Crystal Dynamics’ expansion to ‘Marvel’s Avengers’ has 25 hours of content and ninth hero in Black Panther. Also yes, Spider-Man is still coming.
As “Marvel’s Avengers” reaches the one-year anniversary of its release, Crystal Dynamics is preparing the largest expansion for the project. The free update, “The War for Wakanda,” arrived Aug. 17 and promises a few more hours of fresh content, a new biome and additional adversaries.
More importantly, it introduces the ninth playable hero — Black Panther, which fans have been clamoring for since the game’s release.
“We’ve had the idea in mind of where the story is going,” said writer Hannah MacLeod. “He’s the No. 1 on the top of our list but we also wanted to do Wakanda justice.”
Telling T’Challa’s story is a bigger project than Kate Bishop and Hawkeye because it involves the futuristic African nation, which acts as a character of its own. The team couldn’t just add Black Panther without his country. The two are inherently linked. With that in mind, Crystal Dynamics had to build a world and the context around him and that took more effort.
For inspiration, the team turned to the comics rather than the movies to bring Crystal Dynamic’s vision of Wakanda to life. “There are decades of lore” in the pages, MacLeod said. “We really wanted to extend T’Challa’s legacy. We wanted to show a T’Challa that’s more experienced.”
THE STORY SO FAR
In “Marvel Avengers,” T’Challa is an older king, one more set in his ways. He was going to form an alliance with the Avengers but the supposed death of Captain America during A-Day put a stop to that. The king pulled out of the plans. The War for Wakanda takes place after the events the original campaign and follows the Black Panther as his nation comes under attack from the Klaue Company. He faces both Ulysses Klaue and Crossbones as they infiltrate the secretive nation and try to take it over.
While that’s happening, T’Challa also has to deal with the Avengers who have turned to the Black Panther for help. During the conflicts and quests, players will learn the history and mythology behind Wakanda. In addition, the campaign centers on the theme of the monarchy and what the future of the nation should be.
That’s the basic plot that players face when they access the new campaign through the Avengers Initiative. As the Black Panther, players will notice that the Wakanda jungle biome is more wide open with plenty of places for the hero to show his abilities.
GETTING IN A FIGHT WITH BLACK PANTHER
Senior game designer Scott Walters describes his play style as high risk and high reward. It’s based on filling the intrinsic meters to create kinetic blasts that beef up his attacks and debuff enemies. Players are encouraged to keep up the loop where they use the overcharge mechanic to maintain the damage buff.
Watching the king in action, it’s obvious that his agility will be an asset. He can double jump, and from that, he can enter aerial combos that juggle enemies before pounding them into the ground. Like Captain America, T’Challa can wall run, but on top of that, Black Panther also has attacks that he can perform off the wall. The hero can perch on a cliffside and find an opportunity to attack off it, opening up combos with an air launcher and other strikes.
His other attacks focus on materializing vibranium weapons from thin air. He has a spear that he can use to pin enemies. It looks like an ideal attack for crowd control. It even pins multiple adversaries if one is standing behind another. T’Challa can also throw daggers, which help continue combos, and they’re also used in some of the puzzle elements in the campaign.
Players toss the daggers to activate glyphs or they can fire them at turrets. Although he has ranged weapons, Walters said he isn’t a ranged character.
Another part of Black Panther’s repertoire is the Komoyo Beads. “They’re utilitarian items,” Walters said. “They interact with the Wakandan tech.” In T’Challa’s hands, they act more as a support tool that can heal allies, defend himself and harm adversaries. They reduce damage to Black Panther by 20% or they can destroy projectiles aimed at him. In other instances, depending on how players upgrade the ability, the Komoyo Beads can even act as a grenade detonating and setting of kinetic blast.
The final Black Panther power is his Ultimate Heroic Ability — Bast’s Chosen. Once enacted, it temporarily summons a spectral form of the feline goddess. In addition, it reduces damage to the Black Panther by 20% and increases damage he deals by 10 percent while letting T’Challa use his intrinsic attacks without worrying about energy.
Like other abilities, players can upgrade the ultimate. It can revive T’Challa and allies if they’ve fallen. That’s a great ability if playing alone. Players can add spectral Wakandan warriors to the fold if they need extra firepower. There’s even a way to teleport a short distance to pummel a foe.
COORDINATION IS NEEDED
From what I’ve seen of the campaign, players will need to master all of T’Challa’s abilities because the campaign can be difficult especially if going at it solo. Players will have AI partners but it’s better to have human-controlled teammates, especially during the boss battles. In the final confrontation I saw, Black Panther, Iron Man, Captain America and Ms. Marvel had to protect three nodes at the Wanda Control Network, which runs all of the country’s advanced tech.
Players can stay near nodes that activate turrets to help the team out. If that falters and they need emergency help, one teammate can hit a center console, activating an EMP blast that damages, stuns and removes shields from all enemies. It also shuts down the helpful turrets out and the team will have to reactivate them to get them going again. The battle is chaotic and it needs coordination to get complete.
“Playing with co-workers, it really feels like being an Avengers team,” said MacLeod. “We felt like strategists.”
As for the future of “Marvel’s Avengers,” the War for Wakanda caps off the road map that Crystal Dynamics put forth. Altogether, the expansion, the main campaign, "Operation: Kate Bishop — Taking AIM" and "Operation: Hawkeye — Future Imperfect" gives players more than 25 hours of content. Walters said there’s still more coming down the pipeline. He said players will have an Omega Level Threat, patrol missions, and yes, Spider-Man is still coming to the game.
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