Superhero Diablo-like Marvel Heroes never really had much of a chance. A terribly rushed launch to try and capture as much superhero hype as possible backfired, leaving what could have been a successful game with a mammoth struggle just to find its footing and catch up.
This summer's relaunch as Marvel Heroes Omega (coinciding with the launch of the console version) was the last nail in the coffin, not only did it fail to draw new players to the free-to-play action-RPG, but active player-counts tumbled sharply on PC. This week, Disney pulled the plug, announcing the dissolution of their partnership with developers Gazillion, and signalling that the servers will shut down on December 31st.
Marvel Heroes was never a great game. At its best, it still lacked that intangible spark that drove the most compelling of loot-hoarding hack 'n' slashers, but Gazillion put in the effort and turned things around after its wonky 2012 debut. By the time the Omega update landed, it was a consistently decent little time-waster, geared more towards spectacle and positive feedback than balance or challenge.
For a while, I really thought it was going to make it. Updates to the game were substantial, heroes came cheap and rewards were plentiful. Last I checked, I owned about half of the total roster of playable characters without ever having paid a penny. There were some warning signs that things weren't well in Marvel-land, with the most recent content update for the game - Age of Apocalypse - being a console-exclusive launch with no mention or plans for a PC rollout.
Still, that was only two months ago, and considering that it only launched on a new platform four months ago, this announcement comes as a shock. With its day of death set in stone, I bid some early farewells to Marvel Heroes, possibly the most excessively popcorn-filled action-RPG ever made. A game where if twenty enemies weren't flying through the air at any given moment, you were likely asleep at the keyboard. Only in Marvel Heroes, in 2017, could you play as Blade, correctly patterned after his Wesley Snipes incarnation.
This was a game where you could finally control Squirrel Girl, canonically one of the most powerful characters in the setting, and by far one of the funniest (read her comic, dammit). It even featured Rocket Raccoon, fully playable, back when he still had his original, accurate British voice. Not to say that Bradley Cooper is a bad actor, but Rocket is British, and I will brook no argument.
Marvel Heroes Omega is on Steam or available direct via Gazillion, and free to play if you want to give it one last shot before they pull the plug. Gazillion have announced that once they've officially shut down the storefront, the entire game - presumably with all characters unlocked - will be entirely free to play, up until the end of this sunset period, and the lights finally go out.