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Marvel: War of Heroes

For: iPhone   Also on: Android, iPad

A human tale

Product: Marvel: War of Heroes | Developer: Cygames | Publisher: DeNA | Format: iPhone | Genre: Card battler | Players: 1 | Networking: wireless (network) | Version: Europe | App version: 2.0
Marvel: War of Heroes iPhone, thumbnail 1
This is a freemium game review, in which we give our impressions immediately after booting a game up, again after three days, and finally after seven days. That's what the strange sub-headings are all about.

When I was growing up, I didn't have many friends. I'll just pause for your sympathetic "awww"s to quieten down.


Everything's fine now, but those were dark times. I attribute getting through my early teenage years to two things: playing lots of video games, and reading Marvel's comic books.

They were - and still are - filled with troubled youngsters finding their way in the world, coping with the new responsibilities that come with maturity and new-found powers. Peter Parker and Peter Willington were rarely separated.

So I'm always at least a little bit excited when I get to write about something that combines comics and video games. This week I'm the lucky recipient of Marvel: War of Heroes from Mobage.

I've no idea what to expect from this freemium card-battler over the next seven days of play, so join me as I Make Mine Marvel and see whether War of Heroes is excelsior gaming or a load of old Skrull.

First Impressions

The opening moments of Marvel: War of Heroes are all boldly designed menus and incidental little animations. The art is gorgeous, seemingly straight out of the modern day comic books, all curve and sheen and detail.

Logging into Mobage's social systems is a breeze, and the game has Facebook integration too, should you need it. I'm impressed by the lack of heavy updates, as well as the small initial download. It runs quickly, too.

IAPs explained
Silver is the soft currency, and is acquired through Missions and Battles, lost through defeat in said battles, and used for a number of tasks, such as Fusion.

It's easily acquired through grinding earlier Missions, but you can rapidly run out with higher-tier card Fusions. Gold (also referred to as MobaCoin) is the premium currency, and I was not awarded any through my time with the game. This can be used to purchase items, but it's also possible to attain cards this way.

These seem expensive, with an Ultimate 2013 Card Pack Essential pack of just 6 cards and a Power Pack costing 1500 Gold, with a measly 100 Gold costing a full 69p. At this cost, this particular pack of rare cards works out at a staggering £10.35.
But before you get reach the end of the first tutorial you may find yourself wondering where the music is, and it's at this early point that you start to see through War of Heroes's gloss.

The frame around the game is little more than what you might achieve in a web browser. It's all menus and simple animations, and even the combat is incredibly basic.

In battles you simply tap on the screen to strike your opponent, who doesn't even fight back. My starting card was Wolverine, and it's a bit irksome to think of this killer with a conscience hacking down practically defenceless goons repeatedly until you get tired.

And you do get tired. You only have a few actions to make before you run out of energy, whereupon you have to wait for a set period for it to build back up.

Another problem I'm experiencing at this point is that after I've acquired new cards I can't figure out how to change the character I use in battles from primary to secondary. Hopefully that will reveal itself in a couple of days' time.

Day 3: Then you can eat rice!

Do you remember Rainbow Drops? By day three, playing Marvel: War of Heroes is very much like consuming this confection: you know that it's hollow and unfulfilling in the long run, but it's just pleasant enough to keep diving back in.

There's little to no variation in the gameplay. You take on boss characters intermittently, but fights involve nothing more than trading blows until one person falls, and for me that's always been my opponent.

I'm craving a bit more variety. This would have made a perfect candidate for a Pokemon-esque battling system, but alas I'm just tapping the screen at random to play out the same process of murderin' fools until I run out of energy.

But I'm champing at the bit to play more, and I'm using every available space in the day to do so. The kettle is boiling, so I fight some goons, get my rewards from missions, pick up my daily bonus card, contemplate buying some premium currency to buy MORE cards, then quit out to continue the day job.

It's lunchtime, so I burn through some missions in the ten minutes it takes for my pasta to cook. A few hours later, I'm headed to the bathroom, and - don't judge - I'm taking my phone with me.

It's the superb art on the cards and the inner nerd in me that makes me want to see all of the substantial deck on offer. I don't really care about how they perform in battle, I don't really want to improve my game, but I will pour away hours of my life in the pursuit of a Special Rare. If you were into Panini sticker albums back in the day, you'll lap this up.

However, I'll admit that if I wasn't such a fan of Marvel I'd have tired of this stuff long before now. The menus continue to confuse me, and there's very little explanation of what you should be doing, how to customise decks, or any of the few nuances that do exist in the game.

Thankfully, it loads up really quickly, and although menu transitions take just a fraction too long it's an otherwise snappy piece of software. This means that you can hop out of Marvel: War of Heroes, Google any questions that get raised in play, and then get stuck back in without much delay.

Day 7: Silver surfing

I take it all back, I was very very wrong about the perceived paucity of depth. Marvel: War of Heroes has complexity by the bucketload, but it's all on the outside, all mathematics, and none of it is telegraphed in a meaningful way.

For a bit of variety - and because I was feeling cocky - I entered a battle. These are asynchronous multiplayer encounters, in which you line up a hand of cards and face off against an opponent's specially created defensive deck.

As I'd hammered through the missions, I thought this would be a walk in the park, but swift was my realisation that I hadn't a clue about mid-level play, let alone anything above that.

I lost the fight and had Silver stolen from me, which is one of the game's currencies. I didn't quite understand why, so I took to the Information Superhighway to find out.

When a game is so poor at divulging its secrets that you have seek out the badly written assistance of others on forums and hastily cobbled together Wikis, it's safe to say that it can be a frustrating experience.

But after a couple of hours of research, I found that I needed to increase my player-level Attack and Defence stats, and build a better hand from the umpteen cards I'd acquired.

There are so many elements to take into consideration. You can boost a card by using (and discarding) other cards, which raises the original card's stats. You can also take two identical cards and, through a process called fusion, combine them and bring across five per cent of the discarded card's stats to the base card.

But if you've fully boosted both cards before fusion, you can squeeze another five per cent out of the sacrificed card. To ensure you're not using up rare cards, you therefore need to head back into earlier missions and grind away for - what the War of Heroes community calls - 'feeder cards': low-end cards designed to be 'fed' to top-tier cards.

Then there are teams to create, and alliances to forge. While these share similarities, they're not the same thing, with the latter facility demanding that you fulfil specific requirements before you're given access to it.

And there are daily bonuses up for grabs, with items that are won but don't automatically end up in your item list. Instead they appear in your present list, and must be claimed before use. And I haven't even started on the differences between Silver and Gold currencies.

All of this I had to learn for myself. There's a great deal of complexity to Marvel: War of Heroes, but it's largely inaccessible unless you're willing to search for it in avenues other than the game. It's also bogged down by technical phrases that will confuse even hardened gamers.

Marvel: War of Heroes is initially very basic, but with hidden strategic depth in its encompassing maths. It hides that depth so well that only the persistent will find it, but once they do, and provided they're a fan of the franchise it's based on, they'll find a strangely compelling card collectathon.

How are you getting on with the game? Got a referral code you want to share? You can tell us and the rest of the PG community all about it by leaving a comment in the box below.
Marvel: War of Heroes
Reviewer photo
Peter Willington | 15 January 2013
If you know your Stan Lee from your Stanley Carter, there's a lot to like in the collection of these beautiful cards, and the math grinding will appeal to the Excel-obsessed. But those looking for an accessible battler will be best served elsewhere
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