After getting a world-premiere CGI reveal last week, the new Firaxis strategy game Marvel’s Midnight Suns received a full-blown gameplay premiere on Wednesday. Sure enough, it looks exactly like last week’s promise of a superhero take on XCOM—yet the new, six-minute reveal actually makes the upcoming game look like an intriguing twist on Firaxis’ well-trod tactics territory.
Midnight Suns is slated to launch in March 2022 on PC and a wide variety of consoles, and it sees the existing XCOM development team inject deckbuilding and card-based abilities into turn-based, tactical combat. Every battle brings a brand-new Marvel superhero, dubbed The Hunter, into fisticuffs alongside two previously established Marvel superheroes, including members of the Avengers, X-Men, and other ensembles. Each squad member appears to get their own deck of cards, and your makeshift trio must then tap into supernatural powers and fight in XCOM-like combat. At the start of each turn, your fighters flip up six cards from their individual decks.
When it’s a character’s turn, they can move around the battlefield up to a certain radius and play up to three cards, which include attacks, buffs for allies, and negative conditions for foes. Some of these emphasize positioning each hero on the battlefield in order to, say, hit a bunch of enemies in a straight line or dump an area-of-effect radius of pain onto a cluster of bad guys. One revealed attack went so far as to smash open a barrier at a cliff’s edge, then knock a foe over that newly exposed gap. Each turn has an apparent three-card limit, but it’s currently unclear whether that’s three cards per hero or three cards for the entire squad during a turn. Either way, players must also mind a squad’s “heroism” meter, as some supercharged cards expend that meter’s points, as noted by an orange number on a card’s top-left corner. “Basic” attacks and abilities do not use the meter.
Between missions: Training, conversations, and, er, currencies
When you’re not on the battlefield, you and your favorite superheroes kick back at The Abbey, a conversation- and training-filled hub where The Hunter chats with allies you enlist throughout your quest. Samples of this text whizz by in the trailer, and upon closer examination, they appear to include extracurricular excursions with text conversations and choices you can make to affect how characters respond to you. Chill on a couch with Blade, take a walk through a prairie with Tony Stark, chat about ’80s horror flicks with Magik—but also pay attention to the icons on certain choices, as they may affect a hero’s card unlocks.
Outside of conversation, Midnight Suns appears to be riddled with—ugh—a slew of in-game currencies. In just one screen, I count:
- Attack Essence
- Heroic Essence
- Skill Essence
Additionally, a “training” facility shows how to spend the game’s “credits” currency on upgrading existing cards. I’m all for a progression system that encourages players to, say, replay missions at harder difficulties or complete challenges to either unlock new cards or supercharge existing ones. But a profusion of confusing currencies never makes an RPG better, even if they’re all completely free. I hope Firaxis’ publisher at 2K Games is careful not to turn these currencies into an excuse to add pay-to-win opportunities, of course. The game’s official social media presence says that players shouldn’t expect any microtransactions beyond “cosmetic” options, and we hope that promise bears out in the final product.
We still have tons of questions about how Midnight Suns‘ campaign will feel. How much of the campaign is procedurally generated? Will the game come up with a creative twist on XCOM‘s usual “permadeath” option, since its devs have confirmed that permadeath doesn’t necessarily align with Marvel’s universe of characters? Will additional heroes be gated either behind paid “season passes” or free, after-launch patches? But beyond those questions, this reveal does a lot to confirm that Midnight Suns‘ real-time graphics look bold yet clear, with a variety of battling environments and flashy, cinematic attacks (which we hope can be disabled or fast-forwarded if we get sick of them). And the card system could be just the jolt the genre needs, both to enable Firaxis to create wacky attacks that (due to card draws) cannot be spammed repeatedly and to make players scramble when a bad card draw forces their strategic hands.
Listing image by Firaxis / 2K Games / Marvel