Diablo meets the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Nintendo’s stellar Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3
Avengers, assemble! Surely, I’m not the first person who’s been dying to say that, right Ms. Marvel?
In Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, not only do you assemble Avengers like Hulk, Thor, Captain America and Scarlet Witch, but also members of other iconic groups from across the Marvel Universe. Guardians of the Galaxy—check. The Defenders—check. Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.—check. X-Men—check. It’s a smorgasbord of the greatest superbeings this side of Asgard. You can even play as villains like Venom and Thanos, too!
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order Info
- Platforms: Nintendo Switch
- Publisher: Nintendo
- Developer: Team Ninja
- Genre: Action role-playing, hack and slash
- Modes: Single-player, Multiplayer
- ESRB Rating: T (Teen)
Yep, those darn gems again
Being that ten years have passed since Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2, a whole lot has changed, and for good reason. The biggest, of course, is the explosion of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began in 2008 with The Incredible Hulk and first Iron Man film. Appealing to modern-day Marvel fans, characterizations in MUA3 are lifted directly from the films and TV series, and the voice cast even sounds like their on-camera counterparts, too. So those who enjoyed films like Avengers: Endgame or Netflix’s Marvel: Daredevil will feel right at home here.
Those who enjoyed films like Avengers: Endgame or Netflix’s Marvel: Daredevil will feel right at home here.
Surprise, surprise (OK, perhaps not) the big baddie of this game is Thanos, who’s once again out to collect the Infinity Stones. Instead of taking ten years to tell this story (like the films did), Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 cuts to the chase. The story begins with the Guardians of the Galaxy coming across all six gems aboard a Kree ship. Their actions inadvertently draw the attention of Proxima Midnight from Thanos’ Black Order, and a confrontation ensues. Star-Lord ends up using the Space Stone to teleport the Guardians to Earth, while scattering the remaining five gems across the galaxy. Naturally, the five locations end up driving the game’s plot with your ultimate alliance out to retrieve the stones before the evil Thanos does.
Gather your ultimate team
The best feature of MUA3—by far—is the game’s massive roster of 36 playable heroes and villains. Like past iterations, you assemble your best team of four ranging from Iron Man to Black Widow to Rocket & Groot. You begin with the Guardians crew, and then as the story progresses, you’ll expand your alliance to include the Avengers, X-Men and lone wolves like Ghost Rider and Doctor Strange. Both 4-player local and online play are available, or you can play solo with three A.I.-controlled helpers.
It’s an eclectic alliance, but the reasoning is sound given Thanos is pretty much a threat to everyone. You’ll even convince villains like Venom and the alternative universe Spider-Gwen to join your cause. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 lets you live out your best Marvel fantasy, whether that’s going all green with Hulk, Drax, Gamora and Iron Fist or assembling an all-spidey crew of Spider-Man, Venom, Miles Morales and Spider-Gwen.
Deep RPG gameplay
Similar to previous Marvel Ultimate Alliance entries, the hack and slash gameplay is very reminiscent of Blizzard’s Diablo series. And like that game, you’ll often fight a dozen-plus enemies at once, literally filling your screen with chaotic carnage. Don’t be surprised if you lose track of your character for a couple second from time-to-time—that’s all part of the experience. MUA3 is over the top very much by design.
As your fight, your characters will gain XP and level up, increasing stats like their Strength, Durability and Vitality. Levelling up makes a huge difference in combat; for example, my level 8 Star-Lord has a base health of 5,102, whereas my level 36 Hulk has triple that. Assembling a team requires you to think strategically: perhaps have Hulk as your tank, Crystal for ranged magic, Daredevil for close-quarters combat and Deadpool for his regenerative power.
Similar to previous Marvel Ultimate Alliance entries, the hack and slash gameplay is very reminiscent of Blizzard’s Diablo series.
Adding another layer to team composition is the team bonuses you can acquire when choosing like-characters. Pairing the supernatural heroes Ghost Rider and Doctor Strange gives you the “Midnight Sons” Mastery bonus, increasing the team’s magical offence. Combining Iron Man and Hulk gives you two bonuses: a boost to your team’s Energy for both being “Avengers” and a further increase to team Mastery because they’re also “Original Avengers.” On top of making you think strategically these boosts are just fun: getting a Durability bump because Ms. Marvel and Iron Man have “Big Brains” is both true and hilarious.
The vast menus and stats are only half the equation for how deep MUA3‘s gameplay goes. The other half is all the abilities and attacks your sizable crew has. On top of each hero having light and strong attacks, they also build up Energy and can unleash Extreme signature attacks. Wolverine unleashes devastating adamantium claw strikes, Black Panther can perform punishing dash strikes, and Iron Man can deploy his iconic chest unibeam. As well, Extreme attacks can be upgraded to increase their damage or reduce the energy required to perform them.
