Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order Review
It seems like Marvel is everywhere these days, and it makes sense when you think about it. With the explosive success of The Avengers movies and the MCU franchise pumping out successful films at an unprecedented rate, it is only logical for other media to follow suit. With the close of “The Infinity Saga”, now is the perfect time to release Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. It has been a decade since the release of Ultimate Alliance 2 (2009) and Marvel-Mania was just beginning (Iron Man 1 released in 2008). Since then, the Marvel universe has expanded in popularity far beyond that of the typical comic book or superhero nerd. Can Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order do justice to the franchise while still appealing to new fans? Let’s take a look!
From the beginning, it is clear that Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order follows the classic comic book versions of our favourite superheroes more than the Marvel Cinematic Universe versions. For a start, when you meet the Guardians of the Galaxy (at the very beginning), it is clear that Gamora, Drax and Starlord look nothing like their live-action portayers. For me, this is a huge plus, as it can be quite annoying when games that share a franchise with movies pander to the star-power of their actors. A video game is about entertainment, not celebrity.
Fans of the previous Ultimate Alliance games will be happy to know that the formula has very much remained the same, with a few tweaks and upgrades. Ultimate Alliance 3 is still a hack-and-slash action game, but with a little more depth added. Players have many different ways to bolster their roster, all of which I will get into later.
The storyline of MUA3 brings you through many different and familiar locations and introduces you to a TON of your favourite characters from the Marvel Universe including members of: Guardians of the Galaxy, The Avengers, The Defenders, X-Men and so much more!
As can be expected from a game on the Nintendo Switch, the graphics of MUA3 are not quite bleeding-edge quality. It seems that the developers over at Koei Tecmo’s Team Ninja were very aware of the limitations of the system, however, and instead opted to lean into the comic-style graphics that suit the gameplay and characters perfectly. For big-name releases on the Switch, this seems to be the best route to take.
While if you look closely you may notice that some characters have jagged lines that look like they did not render properly, but this does not distract from the game itself. There is no doubt that it is a great improvement over Ultimate Alliance 2, especially when it comes to character movement and animations.
Much like its predecessors, MUA3 puts you in control of a team of Marvel superheroes that you can fully customize at any checkpoint. As you progress through the storyline, you will unlock many additional heroes to pick from. A quick pointer here, it is highly advisable to have a tank hero (such as The Hulk, Drax or Luke Cage) and at least one ranged hero (like Starlord, Crystal or Scarlet Witch). This composition will help you endure tough fights by having a beefier front-line and a damage heavy back-line.
Synergy is an important ingredient for success in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. While the specifics are quite complex, the overall concept is that some heroes will synergize their abilities (which can be upgraded themselves), empowering them greatly. Figuring out which heroes work together is the hard part. There are pages of explanation that describe which ability-types synergize with which others, but I prefer to use heroes I enjoy rather than those who work together the best. It’s all up to your personal preference.
Aside from leveling through experience and creating powerful synergy among your team, there are a couple other methods of improving your chances in combat. The first of these is the Alliance Enhancement screen. From here, you are able to spend Alliance Points and Credits to provide bonuses that will be shared by all of your heroes. These typically include increasing one of the six main stats: Strength, Vitality, Mastery, Resilience, Durability and Energy. There are also various offensive and defensive buffs that can be unlocked here.
Next up we have the ISO-8 crystals. Once unlocked, these work like any gem enhancement system you may have encountered in a plethora of other games. Your heroes start with one slot available (and max out at 4) to put an ISO-8 crystal in, which provides a specific buff whose strength is proportional to the quality of the crystal found. These buffs can do everything from providing a serious stat boost to offering healing, increasing your credit gather rate, increasing your enemy-aggro and more.
In addition to the storyline, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order has an “Infinity” mode, wherein you enter Infinity Rifts with your team to complete specific objectives. Each Rift has 3 objectives and completing each objective earns you a star. Completing the main task is always the first star, with conditional tasks and time limits appearing in the last two. There are even secret playable characters that can also be unlocked this way. Be sure to pay attention to the mission modifiers, as in some of the Rifts you will only be able to damage enemies using specific types of attacks! Rifts are also a good way to level new heroes and build up your Alliance Points to further upgrade your team.
While all of these different systems may seem overwhelming, the game does a nice job of easing you into them, introducing them progressively as you continue through the storyline. I personally find that they added some much needed depth and replayability to an otherwise basic hack-and-slash game.
Another amazing part of MUA3 is that it offers local or online multiplayer for up to 4 players, allowing you to enjoy the mayhem with your friends, regardless of where you are.
One of my biggest complains with the game is the camera settings are predictably terrible. Action RPGs are notorious for their tragic lack of attention on camera functionality and, sadly, MUA3 is no exception. These issues are less frustrating in singleplayer as the game allows you to change camera angles, no such power is given to players in multiplayer. The camera tries its best to focus the camera between players, but often is left pointing directly at the ground while players aimlessly try to run far enough for the camera to pan back to them. This is a serious damper on an otherwise-joyous experience.
Overall, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is a very strong title for the Nintendo Switch, offering depth and replayability alongside a fast and exciting hack-and-slash action game that boasts an impressive lineup of heroes from the single most popular franchise of the last decade. This is, simply put, the right game at the right time.
To learn more about Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, visit: https://marvelultimatealliance3.nintendo.com/