Impossible to talk about multiplayer fighting games without mentioning Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Challengers presented themselves to him, some better than others, without ever succeeding in dethroning him. In 2022, it’s MultiVersus’ turn to step into the ring, but can he claim the title of champion?
Fighting games that rely on a story mode worthy of the name are rare, very rare. There is of course NetherRealm which is an exception with the Mortal Kombat and Injustice sagas, but that’s about all. MultiVersus has decided to completely leave aside the narrative aspect to focus on the fight and only the fight. The studios in charge of the project do not even justify, or almost, the meeting between the members of the Justice League, the Looney Tunes and all the other characters present in the MultiVersus roster.
In summary, the icons of the Warner Bros. are teleported into arenas to compete and… Voila! it may seem light presented like that, but it makes the coffee, and that’s the main thing. Fans of different universes will be delighted to learn that some actors and actresses reprise their roles here, but only for the English voices. Thus, Maisie Williams once again lends her voice to Arya Stark from Game of Thrones while Kevin Conroy dons the costume of the Dark Knight. He was the interpreter of the vigilante of Gotham in the animated series Batman: The Animated Series of 1992… the one at the origin of the character of Harley Quinn also present in the game… The circle is complete!
What do DC comics, Looney Tunes, Scooby-Doo, Steven Universe, and Game of Thrones have in common? Nothing… other than the fact that these franchises are all owned by Warner Bros. Merging so many universes, thematically and visually very distant, is not easy. Manga fans still painfully remember the artistic direction of a certain Jump Force which was not unanimous, and that’s the least we can.
MultiVersus takes a diametrically opposite direction when it comes to its graphics. The AD could be called “cartoon 3D” and it suits the whole cast and even arenas perfectly. The care given to the characters, who keep their specificities and their attributes, is to be commended. Even a Faceless like Arya Stark, whose visuals have been completely reworked unlike Bugs Bunny or even Finn the Human, is doing well.
Technically speaking, nothing to complain about. Even on older-gen consoles (we played on PlayStation 4 Pro), MultiVersus holds its own. Player First Games’ game is always fluid once in the arena which is essential for a Platform Fighter. The same goes for the netcode which seems robust for the moment as well as the matchmaking which is smooth. Finding players only takes a few seconds, or even tens of seconds at most in the worst case.
Now let’s get down to business because a fighting game is judged above all on its fights. MultiVersus is openly inspired by the master of the matter… Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Nintendo fans will be on familiar ground here. The game from Warner Bros. takes up the fundamentals of the genre, that of the Platform Fighter. To put it simply, several players compete in a closed 2D arena with the objective of ejecting the other fighters out of it by inflicting damage on them. The higher the damage gauge, the easier the ejection will be.
MultiVersus, like its illustrious model, relies on nervous confrontations, instantly fun and accessible to as many people as possible, even if it also wants to be technical… provided you master all the subtleties. This fighting game focuses on teamwork and collaboration. Each character has attacks and “moves” specially designed for this purpose. Sammy heals. Wonder Woman saves her from ejection with her whip. Batman hides his allies in the smoke. Etc. For the rest, we are faced with classic, but effective, with simple and special attacks, dodges, jumps. In short, Platform Fighter in good and due form!
Player First Games also adds an “RPG” overlay to the basic formula by integrating a progression system both for the player and for the different characters on the roster. By gaining XP and therefore leveling up, the maximum currently being 15, each fighter unlocks various items and especially Assets. These are passive bonuses that significantly improve the attributes of the said fighter and/or his teammates. at the risk of creating an imbalance between the players! As for the “Player” profile, its rise in power translates into mainly cosmetic and/or monetary rewards, but we will talk about the economic model in due time.
It will be difficult for MultiVersus to compete with the 89 fighters of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. Warner Bros. certainly has dozens and dozens of characters in stock, but only a handful of them have been announced so far. However, it must be recognized that the 16 fighters have their own style made of 100% unique combos and other attacks. The intergenerational roster draws from a wide variety of universes, including DC, Looney Tunes, Game of Thrones, Scooby-Doo, Adventure Time, Steven Universe and The Iron Giant.
Players can choose between Batman, Harley Quinn, Superman, Wonder Woman, Bugs Bunny, Tom & Jerry, Taz, Arya Stark, Sammy, Vera, Finn the Human, Jake the Dog, Garnet, Steven Universe, The Iron Giant and Reindeer Dog. The last mentioned character is an original creation of Player First Games. There are even variants, otherwise purely cosmetic skins, for the fighters I just mentioned. For example, Batman can swap his emblematic costume for samurai armor that exudes class. Note that the studios have promised additions of characters without specifying which ones and the rate of publication.
We could also dwell on the different arenas available to players. They are currently 6 in number and allow you to explore the Batcave, the haunted Scooby-Doo Mansion, the TROPHY ROOM, the Lab and finally the House Tree. MultiVersus, as its name suggests, gives pride of place to multi. The game modes offered therefore go in this direction with classic 1v1 and Everyone For Self as well as 2v2 and Co-op vs AI. Added to this are personalized games and finally Le Labo to train and perfect your technique.
You would have understood it, MultiVersus doesn’t offer a single-player mode per se., but simply a “with bots” version of the modes we have just listed, just to offer a “solo” alternative. Moreover, the absence of true local multiplayer should be noted during this Private Alpha. This should be temporary, at least hopefully. A fighting game, and especially a Platform Fighter, devoid of offline multiplayer would be total nonsense for many players. Finally on the online features, the game from Warner Bros. is cross play and cross save which allows you to face the whole community regardless of the medium and to move from one platform to another without losing your progress.
MultiVersus is a Free-to-Play. This means microtransactions and a whole host of features designed to entice players to spend their euros. The principle of reward is here at the center of the experience imagined by Player First Games. The more you play, the more you are rewarded. Players thus obtain items and earn GOLD by fighting, leveling up and completing various “missions” or objectives. They even eventually unlock new characters by spending the hard-earned GOLD. Nevertheless, the heart of the economic model of this fighting game lies in the Battle Pass.
This concept, which is well known to players, encourages them to take up challenges, called here “seasonal levels” in order to pass the 50 levels and thus receive the related reward(s). The fact is that the Battle Pass comes in two flavors, one free and the other Premium and therefore paid. The second option, the price of which remains to be determined, allows you to obtain better quality items and especially new skins such as the Batman samurai. On paper, nothing forces players to spend a penny, and the Free to Play approach can allow everyone to try the experience. It could also have the opposite effect and repel fans of the genre.
MultiVersus has arguments to make and can boast of offering a fun, solid and accessible experience to everyone. Will that be enough to overtake the Super Smash Bros. master? Ultimate? Hard to know as it stands.