Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a great comic team-up game | Popgen Tech
every friday, AV Club The staff started our weekly open thread for discussion of gaming plans and recent gaming glories, but of course, the real action is in the comments, where we invite you to answer our eternal question: What Are You Playing This Weekend?
I am playing Marvel’s Midnight Suns lately, and enjoying the hell out of my time with it-the adventure game/walk around and try to date the Spider-Man parts are well written and clever (even if they won’t let you date Spider-Man). And the main combat game is tactically satisfying, using the structure of a Kill the Spire-style card-based deckbuilding game to create a delightfully deep superhero fighting experience. (Not a huge shock, given Firaxis’ semi-recent, highly successful revival of XCOM franchise—Midnight Suns doesn’t truck that kind of intense consequence-based combat, but it comes close enough to scratch the itch.)
What’s most interesting about the game, however, in my mind, is something it shares with a whole bunch of recent Marvel games, from the recent Marvel’s Avengersin Midnight Sunsand even extends to something like a phone-based card game Marvel Snap. And that’s the fact that gaming has somehow become the only place—outside of comics itself—where you can reach the full extent of the Marvel universe all in one place. No IP restrictions, no worries about who owns who: Just X-Men and Avengers and Runaways and Spider-Man all sharing screen time and, inevitably, quips. (Midnight Suns has many quips; you just have to get used to it.)
The various Marvel brands have been away from each other in film and television for so long at this point that it’s starting to feel like the norm; even when Disney hoovers over its wayward children enough to start introducing Professor X or Mister Fantastic back into the MCU, it’s only in the form of tentative hints and one-offs. Meanwhile, I had a battle where Doctor Strange blew up a Hydra goon in the middle of the map so that Wolverine and Blade could tear apart the poor fascist dimwit. Later, a birthday party for X-Men member Magik sees Ghost Rider and Captain America comment on the cake, while Tony Stark and Captain Marvel exchange quips. (Lotta quips! Quips ahoy!)
The point is, there’s something incredibly refreshing about having all these characters next to each other, with the game’s writers intent on finding all kinds of different dynamics between them. (Most of it focuses on the conflict between the young rebels The Midnight Suns and the established Avengers, but the game finds many other avenues to explore—like a tech nerd club formed by Peter “Spider-Man ” Parker and Robbie “Ghost Rider ” Reyes, who then have to contend with their hero worship/concern about being co-opted when the Very Famous Tech Man Tony Stark expresses interest in their work.) Meanwhile, in inside of Snap, there’s something confusing about throwing out a setup that sees Squirrel Girl and Odin team up to take over a location, or crush an opponent with Ben Grimm and Devil Dinosaur. (I like to imagine Ben riding on DD’s back, but you don’t have to, if you don’t want to, because you’re some kind of joy-hating weirdo.)
The Marvel Universe is big, it’s weird, and it’s wild—no matter how much its corporate overlords have tried to tame it over the years. I’m not chasing Midnight Suns o Snap represents some kind of anti-authoritarian pushback, mind you; they are still Corporate Content Delivery systems down to their bones. But despite their looser licensing issues, they nevertheless represent the kind of freedom that MCU fans only get in small doses, the kind of shared universe where Spidey can knock a processed Venom demon straight into the waiting fists of Carol Danvers while Nico Minoru uses the Staff Of One to buff them both. And if that’s not peak Marvel gaming, I don’t know what is. (At least, until my “Ben Grimm kicks Doctor Doom’s ass from the back of a big red dinosaur” game finally comes through.)