Marvel’s Midnight Suns begs the question – is there such a thing as Marvel fatigue? Some people may be completely fed up with the superhero brand ever since the Disney corporation exploited it for all its worth and effectively monopolized cinemas. Somehow, Disney was never able to monopolize video games with Marvel characters. One would think this would have been easy since there is so much to work with.
The largest profile Marvel games would be Spider-Man, The Avengers, and Guardians of the Galaxy; all from different developers and publishers with their visions. The quality of these releases varies, but no matter what, gamers could always expect AAA action games with huge budgets and state-of-the-art visuals.
Firaxis is a game developer known for its turn-based strategy games. They have been making RPGs for decades and have put their spin on the Marvel property. For something with a massive cast of characters to work with, one would think that there would be more Marvel RPGs. Gamers who don’t care about Marvel might find something in Marvel’s Midnight Suns to appreciate.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns
Developer: Firaxis Games, Virtuous
Platforms: Windows PC, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5
Release Date: December 2, 2022
Price: $59.99 USD
If you are like me and you don’t know anything about Marvel and only were interested in Marvel’s Midnight Suns because it’s a Firaxis strategy RPG, you’re going to feel like a child wandering into the middle of a movie. There are a lot of characters that are introduced and the game expects players to be Marvel fans from the start.
There is a lot to take in and it can be overwhelming, especially since characters often have multiple names, and keeping track of who everyone is and their relation to one another is tricky if you are unaware of Marvel lore. Midnight Suns does give some opportunity to get to know who these characters are during routine daily-life sequences that play out like a dating sim.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns begins with Lilith’s resurrection, a terrible and ancient demon. Dr. Faustus, a HYDRA scientist, intends on using her power to further take over the world. With a name like “Faustus”, the scientist was doomed to lose any deal he makes with a demon. He isn’t the only one who gets enslaved by Lilith; she also gets a bunch of Marvel bad guys to do her dirty work too.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns story is surprisingly steeped into supernatural territory. The player-created character is known as “The Hunter” and was raised in secret and prophesizied to banish demons. The Hunter is a blank slate and players are free to customize him/her, but no matter what, he/she will always be a seriously deadpan, fish-out-of-water.
As per usual with Marvel games, the cast is full of uppity and quippy sarcastic do-gooders, but it is much more restrained than what has been on offer lately. Dr. Strange is more of a straight man with a dry sense of humor and even the much-loathed and overpowered Captain Marvel is depicted as showing some vulnerability.
Magik begins as a confrontational and icey snarker, but participating in her events reveals her to be a traumatized victim. In these character interactions, it can feel like dating. Magik especially opens herself up and proves to have a heart of gold underneath her rough exterior. There are a lot of moments like this for every recruitable hero and it is impressive that the developers fit it into one game.
If you are already a fan of Marvel, then be prepared to be squealing outbursts of giddy joy. Midnight Suns will deliver on the narrative and character fronts in every meaningful way possible. For those who have casual knowledge of Marvel media, Midnight Suns can be sensory overload. There is too much information that the scenario expects the player to be aware of.
Gamers who took the plunge into Marvel’s Midnight Suns for the deep strategic RPG gameplay will come away very happy, regardless of their Marvel knowledge. Battles combine elements of card-based gameplay with XCOM-lite elements and some game design inspired by Freedom Force.
The player assumes the role of The Hunter, a custom avatar whose powers are that he or she is primarily good with swords. Depending on the affinity the player assumes, Hunter will gain Light or Dark abilities. Each ability sometimes has a Light or Dark counterpart; the Light version of Heal works like one would expect but the Dark Heal is more potent and comes at the cost of the caster’s own HP.
The card module to Marvel’s Midnight Suns pays off in a big way by having an element of RNG to the battles. Players are expected to be on their toes since there is no way to always rely on the best abilities when you need them and when you do have a powerful card, it may be best to hang on to it.
Every hero has a set of signature card abilities and super moves and they are all shuffled in a deck. If you don’t like what you have, redrawing is always an option. Not every card can be used freely; the better cards come at a cost or have requirements for use.
The heroism gauge is every character’s means of unleashing their full power. Using the free action cards builds heroism and using it becomes a tug-of-war as players can rationalize and strategize their choices on the battlefield. It is a very simple system that proves to be deep due to how units are used on the field.
There is no tile-based movement system in Marvel’s Midnight Suns. Everyone can move once per turn and selecting a target will have the hero home in on them directly. Placement matters and is especially crucial when it comes to using the environment against the enemy or accounting for knock-back.
The system is flexible and strategic. Battles would flow nicely if it weren’t for the unskippable animations. The top-of-the-line production values do become Marvel’s Midnight Suns‘ undoing because of these sequences. It is too bad because the entire game has a lot of care and effort put into its presentation for the most part.
On their own, they’re neat and impressive animations. After the third time seeing Captain Marvel do her big energy laser thing, it gets old. Battles can be long and they become longer since there is no way to skip or speed up these mini-cutscenes.
The graphics also won’t impress. The visuals aren’t bad, but they lack style or personality. All the heroes look more like Sims and the new costumes are bland and have a uniform color scheme between all the characters. Marvel’s Midnight Suns would have benefited from a more exaggerated art style with some cel shading to further reiterate the comic book aesthetics.
Some obnoxious and intrusive microtransactions are sleazily implemented, but that’s par for the course in a Marvel product. There is less chance of RNG causing a complete disaster happening to the party like in an XCOM game and there is ample opportunity to think outside of the box with the creativity applied to many of the heroes that join the party.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a massive and long RPG with substantial production value. Every character is fully voiced, and there is actual camera work in the cutscenes. The fan service is off the charts for Marvel fans and the obvious, on-the-nose storytelling is exactly what they deserve. If you are interested in a deep and compelling turn-based RPG and don’t care for Marvel media, you are still liable to have a good time.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns was reviewed on Xbox Series S using a copy provided by 2K. You can find additional information about Niche Gamer’s review/ethics policy here. Marvel’s Midnight Suns is now available for Windows PC (via Epic Games Store and Steam), Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, PlayStation 4, and PlayStation 5.