Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a turn-based tactics game set in the Marvel universe, developed by Firaxis Games, who brought us one of the best turn-based strategy games of the last decade, XCOM 2.
Midnight Suns comes at an excellent time as the other Marvel turn based game, Snap, has recently just launched too. The reason I bring this up is because Snap features over 200 different Marvel characters and outside of the Marvel movie characters, there are a large portion of them that I hadn’t heard of before. And now, thanks to Midnight Suns, I get to learn a little bit more about them and their backstory. So if you’re like me and are enjoying Snap, stick around.
Ok, so what is Midnight Suns? Here’s the 30 second story pitch. Hydra is up to no good again, and is resurrecting Lilith, the Mother of All Demons, in an attempt to take over the world. After learning about this, a mish mash group of old and new heroes band together and resurrect The Hunter, a brand new customizable hero, and recruit them to join the Midnight Suns and stop Lilth and Hydra.
Is Midnight Sun XCOM with heroes?
Let’s quickly get this one out the way, Midnight Suns is not, XCOM with Marvel characters. As far as gameplay goes, Midnight Suns is a culmination of XCOM, Slay the Spire and Persona 5. That’s right, it’s 70% turn based strategy, 15% deck builder and 15% relationship sim. It’s a weird combination that kinda works. As you would expect, you’re assigned missions, which can range from, protect these civilians to destroy this object or just simply beat up this villian. When going into each mission you can select 3 different heroes to take with you and each hero comes with a deck of 8 ability cards, more on that shortly.
As of right now, there are 13 different playable heroes, with more being released soon. You can play heroes such as Blade, Captain Marvel, Spider-man, Captain America or even Magik. Now let’s talk about these ability decks and the combat throughout missions. Again, if you’ve played the XCOM series, you’ll be fairly familiar with how things play out. At the start of a mission, your 3 heroes will be dropped into a map along with the bad guys. The heroes ability decks then get shuffled together and you draw 4 cards. These cards will have the heroes special moves and attacks on them.
A basic turn consists of having 3 ‘Card Plays’, 1 movement and 2 redraws. And of course, like most card games, you’ll have cards that can allow you to break these rules. Each enemy has an indicator showing who they’re planning to attack during their turn and that’s all there is to it. You play ability cards, beat up baddies and sometimes you rack up enough hero points to pull off a cool move.
Every hero is unique
I think one of my favorite things about Midnight Sun is just how unique each hero is. In XCOM 2, there were about 4 different character classes but they mostly did the same thing. Whereas the heroes here all feel unique. Captain Marvel has a special ability where if you play 3 of her cards during a turn she’ll go ‘binary’ and power up. Magik has an awesome portal mechanic. Niko abilities all have a “Wild Magic Surge” mechanic. You’ll definitely end up with some favorite heroes you’ll want to take out on every mission. The Hunter is probably the only hero that feels a bit bland at first. But as the game goes on, you’ll unlock different cards to make them feel a bit more flavourful.
After each mission comes the part of the game that will make or break it for the players. The downtime. I think the gaming player base is so used to non-stop, go go go action that the usual triple A titles like God of War, Uncharted and Halo have provided us. And this sudden downtime may put people off. If you’ve played any JRPG in the last 20 years, downtime in those games just comes with the territory. There was so much downtime in Persona 5 that it put me off the game entirely. Thankfully, I believe Firaxis have actually toned this break-down considerably to make it more bearable for a western audience. So what do you actually do during this downtime? You make friends.
What do heroes do after a mission?
So yes, after each mission, all the heroes get together in the main hub area known as the Abbey. A pocket dimension where Sera is the Caretaker and looks after the original Midnight Suns. Here at the Abbey, the heroes kick back, relax and remove both their metaphorical and real masks. As the Hunter you’re then free to explore the Abbey grounds solving puzzles, level up heroes, and perhaps join a book club? You read that right. You’ll often find heroes interacting with each other, discussing their alternate lives, or talking strategy about the next mission. And you can engage each of the heroes and find out a bit more about them. It’s here you get your classic dialogue options. Pleasant, neutral or asshole. And depending on who you’re talking to and how, you’ll level up your friendship with them.
When talking to Peter Parker, you’ll want to talk to him like a puppy, telling him how well you did. However, when talking to Magik, you just want to try and one up each other about how miserable your past is. While not all the conversations are that engaging, the ones that go over characters’ backstories are always interesting. Learning about Niko and the Staff of One is my favorite.
The one thing that the XCOM hub got right versus the Midnight Suns hub is that in XCOM, there’s no moving. You just click and action what you need to do. In Midnight Suns the Abbey is massive and you have to literally run everywhere. After the first couple of hours it’s no problem, but after that it gets real tiring real quick running from point A to point B just to talk with someone. While I’m on my list of irks, the only other thing that has been bothering me is the loading times and the frame rate drops.
Now, I don’t have the best PC in the world, but a Ryzen 7 and a RTX 3060 should be able to handle this game no problem, but the amount of drops I’ve been getting is unreal. Thankfully, these kinds of issues can usually be solved with a patch, so fingers crossed.
The only other thing to mention is the graphics. To put it bluntly, they do kinda feel like late PS3, early PS4 graphics. I know graphics mean everything to a game. Heck, some of my favorite games of all time are 16bit. But being in 2022, and have super heroes blast things with lasers and magic, surely we could have gotten something that looked a little bit prettier.
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed Midnight Suns and it sounds like the Firaxis team has a lot of content planned for the game going into 2023, which is always reassuring. New heroes, Deadpool being one of them, more missions and more enemies. If you can get over the downtime between missions, I think anyone who enjoys both the XCOM franchise or the recent Marvel games will thoroughly enjoy Midnight Suns.