Marvel’s Midnight Suns Final Hands-On Preview

So far, I really enjoy Marvel’s Midnight Suns, having now played about 15 hours of Firaxis Games’ tactical RPG, which pulls inspiration from the developer’s XCOM games. Removing XCOM’s frustrating percentage system–which could cause even the most well-planned strategies to inexplicably fail–makes the turn-based tactical combat in Midnight Suns a lot more fun. And thanks to the deckbuilding card system, randomness still factors into the equation, creating a healthy bit of challenge.

You can expect more words from me regarding the actual gameplay of Midnight Suns when the full review embargo is up. For now, I want to briefly touch on an aspect of Midnight Suns we haven’t really had a chance to see a whole lot of yet: the writing and story.

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To recap, in Midnight Suns you play as the Hunter, prophesied to defeat your mother, Lilith, and seal away her dark magic forever. You’re assigned leadership of the latest iteration of the Midnight Suns, a team composed of superheroes with powers that dabble in the mystic and supernatural, going out to face Lilith’s demonic forces and the members of HYDRA she’s enthralled. Lilith’s war on humanity attracts the attention of less magically-inclined heroes as well, and so your efforts are also bolstered by members of the Avengers and X-Men. Each character features their own unique abilities, portrayed as cards within a deck, allowing you to switch up your strategies depending on who you bring on a mission.

I wasn’t expecting a story quite so action hero-focused given the namesake Midnight Suns is pulling from. It’s a bit by-the-numbers, even by the standards of superhero fiction, so major plot points can be seen coming from a mile away and moments of grief or tragedy aren’t given adequate room to fester, as the more wise-cracking heroes are quick to fill the silence with jokes to liven up even the dourest of situations. So far, that’s keeping the game’s story from being great, but it’s certainly not bad by any stretch. If you’ve watched any of the team-oriented MCU movies, you already know what you’re getting with Midnight Suns–this game feels more like the MCU’s lighthearted take on Age of Ultron and less like the darker Midnight Suns comic book series.

Between the major plot points, Midnight Suns allows you to explore optional, more personal side stories. And it’s in those smaller interactions between the Hunter and the individual members of their team that the game manages to squeeze out some genuinely incredible moments. Building up your friendship with certain heroes unlocks additional cutscenes and conversations with them, many of which culminate in heartwarming reveals or devastating discoveries. Magik, in particular, is one of the best-written characters in Midnight Suns, and her friendship arc with the Hunter–which sees the two bond over their respective struggles with their innate darkness–has been my favorite part of the game thus far.

In that same respect, Midnight Suns brings incredible characterizations to the members of the titular team, all of whom benefit from excellent voice acting. I’m already enjoying Michael Jai White as Blade, for example, as he brings the badass attitude and hidden warmth that we expect from the dhampir. And Lyrica Okano has effortlessly slid back into the role of the magically-gifted and brilliant Nico Minoru, a character she portrayed in live-action on the TV show Runaways, serving as the soul at the center of the Midnight Suns team.

The Avengers and other non-magical heroes’ side of the equation feels a bit boring in comparison, and maybe that’s an intentional choice to further highlight the mystical and demonic personalities that make up the Midnight Suns’ side of the game. From what I’ve seen so far, characters like Iron Man and Captain America don’t have very interesting narrative arcs. It’s clear that the Avengers–as older heroes–have gone through their fair share of growth prior to the events of the game, leaving less room for meaningful development (both as individuals or as members of a team) in comparison to the much younger members of the Midnight Suns, most of whom haven’t worked with other superheroes before. It also doesn’t help that the actors voicing the Avengers seem to have been told to channel the energy of their MCU counterparts as best they could, resulting in recognizable but suboptimal copies of characters we’ve met before.

That said, as of writing this preview, I have found that Captain Marvel’s arc has begun to get quite interesting and diverge a bit from what we’ve seen of her character in the MCU and recent comic book storylines, which may be a sign that the game is simply taking a bit longer to turn its focus to the development of the non-mystical heroes. We’ll see how it all pans out by the time of the review.

Overall, my time with Midnight Suns so far has been entertaining, especially when that time is spent focusing on the members of the titular team like Nico and Magik. Qualms with other characters don’t extend to the combat, as everyone (so far) has proven to be fun to play, creating interesting team combinations and potential deckbuilding strategies that keep each mission fresh and exciting. Here’s hoping that keeps up.

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