Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3's Missing Customization Options Hurt the Game – CBR – Comic Book Resources

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3’s massive roster should have been a huge win, but the lack of customization options soured the experience for fans.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order had the potential to expand on the success of its predecessors. For many fans, though, the game fell flat, failing to capture what was great about its predecessors and the X-Men: Legends games. The Black Order had a massive roster and satisfying enough gameplay, but it was missing the spirit of customization and personalization that allows Marvel fans to make their favorite comic book universe their own. If the franchise continues, there are a few changes it will need to reverse to recapture that magic.
The general trend of the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games is to create an event so large and universe-threatening that all of the heroes of Marvel need to unite in order to combat it. The fun comes not just in playing as some of the fans’ favorite characters, like Spider-Man or Wolverine, but in crafting a unique team that helps to make the story their very own. Yet the changes Black Order made decreased the level of customization throughout the game, homogenizing each player’s experience in a disengaging way.
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Perhaps the most drastic change came with the way that powers and abilities were simplified in the third installment. Every character has four special abilities they unlock and gradually power up, but the only choice to make in leveling up those abilities is which ones are boosted first. With so few slots to boost each ability, even that choice does now allow for much deviation. In previous games, every hero came with several powers that players had to choose between, and each power came the ability to level them up several times. The result was that every individual character could be tailored to their player’s preference.
The same lack of customization applies to equipment, discarded entirely in Black Order in favor of ISO-8 crystals that offer generic ability boosts. The equipment structure in previous games not only felt more unique and meaningful, but there were also certain pieces of equipment that worked only with specific characters and rewarded players’ exploration by offering the best powerups to the individual characters that players selected. It means a lot more to someone playing as Hawkeye if they find a new bow that boosts their attacks than if that same player comes across a generic crystal that would strengthen them no matter who they chose to play with.
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Even apart from the gameplay itself, the story of Black Order ends much the same for anyone who completes it, starkly diverging from the game’s predecessors. In the first game there were choices that players could make which could doom or save the universe by the end of the story, and its sequel, Civil War, was built entirely around the key decision of which side of the Registration Act players chose to side with. The shift toward taking away such options represents the third installment’s greatest issue in a nutshell. Players don’t just want to witness the Marvel universe — they can do that multiple times a year with the MCU — what they really want is to participate in that universe.
It is not simply enough to offer a huge stable of characters to choose from, and future installments in the Ultimate Alliance franchise would do well to remember that. Customization and individualization give players what they truly want, and even if the game built around that core concept is a generic beat ’em up such an experience will be a memorable one Marvel fans can value through multiple replays.
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Brenton somehow earned a college degree in the middle of a multi-decade pop culture binge he continues to this day. His interests range across philosophy, literature, and the arts to comics, cartoons, television, and Dungeons & Dragons. Follow him on Twitter @BrentonStewart6 or reach out by e-mail at [email protected] if you have nice things to say!


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