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Assemble: The Marvel Gaming Universe

Marvel-less

Supporter post except, y'know, Captain America

First published as part of our Supporter Program, this feature explores the possibilities of a Marvel Gaming Universe. There is no mention of a Telltale episodic adventure.

If you were to draw a Venn Diagram showing the overlap between superhero comic book fans and people who like to play computer games, it would look a lot like Pacman with his jaws wired shut. That makes the lack of a Marvel Gaming Universe to sit alongside the cinematic vision somewhat odd. There have been occasional action games directly based on the plots setpieces from specific films and a host of tablet and cleverphone efforts, but there’s no single game that stands out as an expression of the shared setting of the films, comics and television series.

How might such a thing work?

DC have fumbled the ball in their own attempts to create a franchise of interconnected films – mostly by making films that other films would be embarrassed to be associated with – but, with the Arkham titles, do have a blockbuster game series.

What’s next for Marvel? An Endless Runner game in which the Hulk chases Ultron while dodging debris? A game in which Iron Man flies through hoops and performs an occasional quick time event to fight a robot? More pinball tables?

I’ve been reading through the earliest of the Marvel Age comics recently, working my way through the sixties, and when I’m not obsessing over the splendour of Paste Pot Pete and Tony Stark’s seduction of Cleopatra, I’m drawing up the blueprint of a glorious game in my mind’s eye. It’s a game that will never exist but I thought the idea was worth sharing, mostly because dreaming about the things that will never come to pass is an ideal way to while away a miserable Monday.

The Marvel Gaming Universe should be a single game, a modular design that can expand and mutate in a manner similar to the convoluted chronology of the comics. It’s a game built with the structure and idiosyncrasies of the medium as its foundation rather than an existing type reskinned and slightly altered to fit around a specific character or setting. Here’s how it might work:

1) The templates are the Geoscape of X-COM and the combat of Freedom Force. The initial release could focus on a single city – as in X-COM: Apocalypse – with the Baxter Building as the player’s base. Missions would pop up on the map and teams or individual heroes could be dispatched to deal with them. To begin with, you’d be tackling regular criminals rather than supervillains but the likes of Dr Doom and Mole Man would show up before long.

2) New heroes, villains and mission types could be added over time – perhaps moving through the Silver Age to the Bronze Age and beyond – and entire Story Arcs could be dropped into the game to coincide with events in the comics or films.

3) Stoy Arcs would be a rare event type leading to branching mission objectives. Civil War, Skrull invasions, the Infinity Gauntlet. World-shattering arcs could be cheekily retconned during the final mission if the designers wanted to adhere closely to the source material.

4) The player would earn Prestige points to spend on new equipment, heroes and base expansions. Build Cerebro to unlock Mutant-related missions – which would then appear randomly – or hangars to open up new parts of the world.

5) Prestige points could also be spent on Origin Stories, which would lead to a character creation tool, with powers and costumes available for purchase.

6) The game would start out as a reflection of Marvel in 1963, with villains, heroes and story types unlocked as the player progressed. Because I am demanding, I would require the art to change as time passed.

7) Combat would be either turn-based or realtime, and both would be well-tuned. All scenery would be fully destructible.

8) Spider-Man would be the best.

9) Gambit would be the worst.

10) Ant Man’s catapult would, as in many of his first comic appearances, allow him to change direction in mid-flight while seeming to fly alongside and flirt with Wasp.

Basically, I want a superhero version of Enemy Unknown, or another Freedom Force game (why not read Kieron on the making of the second game while you’re here?). For now, if I want a Marvel fix, I’m stuck with Lego. It’s not a bad toy to be stuck with but I’d love to play a game that captures all of the splendour and silliness of comic book history, while attempting to play with the weird traditions of the medium’s storytelling in a meaningful way.

With the continuing success of the films and raised awareness of the characters, there’s never been a better time to explore the possibilities.

This feature was originally published last month as part of, and thanks to, The RPS Supporter Program.

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Adam Smith

former Deputy Editor

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