Avenger’s War for Wakanda expansion perfectly encapsulates my feelings with the game. for better and for worse.
Avengers has had a rocky start to a game that is looking to capitalize on a property that has been exploding in popularity for the past 10 years. The latest expansion, War for Wakanda, feels like that tipping point of reigning back in the hoards of fans that dropped the game throughout the year. Or, this marks the slow death of a game that had the potential to be something special. So, does War for Wakanda mark the turning point for the title? Much like almost all my feelings with Marvel’s Avengers… it’s complicated.
Wakanda Fully Realized
The initial most striking moment is when you get that wide view of the beautifully crafted kingdom of Wakanda. Through its lush forests and across it’s golden edifices, Wakanda looks stunning. It might partially be because this is the first look at something other than the well-trodden areas of the past year, but it is just beautiful in its own right. The way the golden-weaved doors animate, to the Wakandan towers plunging into the sky, I get the same feelings here as I did when seeing the opening in the Black Panther movie. The nice flourishes of learning about Wakandan history through the various secret passages and completing more intricate puzzles than in previous expansions only added to the feeling of being in the Kingdom of Wakanda.
There’s no better way to further elevate an already gorgeous environment than by having characters to complement it. The expansion includes a whole slate of new characters that I mostly loved. From Debra Wilson’s Okoye to Dave Fennoy’s Zawavari, the only one I was sort of iffy about, initially, was T’Challa.
I think Christopher Judge is an amazing voice actor, and I know that’s not going out on a limb to mention; however, it felt a bit off at times. Admittedly, I feel like a lot of this was a similar feeling I initially had with the whole Avengers cast. The dissonance between MCU vs their video game adaptations was hard to not compare. But, much like the core cast, the more I heard of Judge’s T’Challa, the more I came to enjoy the adaptation. It certainly helps that they brought in Beth McGuire who helped develop the Wakandan accent for Black Panther in the MCU films.
There are really only two issues I have with the presentation of Wakanda.
- The jungle sections. It’s not that I don’t like the jungle areas since they provide a nice change of pace to the more tight indoor areas, but there are way too many pits of death. That, and they are too easy to fall into. It provides a bit of depth to the level design, but there should be ways to last-ditch save yourself from losing large chunks of healt.
- The OST. I love the OST, and it really mimics what they did with the film. The issue is I think they should have leaned more into it. There are times where the music starts to swell and then… that’s it. I never imagined the OST would be as integrated into the game as something like Miles Morales, but I think it could have helped to elevate nearly every aspect of its world-building.
Black Panther is a brawling character, most closely resembling Captain America’s build. While Cap’s skillset isn’t to my liking, I thoroughly enjoyed playing through as Black Panther. His kit requires you to change your play style since blocking attacks is key to unlocking the best aspects of the character. Blocking fills up your intrinsic meter allowing you to add kinetic damage to attacks, or use it as an intrinsic burst. It takes a bit of getting used to, but he has turned out to be one of the strongest characters on the roster.
His animations also make it fun to play. He has so many cat-like animations. Whether it’s pouncing on your enemy or pirouetting as you claw across a group of enemies, they absolutely nailed the feel of being Black Panther.
Alongside a new hero also comes a handful of new enemy types and weapons. It’s hard to talk about the new enemies without talking about one of the game’s biggest blunders: the sonic weapons.
The idea behind the sonic weapons is just fine, and they do a great job of further crafting the idea within the story. But, the way the sonic weapons completely obscures your vision is awful. Not to mention, a lot of the time you are inflicted with a grey blurry screen without even knowing the enemy that inflicted that status. Add in multiple enemies, multiple sonic effects and being juggled across the map, and you have a messy cacophony of visuals that don’t do a good enough job of giving the player feedback. There are times where I had absolutely no idea what my characters were even doing because I was inflicted with the sonic status amongst others.
The main antagonist (Ulysses Klaue) was well done and had clear, if not all that surprising motives of attempting to extract all the Vibranium from Wakanda. Crossbones, on the other hand, didn’t really seem to integrate all that well with the story. The final battle where he is integrated is well done, but I don’t really see how he elevates the overall story. Not to mention that the last thing we need is another human (or human-like) character with such a roster that Marvel has.
The other noticeable addition were mech-spiders. They were as annoying as you’d expect, but did work as fodder to fill meters.
Much was made about a revamped UI that would feature more information for your current character on-screen. While that is certainly true, it feels more clunky to do anything else. Do we have the ability to tag multiple items to scrap? Yes. Does it take just as long as it did with the previous UI since you have to pile through menus? Also yes. I don’t think the previous UI was perfect, but it did a better job of providing enough information, even if it wasn’t efficient in doing so. The new UI provides way too much information, such that any benefit in efficiency is completely lost from being inundated with information.
I really enjoyed parts of what I played with the War for Wakanda expansion. I think Marvel’s Avengers is headed in the right direction, albeit taking their time getting there. Having said that, there were some huge misses for me that greatly affected the game. The addition of sonic effects and a UI that seems more cumbersome than ever were the most egregious examples. There are just too many great stories to tell in the Marvel Universe for this to be the swan song of Marvel’s Avengers. A solid base exists for the game, but there’s not proof that there is much more. Black Panther fans should be satisfied, but I fear some of the design issues people have with the game thus far persist in War for Wakanda.