“BLADE DOES LOOK PLEASINGLY LIKE WESLEY SNIPES’ MOVIE VERSION.”
Marvel’s Midnight Suns
It’s great to see the game exploring some of Marvel’s darker themes.
The Midnight Suns need one more person. They need you the legendary Hunter.
Comic fans are huge nerds. Us included. When those comics are adapted, be it into movies, TV shows, or games, we crave that same level of passion. Firaxis is the team best known for revitalising XCOM, and you have to admire its Thunderballs for, upon being handed the keys to the Marvel Castle, deciding to make a game all about the semi-obscure ’90s superhero team Midnight Sons (here revised as the less male-angsty Midnight
Suns). Our own Mim remembers the comics well (and still has many). The books were dark and edgy in theme, yet bright in colour in the classic Marvel style. In the comics the Midnight Sons, formed by two versions of Ghost Rider, and including Doctor Strange, Morbius, Blade, and more, were outcasts. Yet together, those hardened, supernatural heroes became a kind of found family.
It’s not an obvious choice, which you have to respect. Yet it makes perfect sense not just for the type of story Firaxis wants to tell, but the way the studio wants it to play, too. Nazi-adjacent organisation Hydra has revived the Mother Of Demons, Lilith, and in turn she seeks to revive her own evil master, Chthon. Such dark powers are beyond what the
Avengers can deal with on their own, requiring them to join forces with the Midnight Suns. But even as the Avengers kit up in their Suns-approved emo gear, they need one more person. They need you - the legendary Hunter.
You are an ancient warrior, and the forsaken child of Lilith. Only by your hand was she defeated before. You’re free to customise The Hunter so you feel like a genuine superhero, and you become the glue holding together these Midnight Suns of circumstance, leading the team through battles against demonic forces.
It’s great to see the game exploring some of Marvel’s darker themes. There’s a rich archive of stories to explore that you don’t often see in mainstream adaptations outside of the old Blade movies, and we’re not sure the MCU will ever really dare to do them justice. We’ve had look at Iron Man, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Doctor Strange, Nico Minoru, Magik, Blade, Ghost Rider (Robbie Reyes), and Wolverine so far, though more will be joining the mix. We’re confident that we’ll see some other fan favourites that’ll fit into the ranks snugly, which will make up a total 13-strong roster.
Even the superhero designs here have a unique flair. The ‘off-brand MCU’ criticism (which you can’t help making with regard to Marvel’s Avengers and even Marvel’s Guardians Of The Galaxy to an extent)
doesn’t apply here, even if Blade does look pleasingly like Wesley Snipes’ movie interpretation. Perhaps that sense of style is down to the mix of heroes we’ve seen. Wolverine is there, in an outfit that’s in part comics-accurate, with its own somewhat runic twist to fit the theme. It’s a loving mashup of X-Men, Avengers, Runaways, and the Suns.
As The Hunter, you need to learn from the heroes and make friends with them in order to get the most out of the team.
That does mean chatting and hanging out, returning to a hub area in a way XCOM fans will be familiar with. But that said, this isn’t simply an XCOM take on Marvel, though the developer is drawing on its knowledge of how to build a deep playable tactical RPG. It’s still a Firaxis game, after all. Using a card-based system, you need to make sure the squad of heroes you take into battle is balanced, including both attackers and supporters (and each hero’s role might not be what you’d expect).
Playing with the hand you’re dealt, each turn you have the option to spend a card to use a move (be it dealing damage or buffing a team member), to reposition your heroes around either to get closer to enemies or to create distance, or to redraw cards you don’t like. On top of that, you have a heroism meter, which essentially governs when you can bust out more powerful moves, like Blade’s Stake, which dishes out over four times the damage of his Quick Strike (subject to tweaking, as the build we’ve seen is an early one).
Wait… cards, drawing, numbers? Yes. Midnight Suns is an RPG, but a fast-paced one. The sequences of moves The Hunter and their pals dole out feel like a quick brawl. The card system facilitates that, with your heroes making the most of their situation rather than mulling over options for minutes at a time. Combine that with your ability to build a deck of cards and a team of heroes that flow together well, and your team should be running like a well-oiled machine in no time. Tougher enemies require a little more punishment, but with the right co-ordination your superhero team can pack quite the punch. And yes, a mid-battle photo mode means you can celebrate the culmination of the perfect set of superhero moves all over social media (tag us!).
At a glance, it seems easier to get into than something like XCOM, as a superhero game should be. Yet the depth the cards add is already making our gears spin as we ponder how we can combine moves to build the perfect team. Beyond the comic-book scraps, though, we’re just excited to build our own Hunter and hang out with the superheroes (purely platonic, though; Firaxis is adamant there’s no romance). We love the characterisation we’ve seen so far, and can’t wait to exist within the pages (though we’re begging 2K to confirm Morbius, Marvel’s no.1 tortured boyfriend, for some hangout seshs).
Beyond the comic-book scraps, we’re just excited to build our own Hunter and hang out with the superheroes.
Your revival as The Hunter is due when the game launches in March 2022.