Published by Nintendo, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is a Switch exclusive fans didn’t expect when it launched in mid-2019. Unfortunately, gameplay is an unbalanced mess but the narrative provides tons of fan service.
Developed by Koei, usually best known for their Dynasty Warriors titles, it is pretty cool seeing an army of Marvel characters joining forces to take down well known Marvel villains in iconic locations. For fans that watched all the Marvel movies from the last decade, as well as the Netflix exclusives, there is a lot to get giddy about. However, the fan service can only take this title so far. The quest winds up being a retelling of the Infinity Stone saga most recently seen in the blockbuster movies.
Like the previous Alliance titles, 1-4 players can play co-op, swapping and leveling heroes at will. Yes, it is cool to mix characters from X-Men, the Defenders, Fantastic Four, the Avengers and more, but the problem with Alliance 3 is the severe unbalancing and repetition. Every chapter, the player unlocks a handful of additional characters that first appear, for the most part, leveled accordingly. The problem is they quickly become obsolete as the new batch of unlockable characters in the following stage will be several levels ahead of the last pack. Unless an insane amount of grinding is performed in the training area of the main menu, the game essentially forces players to use the most recently unlocked characters or face becoming totally under powered in battle. Imagine taking a Pokemon you caught in the first 30 minutes to fight a gym leader towards the end of the game – that. Also like Pokemon, characters not in play do not gain experience.
Even on the easiest difficulty, there were still many times it was a massive struggle to defeat certain areas and bosses. Making the unbalance even greater, most enemies and all bosses are damage sponges, taking a ridiculously high amount of hits to defeat as well as a ton of time. Players can take the time to prep their strongest team with the best perks but it often won’t matter as enemies are still much too difficult and a single boss battle can take 15 minutes. Combat is nothing more than boring, button-mashing slogs that wind up being more frustrating than fun especially if you die and have to restart when a boss has 10% health.
By the time I finished the game, I only unlocked a small fraction of the unlockable perks. In fact, I unlocked so few bonuses compared to what is available, it made me think I was doing something wrong. The menu system, in which the player can level up abilities and equip power gems, is also tedious, unintuitive, and confusing. If I wasn’t getting my ass kicked so hard, I would have skipped this gameplay element entirely but the player unfortunately must suffer through this cumbersome enhancing system if they want to stand a chance against the brutal AI.
In between the drawn out brawls, the player has little to do. Although each stage has a different visual theme, all follow the same pattern – walk down a huge empty hallway, step into a large square room, fighting a throng of bad guys that take too many hits, repeat. On a rare occasion, the player will be forced to complete some really bad switch flicking puzzles to get through a certain area. Luckily, there are only a few throughout the campaign but become even more complicated when playing with multiple people.
The only staying power this Switch exclusive has is the fan favorite cast of characters as the entire game feels like it was never play tested. If anything, it raises hopes for future mergers like Avengers x X-Men films. For fans that enjoyed all the Marvel content this last decade, I would suggest watching all the story cutscenes on YouTube as playing this game will make you prefer being exposed to a Thanos finger snap.
Also Try: the story mode in Ultimate Marvel Versus Capcom 3
Don’t Forget About: the poor bundle of Alliance 1 and 2
Wait For It: the next wave of Marvel movies