Multiversus may build off of familiar foundations, but it offers impressive depth with an eye on competitive play.
Character brawlers are enjoying a resurgence right now, with an increasing number to choose from on all platforms. The tried and tested formula of smacking a character off the screen keeps players coming back, and Multiversus might be the first real contender to Nintendo’s genre-defining Super Smash Bros franchise.
Swapping gaming royalty for superhero, Stark, and Scooby-Doo characters isn’t the only thing separating this platform brawler from its clear inspiration, though, and the more time spent with Multiversus the more I find myself uncovering new wrinkles — even without a true single-player component.
Disclaimer: While Multiversus is currently in open beta, we feel it’s worth reviewing the game since players can spend real money on it right now with Founders Pack bundles.
Multiversus key details
- Developer: Player First Games
- Price: Free
- Release date: Open Beta at time of writing
- Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series S|X
Welcome to the Multiversus Multiverse
Character fighters tend to live or die based on their characters, and WB arguably has access to a roster that’s second only to Disney in entertainment.
That means the likes of Game of Thrones’ Arya Stark can be seen teaming up with Wonder Woman to destroy Shaggy from Scooby-Doo and Jake the Dog from Adventure TIme. There’s a genuinely exciting feeling about jumping into the roster screen for the first time and seeing Bugs Bunny and Taz rubbing shoulders with Steven Universe and Tom and Jerry, while the inclusion of basketball superstar LeBron James, and an original character called Reindog, suggests the future is very bright indeed for Multiversus.
There’s no denying that as varied as the roster is right now, it’s a little slim with seventeen fighters. Unlike Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, though, they’re voiced by many familiar voices: Kevin Conroy voices Batman, Maisie Williams is Arya Stark, and, yes, that’s Matthew Lillard as Shaggy.
Thankfully, there’s plenty more to come, with the likes of Rick and Morty slated to arrive in the coming months, while the “who’s next?” appeal of seeing a new character every few months is likely to mimic at least some of the excitement about Super Smash Bros reveals.
All of those characters have their own moves, split between standard and special attacks, and the ability to use that familiar analog stick flick to send an opponent packing in 1v1, 2v2, or free-for-all fights.
Go your own Wayne
If that all sounds familiar, then you’ve undoubtedly played Super Smash Bros. It’s no shame to build off such a solid base of what came before, though, but Multiversus does take its own set of creative chances — and pulls many of them off with aplomb.
For one, characters have specific perks, as well as slots where players can add more. Arya can wear the face of an enemy she’s knocked out for example, while Bugs Bunny can charm other fighters with a big, cartoon heart left behind after a kiss.
These can take time to learn, but all feel pleasingly idiosyncratic to each character, like Iron Giant creating fire when using his rocket boost.
Then there are equipable perks, which deal additional damage, add debuffs, and more. If that sounds like it’d be a pay-to-win minefield, then you’d be right, so we’re pleased to see Player First Games sidestep that conversation entirely by making anything that affects gameplay earnable just by playing.
Complicating these perks further is that they can stack if your partner uses them, too. That’s an added dimension that definitely suggests that the devs see 2v2 as the core way to play Multiversus, because countering an opponent’s fighters with your own characters and their perks feels a little like that moment in a hero shooter or a MOBA where everything gets locked in. Perks won’t make you a better player, but they can be used in interesting ways to help combat specific attacks, like increased projectile speed for ranged fighters or additional jumps for those that would otherwise struggle with stage recovery.
On that note, Multiversus breaks away from genre conventions by removing ledge hanging and swapping it for wall-jumping. It can be frustrating in early fights to see your chosen character ping-pong off of the side of the stage like an errant Batarang, but it soon becomes second nature and leads to some flashy moves that wouldn’t have been possible if you were dangling by your fingertips instead.
It’s also possible, with keen timing, to save your comrade from falling off the stage using certain characters. It’s the kind of thing that feels magical the first time, and never really loses its luster, but I can’t wait to see how competitive players use it to swing matches in their favor with unerring regularity.
No solo Adventure Time
Multiversus’ mechanics run deep, but the actual mode selection is a little thin. Aside from the match types and the various battlegrounds they can be fought on, there’s nothing analogous to Super Smash Bros’ World of Light mode or something like Subspace Emissary.
While I’d be lying if I said I was desperate to return to either of those modes, something similar in Multiversus could have at least afforded the opportunity for some fun cutscenes. Thankfully, there’s impressive dialogue between characters, but solo players should know that their mileage may be limited unless you want to constantly beat up Mr. Meeseeks in the game’s training mode.
Local multiplayer is also lacking compared to more long-running titles, with much fewer permutations than Smash Ultimate’s incredible toybox of modes and variations. Still, what’s here is a solid base to build from.
Multiversus is currently in open beta, but the game already supports microtransactions. The free-to-play route is undeniably full of success stories, but for every League of Legends, there’s a Diablo Immortal.
As I mentioned earlier, though, you’ll only be able to spend the game’s premium currency, Gleamium, on things like cosmetic outfits or new characters. Thankfully, you can earn some new skins by completing each character’s own battle pass, while Gold earned by playing the game will have you adding new characters to your roster in no time.
If you want to jump in without spending a penny, though, Multiversus rotates free characters, meaning everyone gets a chance to try a few fighters out each week. Between that and the high-quality, responsive fighting action, there’s more than enough to satiate fighting fans that don’t want to drop any cash right away.
The Verdict – 8.5
Even when stripping away the glossy licenses and arenas, Multiversus remains an excellent fighter that feels like a great barometer of how to do free-to-play right. That low barrier to entry makes it a great way to spend an evening with friends, and with more characters to come, it could grow into a true “Smash killer” over time.
Reviewed on PS5
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