressions, and while much of the game’s visuals look great, they do tend to stand out just a little. Thankfully, voice-acting is excellent throughout, with just the right amount of popcorn action movie silliness thrown in among the exposition, and Marvel’s Midnight Suns, while full of world-ending demonic threats, never takes itself too seriously.
There are, however, some oddities around the Abbey – and I’m not referring to the collection of superheroes. For one, Stark takes it upon himself to create a superhero-focused social media platform. It’s fun to track what characters are doing and observe their interactions, but it also feels a bit out of place.
Secondly, the Hunter is, sadly, the most boring character of the bunch. Every dialog tree option feels a little one-note, and while there are occasional “character out of time” jokes that are funny, much of it does little to alleviate the fact that this “legendary warrior” is just a bit dull. Thankfully, the supporting cast around him are so good, that it’s OK to feel a little like you’re not really the star.
It’s also worth mentioning that you can decorate the Hunter’s room with items like new blinds and a book for the coffee table, but it feels a little flat.
Of course, when you’re done milling around the Abbey, there are demons and worse to fight – and Marvel’s Midnight Suns remains the superhero game to beat in 2022.
Unlike XCOM, which offers grid-based movement and a series of predetermined offensive and defensive options, Marvel’s Midnight Suns shakes things up with a card-based ability system. Players draw from their deck of abilities to unleash attacks, status effects, buffs, and plenty more, and the randomized nature of the cards you pull from your deck each turn makes it feel balanced in a way it wouldn’t have if you were flinging fireballs as Captain Marvel.
Three cards can be played per turn, and you can redraw cards a set number of times to try and account for situations. This helped me feel like I had the ability to double down on an offensive strategy even as I pulled more defensive cards, and had me doing the opposite when it looked like my squad could crumble.
One hero can move each turn, and positioning is just as valuable as it was in XCOM thanks to directional abilities that can send opponents into environmental hazards, or each other. There are environmental moves, too, that can send your heroes flying across the map or see them hurling objects at opponents.
Add in a variety of status effects and there’s a lot to learn, and that’s before you start tinkering. I found myself looking to build a squad that uses “Quick” cards which refund a card play if they kill an enemy. With the right hand, I was able to take out multiple foes in one go, bobbing and weaving through the battlefield to find the right opportunities.
In many turn-based games, it can feel easy to disengage during an enemy turn because you’re in a passive state as they move, attack, or fortify. In Marvel’s Midnight Suns my gray matter didn’t stop analyzing the battlefield, knowing things can change in a heartbeat.
That’s got me eager to replay the game on higher difficulties, especially since boss fights are so well-balanced on the standard one. I won’t spoil anything, but there are some true brain-teasing encounters that I can’t wait to try again with new teams and decks.
The Verdict – 4/5
Marvel’s Midnight Suns shines brightly in a year full of excellent strategy RPGs thanks to a heartfelt love for the license, and a huge roster of fantastically realized characters to go along with a unique card-based battle system.
While there’s definitely some filler to be found within the walls of the Abbey, this is an interesting new take on Marvel’s mystical side, and one I can’t wait to see more of.
Reviewed on PC