Marvel’s Midnight Suns review: Friendship and magic

2K Games
2K Games /

Title: Marvel’s Midnight Suns
Developer: Firaxis Games
Publishers: 2K Games
Platforms: PlayStation 5 (reviewed on), PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Xbox Series X and Series S, Nintendo Switch, PC
Release Date: December 2, 2022

Admittedly, when first announced I had precious little interest in Marvel’s Midnight Suns. A game that focused on Marvel’s more supernatural side of demons and sorcery and the like. Though it contained characters I felt Marvel didn’t give enough love to, like Nico and Magik, it wasn’t enough to make me interested. Especially after how much of an absolute disappointment Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 was.

But it had a few things going for it. One, it was developed by Firaxis Games, the same folks behind XCom. It supposedly played in a similar way and I was really interested to see how that translated to these Marvel characters. And secondly, the game’s story wasn’t going to be all doom and gloom as opposed to what the original trailers hinted.

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I gave it a shot, I rolled the dice, and honestly, I’m quite happy I did. Marvel’s Midnight Suns feels like an older Marvel game in many of the best ways. It is a rich world that practically requires you to have a deep knowledge of Marvel. You can barely have a conversation with a character without them referencing things without explaining. Tony hacks some satellites to try and find someone by saying, “I hope Norman doesn’t mind me hijacking a few Ozcorp satellites.” Or another character describing someone as being “grumpier than Fing-Fang-Foom.”

It also reminds me of the older games in that there’s a lot to nerd out about. Yes, technical combat is super fun and I’ll have stuff to say on that in a minute, but before the combat, there are things to discover everywhere. The Abbey, which is your main hub world, is filled with secrets that get bigger and wider as you learn how to explore more of the area. And you’ll definitely want to do that because you learn some great new abilities and grow in power by your exploring. Not only that but if you don’t, you’ll miss a lot of the story about the brand new character created for this game, “The Hunter.”

The Hunter is a child of an ancient mystic known as Lilith. Having defeated her in the past at the cost of her own life, the Hunter was put into a stasis where she was “mostly” dead until Lilith returned. The character can be built to your liking. The Hunter I made was a woman so if you see me refer to her as “she/her” and that throws you off, to paraphrase Wallace in the movie Scott Pilgrim VS the World, “just pretend it’s a dude.”

Okay, so by this point you want to know about the combat. It’s pretty damned great, to be honest. The battles grow in complexity over time and it comes down to character placement, the range of each move, the lock of the cards you get in your hand (more on that in a minute), and weirdly, how good you are at mild trigonometry. Like, if you’re good at pool.

For example, the Hunter has this fantastic energy whip spell she can use. It grabs an enemy and then flings them within a 45-degree radius. You can alter how the spell hits though to determine the direction within those 45 degrees where you want the body to fly.

At first, this works for bumping one enemy into another, hurting them both or knocking an enemy into an exploding barrel or an electrical box. But as time goes on some characters will learn more ways to mess with this tactic. Ghost Rider has the ability to open literal holes to hell in the ground that last for two turns that you can knock enemies into. Magik, on the other hand, can create a portal through Limbo that you can aim in whatever direction you please. As long as the portal is there you can hit an enemy through one portal and have them shoot out the other. Placing a portal facing a hell hole is…mean to say the least.

Remember what I said about the cards? Well, every game has to have some sort of card collecting right? And Marvel’s Midnight Suns is no exception. You go into battle with three characters and every character has their own deck of cards. Eight to be exact. As you unlock new moves for each character if you choose to use that move you have to remove a different move from your deck. And the cards you get per turn are random ones from the combined decks of your three heroes.

Not only does this add a level of chaos to the game, but it also makes things seem fresh and forces you to try a variety of tactics.

Getting more of a variety of tactics, however, requires some work outside of battle. Hanging out with the other Midnight Suns will build up friendship levels that offer rewards. In a game I thought would be dark and brooding, I spent a lot of time watching movies with Nico, talking to Robbie poolside about his brother, sitting quietly with Magik, and playing video games with Tony Stark.

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All of this slice of life, solving mysteries and then battling help form this really comfortable routine that helps you pace out the many things you have to keep track of. Because of this, it can sometimes be a little hard to pinpoint how long a play session is if you’re a busy person. One day you might want to hop into a battle but then realize you told Robbie you’d hang out which leads to a massive exposition, but it’s that story-building that sets the game apart from other Marvel games over the last decade.

Marvel’s Midnight Suns (PS5) Score: 8/10

While the dialogue, of which there is a lot, can sometimes revel in its corniness, there is a lot to love in this strangely multifaceted game. Much lighter than the dark and brooding trailers suggested, Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a game that somehow mixed XCOM’s military strategy style combat with a social sim in which your character helps friends with their personal problems and forges bonds. Small strange slice-of-life options, like having the ability to have characters change clothes every day or customizing various room,s turns this into a game that you almost feel like you can live in. Which is a good thing because I did not want to leave it.