Late to Match(es): When Worlds Collide

By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times

I took some time off this weekend to try something I hadn’t done in a while – I played a brand new game. The game, MultiVersus, from Warner Bros. Games is so new, in fact, that it’s not even called a full release. It’s technically still in beta testing before final release; although it is an open beta version and available for free for anyone who wants to download it.

Building on the popularity of inter-franchise fighting games, like those from Nintendo Super Smash Bros. games or Sony PlayStation All Stars Battle Royalethe game features popular characters from across Warner Bros.’ catalog of properties.

Theoretically, you could find yourself in a match where Batman and Bugs Bunny team up against Arya Stark from game of thrones and scooby-doo Velma.

Once you get past the skins and associated superpowers – Shaggy, for example, has a special move where he shoots a sandwich out of nowhere which he can then throw at his enemy – that’s your basic fighting game . There are powerful combos and moves based on combinations of buttons and directional sticks. There are also special dodges and moves associated with specific jump combinations. If you want to go to the trouble of memorizing them all for each character, I’m sure the super dexterous and skillful could pull off some fantastic and strategic moves. But these games go fast, too fast for me to overthink strategy. I find that when I try to put together specific moves and play strategically, I die quickly. When I point my character in the direction of my opponent, mash buttons like crazy, and rain down a random series of punches and kicks on them, I do much better.

This is true with most fighting games (except the SoulCalibur series, where I really manage to play with more finesse), and that doesn’t change much in MultiVersus. Or, at least, not so far. To be honest, I’ve only played five games against real people – winning games two, three, and five – and only in one-on-one mode. Maybe in team matches, strategy could be more important, especially if you can communicate with your teammate and interfere while they set up a move or combo. I haven’t had a chance to grab a friend online and try it out yet, and I don’t even know if any of them have it installed. There also appears to be a local game mode, where you can sit on your couch and play against the person sitting next to you rather than an online opponent. However, the game seems to be always online, even in local mode.

All in all, it’s pretty fun, for a free game, and it promises to stay fresh with a rotating cast of unlocked characters. But this mechanic of having a rotating cast of unlocked characters points to at least one of the monetization avenues that Warner Bros. is likely to borrow with the game – paid character unlocks.

Right now, for example, I unlocked Wonder Woman by going through the tutorial. While I probably should have played my first rounds with her, knowing that she is permanently unlocked for me, I didn’t. Instead, I chose to play with Garnet, from the Steven Universe series. Over my five matches and three wins, I raised Garnett to level 3 and unlocked a permanent power boost for the character. But, if I want to continue playing with her after her rotation on the unlocked roster ends, there will likely be a paid option to unlock her permanently. I haven’t seen this option on the in-game store yet, but it’s still in beta. Not all features have been integrated yet.

What I’ve already seen the game hawking are cosmetic upgrades and something that Warner Bros. calls it a season pass. While this season pass is anything like those found in other “free” games, especially mobile games, it will include various stat and level boosters, cosmetic upgrades, in-game currency, and experience bonuses. You will “earn” them by reaching special game milestones during the season.

They also sell “Founder’s Packs” which include a number of unlockable characters, as well as in-game currency and special cosmetic effects. The number of unlocked characters and other perks varies depending on what Founder Tier you choose to be – starting at $39.99 and going all the way up to $99.99 for the “Premium Edition” Founder’s Pack.

The number of character tokens available suggests that there will also be more characters added after the beta. Even for the base pack, there are more character unlock tokens than there are currently playable characters in the game, and I can’t imagine they would leave it where it is. Not when their promo video shows off iconic characters that aren’t yet available, especially with the vast catalog of properties Warner has access to.

With this type of monetization system, there is always the specter of “pay to win”, which can take two forms. You can lose access to characters you’ve spent in-game currency and time spent leveling up, encouraging you to pay cash for a permanent unlock. Or you can buy perks and stat boosters or level boosters that give you an edge.

Both tend to leave some players with a sour taste in their mouths. But while this is something players should be aware of, it’s not reason enough for me, at this point, to cancel the game. Local mode alone is a game-changer for the free-to formula. -play, and I can’t wait to download a copy of the game to a console so I can play it side-by-side with my kids and see their joy watching Shaggy throw sandwiches at Superman.

MultiVersus is currently available, free of charge, on PlayStation 4 and 5, Xbox One and Series X/S, and Windows PC. For this column, the game was reviewed on a Windows 10 laptop, with an Intel i5 chipset, 8GB of RAM and integrated graphics, running through the Steam platform, with an Xbox 360 controller.

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Raymond I. Langston