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Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a very underserved flop – Reader’s Feature

Marvel’s Midnight Suns – great game, bad marketing (Picture: 2K)

A reader finally discovers the joys of Midnights Suns and blames poor marketing for putting people off its card-based gameplay.

You love XCOM. You hear that developer Firaxis is going to make a Marvel tactics game and get excited. The gameplay trailer drops. It’s revealed to be a deck-building card game.

You never buy it and forget it ever existed.

This probably described a lot of you late last year and it certainly described me. Firaxis might know how to make advanced chess simulators like no one’s business, but it’s marketing really failed Marvel’s Midnight Suns. This was a case, it seemed, of a developer really overthinking it. We all, quite literally, just wanted XCOM with a Marvel skin, and here they are showing Wolverine using cards to fight.

However, the game has hit its sale stage recently, so for half off I scored the Legendary Edition and I am so glad I did.

First of all, it is not a perfect game by the commonly accepted rubric of judging video game quality. The visuals vacillate between OK and bland, the ho-hum story thinks it’s more clever than it is, and performance can get pretty bad even though the stages are tiny and flat and there’s probably five enemy types in the whole game.

What Marvel’s Midnight Suns does well, however, is succeed in creating the same gameplay-driven character moments XCOM made famous.

You know that attachment you get towards your veteran unit in XCOM? The one that managed to survive since the beginning of the game and levels all the way up? Watching her clear a map by herself, delivering a critical shot when you needed it most, or somehow dodging a surefire fatal hit, are the kinds of personal character moments that make the game much more than a collection of unit classes and RNG rolls. Those moments matter and make XCOM what it is.

The difference is that your XCOM heroes only exhibit small bits of personality because it fits the tone and permadeath stakes of the game. In Marvel’s Midnight Suns, you have pop culture’s most recognisable characters carrying a mission for you or getting you out of a tough spot.

Take Spider-Man, for example. You’re in a tough mission and your party just isn’t generating enough Heroism with your card draws, Heroism being the equivalent of ability points that allow you to play the best cards. Suddenly, you get a good draw and pull the card that allows him to take multiple environmental actions for free, like vaulting off crates to do damage or, you guessed it, throwing copies of the Daily Bugle at his opponents.

Perhaps you also drew the card that allows him to gain extra strength for a turn for free, as well as a card that allows him to chain strikes, and one that does area of effect damage. To top it off, you roll his Legendary card, which allows him to play his next three cards free.

You watch as Mr Parker becomes truly, well, amazing and spectacular, hurling himself across the battlefield with balletic aplomb, decimating the neo-Nazi stand-ins you are fighting against. Before you know it, he’s cleared the field, you’ve won the mission, and you even had two card plays left to spare.

There are countless other gallantly victorious moments like this that await you in the game, if you’re willing to learn its mechanics and the abilities of its diverse cast of costumed orphans with 5% body fat.

If you’re a fan of Captain America, it’s thrilling, even inspiring, the way you can build his deck and make him an absolute tank, shielding his often much more powerful compatriots from harm. He has cards that increase his defence via his shield, which functions as a second health bar, but he also has cards that convert damage he deals out into additional shield points.

Couple that with another card that guarantees him a counterattack for each attack sustained on the enemy turn and watch in amazement as the enemy turn ends and everyone’s health bar is exactly where they were five minutes ago, but half the enemy contingent is now gone.

He really can, as it turns out, do this all day.

His Avengers frenemy Iron Man is another standout in combat. He has the best multi-target attack card in the game, as well as a bevy of support cards that grant him a ton of flexibility. My favourite thing to do with Iron Man is to play a card that fills up your hand with his cards. Then, I play a card that gives you his next card play for free. Finally, I play two of the same card in a row, one that allows him to chain attacks multiplied by how many of his own cards you have in-hand.

Rarely is anyone left on the field after that.

Midnight Suns is truly a tactical role-playing sandbox and rewards you for as long as you learn its mechanics, and the deck-building mechanic is actually a boon to this. This is where the marketing just did not do a good job of explaining. The cards are there to give each character a set of abilities that actually stay true to the actual powers of that character.

Gone are the days where you’re playing something like Marvel Ultimate Alliance and each character has a melee attack, even if they are a character that would never use their fists in battle. In Midnight Suns, the cards provide you with a menu of how to tailor each character to your taste and allow the gameplay to stay true to its source material. It’s truly a fantastic superhero simulator.

Also, the story might be lacklustre but some of the small character moments are great. I put 100 hours into the game and got to Ultimate 3 difficulty, but still chuckled each time Iron Man greeted me at the crafting station with, ‘Welcome to Tony’s Scary Demon Cave. My name is Tony, and how may I assist you?’

By reader David from San Francisco

The reader’s feature does not necessarily represent the views of GameCentral or Metro.

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