Marvel’s Midnight Suns happened because Marvel was playing XCOM, dev reveals

Lloyd Coombes
Marvel's Midnight Suns Lilith

We spoke to the devs to find out the origins of Marvel’s Midnight Suns, whether there was any potential to make it an action game, and more.

Marvel Games and Firaxis may seem like odd bedfellows, with the former’s colorful characters and bombastic action feeling like a strange fit for the latter’s strategic combat and turn-based roots.

And yet, as you’ll see in our review, it’s a matchup that works very well indeed. Dexerto was able to speak to two of the key devs working on the game about how Marvel’s Midnight Suns came to be, and whether there was any potential for a more action-based combat system to be implemented into the game.

“We have to do this”

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When asked about whether it was Firaxis and publisher 2K approaching Marvel Games, Jake Solomon, Principal Program & Lead Designer explained that it was the opposite way around.

“The Marvel Games team was playing a lot of XCOM 2 internally, and they had the idea to reach out.”

“It was kind of a shock when that came through. We were floored by it. But then we started, and we were a little nervous cuz we never worked with IP, but we love Marvel and so pretty quickly the nervousness just changed to “we have to do this.”

So was there ever a chance that Firaxis would veer into action territory and abandon turn-based combat?

“We had an active button press,” Solomon reveals.

“We actually had a quick little prototype on it,” Garth DeAngelis, Senior Producer on Marvel’s Midnight Suns explains.

“It’s interesting to think about sometimes. We are huge fans of all the other Marvel games that come out and they do action really, really well. But we do turn-based tactics really, really well and make sure that there are interesting decisions at every turn from a tactical standpoint.”

All hands on deck

Marvel's Midnight Suns Combat screenshot
Marvel’s Midnight Suns’ card combat in action.

The team eventually settled on a card-based battle system that sees players draw cards with abilities assigned to them, adding a randomized element.

“Tactical games need randomness to make them almost endlessly interesting,” Solomon explains about Marvel’s Midnight Suns’ combat system.

“I have limited resources. How do I stay alive and take out the bad guys with my limited resources? And randomness is a very important part of that because you want every turn to feel like, “okay, what’s gonna happen next?”

“In XCOM, it was “oh no, you missed a shot” or did less damage than you needed to, but that kind of randomness felt terrible when applied to superheroes.”

“We’re not telling the origin story of Wolverine, right? He’s not gonna start weak and get strong in our game. These heroes need to be super-powered from the start. So the card system allows us to put really, really powerful abilities into the deck, but the player cannot guarantee when they’ll draw that super powerful ability they’ve worked hard to earn.”

For more of the Marvel’s Midnight Suns interview, be sure to check out the possibility of the game coming to the Steam Deck, as well as which key feature Firaxis pushed Marvel to allow them to implement.