Every attack has specific attributes, too, so Doctor Strange’s flame attack will set fire to enemies and burn them over time. Thor’s thunder strikes dole out extreme damage while also shocking enemies, leaving them temporarily unable to move. Furthermore, two heroes can combine their EX attacks, a move called Synergy Links. For example, Doctor Strange’s flame funnel combines with Ms. Marvel’s punching flurry and results in a vicious fire tornado that slices through enemies.
On the surface, MUA3 seems like a button masher but that’ll only get you so far: learning the ins and outs of every character is key to team success.
Your heroes also have individual yellow gauges, and when all are full, you can destroy enemies with hellraising Alliance Extreme attacks. During these brutal combos, all four team members channel their powers into a screen-wide attack delivering tens of thousands in damage, if not hundreds of thousands. Beyond being a method of crushing bosses, these attacks look incredible and make you feel like a seriously heroic badass.
There’s one other major factor to consider: heroes have advantageous inherent traits. Storm can fly, allowing her to avoid most ground enemies, perform smash attacks or easily retreat when need. The Hulk has super strength and can lift objects other heroes can’t, including vehicles. Characters like Spider-Man and Venom can web sling, allowing for fast movement and powerful ground pounds. On the surface, MUA3 seems like a button masher but that’ll only get you so far: learning the ins and outs of every character is key to team success.
To infinity, and beyond
In addition to ten chapters in the main campaign, MUA3 features Infinity rift challenge stages. These mini-missions task you with various objectives like clearing a wave of 200 enemies, tackling enhanced versions of bosses, or defeating a certain number of enemies before time runs out. Rewards can be quite substantial—like acquiring a new hero for your alliance—or can provide perks like alternative costumes.
As if that weren’t enough, there are two more key ways you can bolster your alliance while visiting the Lab. The first is through the Alliance Enhancement, which presents a series of perk grids for you to unlock. Using your Enhancement Points (gained by increasing characters levels) and Credits (the in-game currency) you can buy team-wide perks like increasing everyone’s Vitality by 50 or boosting offensive damage by 3%. Perks stack too, and there are over 100 to unlock total. Long story short, with enough investment, you can create a seriously unstopped superhero team.
There’s a deep rabbit hole you go down using these crystals, perfect for stats buffs that enjoy tinkering with stats to create finely-tuned powerhouse teams.
The second Lab function is it serves as your hub to manage ISO-8 crystals, a mysterious material in the Marvel universe with strong energy properties. Each character can equip up to four ISO-8 crystals, and like gems in Diablo, they provide a wealth of great passive perks. My Nightcrawler has a yellow ISO-8 equipped that boosts his magic resistance by 550, while my Deadpool has a red one that increases his heavy damage by 16%, but at the cost of dropping his light damage by 12%. There’s a deep rabbit hole you go down using these crystals, perfect for stats buffs that enjoy tinkering with stats to create finely-tuned powerhouse teams.
Seriously bad badguys
Thanos is just the tip of the iceberg for villains you’ll face during this epic adventure. Memorable face-offs include a multi-phase battle with Doc Oct, an all-out skirmish with M.O.D.O.K. and his A.I.M. henchmen, and a particularly tough brawl against Dormammu. These battles take place in recognizable locations both comic book and movie fans will appreciate, like the Dark Dimension, Attilan, Avengers Tower and Wakanda.
While the game’s graphics are servicable, I did enjoy the cel-shaded cutscenes that are equal parts cool and campy. Don’t expect too much though as the story is lighthearted and interactions are brief; cutscenes, mostly, introduce new characters with signature one-liners. But hey, hearing “I am Groot” never gets old, nor does hearing Vemon refer to himself in the third person.
Extreme action, extreme fun
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is serious fun, way more than I was expecting. The roster is huge, varied and includes personal favourites like Ghost Rider, Wolverine and Nightcrawler. More heroes are coming later as DLC, so I can’t wait to check them out.
I also thoroughly enjoyed the gameplay: it’s easy enough to pick-up-and-play and deep enough for people like me who love tweaking and optimizing my characters. The graphics could be better, however, the cel-shade cutscenes and excellent voice acting goes a long way.
With so many characters to level up, skill trees to unlocks, and crystals to collect there’s tons to enjoy here long after the campaign finishes. Initial load times are bit a long, but once missions begins it’s all action. All in all, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is a superb game that should be enjoyed by Marvel and action fans alike.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 – Pros:
- Huge roster of 36 heroes and villains.
- Massively deep menus and stats.
- Excellent cel-shaded cutscenes.
- Great voice acting that sounds like the MCU actors.
- Nice selection of villain bosses to face off against.
- Infinity rifts add good replay value
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 – Cons:
- Graphics are pretty average
- Camera issue: sometimes you room objects block you view
- Takes too long to load missions and swap heroes