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Midnight Suns Review

midnight suns

The world is on the brink of supernatural disaster. Darkness reigns and even Earth's Mightiest Heroes cannot hold back the oncoming tide. Only you can offer salvation through struggle, focus and...taking Blade on a fishing trip? Let's dive into Marvel's latest foray into the digital gamespace, Midnight Suns.

Land Of The Rising Suns

Let's begin by getting something out of the way: Midnight Suns is, by all accounts, very much a Marmite game. One part mythical oddyssey, one part turn-based card game and one part friendship simulator, it throws many darts at that Venn diagram and, for the most part, finds its marks. However, where it does fail can be enough to drive players away for a spell, if not indefinitely.

The plot of Midnight Suns revolves around the intertwined destinies of Lilith, the Mother of Demons, and your player insert character, simply referred to as the Hunter. Oh, and on top of being a demonic mother, she is also yours. Very Oedipal. You are revived by the Midnight Suns, joined shortly by the Avengers, to lead them in the charge as per the Prophecy. So far, so by the numbers. Yet once you get your claws into the story, it begins to unfold and touches on a larger world, and surprisingly complex themes, offering a depth that a card-based game has no real right to have. The story and its cast become a real driving force, and will be particularly joyous to those familiar wth Marvel's lengthy comic canon.

Cards On The Table

While the plot is strong enough to carry itself with little strain, the real surprise comes in the form of its turn-based combat, centred around deck building and careful action management. Not the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about superheroes, I'll grant you. And yet, much like the first man to combine chocolate and peanut butter, Firaxis

Games have stumbled on a winning formula that elevates explosive gameplay with a real sense of achievement. The rush of dopamine at clearing the field in one turn was superb, as was blasting a challenging enemy to atoms with Iron Man' ultimate technique.

The flipside to this is the card upgrading system. To do so requires duplicates of the same card, provided through loot boxes gained in missions, and a certain amount of a resource known as 'Essence'. This comes in various flavours such as Skill, Heroic and Attack, and become harder and harder to acquire as you progress, while the demand for them only increases. As a result, it was quickly abandoned in favour of simply figuring out what 3 team combo was the most powerful and sticking with them throughout. It choked what could have been a huge range of playability choices, and was a flaw in an otherwise gleaming setup.

Blade, Book Club & Buddy Building

Another, arguably less successful, aspect of this oddity is the friendship simulator. Yup, I said that. Friendship levels play a huge role here, from unlocking buffs to new costumes, and can be achieved via gifts, hangouts and daily training. It's not a particularly challenging affair, and doesn't feel particularly rewarding beyond unlocking each character's Midnight Sun suit and ability. I understand it was done in an attempt foster connection and camraderie, but it just feels wrong in this setting. The tone is dark with the distant promise of hope and then, just as suddenly, you're in Shop Class with Spider-Man or listening to grunge music with Nico. It, simply put, doesn't fit and barely works.

Substance Over Style

Midnight Suns is not a pretty game. I played it on Playstation 5 and, in its best moments, it looked like a PS4 launch title. The textures are rough, the character's woefully unexpressive even in the more dramatic moments and the clothing responds to physics as more of a suggestion than a set rule. I lost count of how often clothing would try and glitch off a character, twisting into odd shapes. Anything loose often helicoptered in any cutscene, and on several occassions destroyed immersion in dramatic story beats.

Audio would clip in and out, further revealing just how little mouth movement actually matched the dialogue. And finally on this front, the camera would clip through terrain, leaving me with a lovely view of the world beneath in all its unrendered glory. It felt as though they spent so long trying to refine gameplay and squeeze in the buddy sim components that they skipped essential bug sweeps. It could be janky, sharp and downright hilarious in these moments. And yet...

Final Thoughts: A Marvellous Oddity

Marvel's Midnight Suns feels like three different games. You have your grand adventure, the battle of light against dark, the struggle against evil. Then there's your card battles, played out in an overworld, creating a tactical feel imbued with superhero panache. And then, most strangely of all, a hero friendship simulator that seems to ignore the cataclysmic disaster outside your door in favour of book clubs, shop classes and stargazing. Two thirds of it drag the final third to the finishing line and, while they undoubtedly dimish the overall shine, they cannot drag it into the mire entirely. If you can look past the blocky veneer and glitches, there is a great time waiting to be found here for regular gamers and Marvel fans alike.