Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 – Old School to a Fault

Normally, a ten year gap would give a franchise time to reboot and reload, but in the case of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, it’s more of the same. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but this title is clearly catered towards fans of the franchise as it does not immediately offer anything new to entice newcomers to the series.

Like its predecessors, MUA3 is a top down beat-em up that allows you either play cooperatively or solo as you fight a multitude of characters from the Marvel Universe. There are four characters to a team and how you set up the team will grant different bonuses and buffs that will help you during combat. Those looking for a deep and engaging experience should look elsewhere as there is little customization in regards to character abilities.

Each character is given four abilities that unlock as you level up through the various stages. These four abilities can be leveled up to increase effectiveness, but that’s it, there are no other unlocks to each character. This can feel incredibly disappointing especially if you decide to focus on a specific group of characters. After 10 years, it would’ve been more rewarding if characters were given at least 6 to 8 abilities to tinker with.

New to the series is the ISO-8 system, which allows player to equip certain isotopes that will buff specific attributes. These are dropped usually at random during combat, but can be found when opening chests. Isotopes can be upgraded at the cost of in-game currency and materials, but be wary though because after level 5, they can become pretty expensive. Isotopes are a nice addition to the series, but unless they are an A class or above, their effects aren’t noticeable.

The only other way of enhancing your characters is through the Alliance Enhancement grid. This will allow you to spend in-game currency to massively upgrade your teams and this is incredibly useful later in the game. You’re restricted to one grid at first, but once you complete a section, a new grid will open up with new buffs for your team. The Alliance Enhancement feels far more useful than the ISO-8 system as its effects are far more beneficial as a whole.

Even though the lack of customization is disappointing, the Campaign of MUA3 and the Infinity challenge mode are both a lot of fun. The campaign moves at a particularly brisk pace as new characters and bosses are introduced as you progress. Centered around the Infinity Stones, players will have to team up with a number of characters from the Marvel Universe to take down Thanos and his Black Order. It’s predictable at certain beats, but it’s cohesive, fluid, and pretty fun.

MUA3 in itself almost feels like a boss rush, as there are multiple bosses per level and some will have multiple phases. These fights are the real highlights of the game and will become progressively more difficult as you near the end. There isn’t a single boss encounter I didn’t enjoy and thankfully, MUA3 knocks these out of the park.

Tougher enemies in the game will have stamina bars that must be depleted as once stunned it will open them up to receive high damage. During these instances, it’s best to utilize the Extreme Alliance attack which is a super ability that uses all four characters. These super attacks will do an insane amount of damage and are also perfect for clearing a room full of enemies.

During the campaign you’ll encounter rifts that will act as challenges for the player to complete. Rifts can be found throughout the level and upon discovery they are added to the Infinity mode. These challenges range from defeating a certain number of enemies, to a boss rush, a solo mode, and other timed events. If you happen to struggle during the campaign and need more experience, the rifts are your solution.

Ultimately, what’s frustrating is that MUA3 forces you to choose characters as they unlock, due to the fact that they will scale to the difficulty of the level. Your characters will generally be under-levelled as experience is not shared. So, if you happen to want to stick with a certain character or group of characters, you may have to grind to ensure that they can endure the levels challenges.

The game tries to rectify this by providing experience cubes, but these are limited and this method is not sustainable because of the cost to level up. Some characters don’t feel like they work with one another and this can be frustrating when trying to utilize sync attacks. If a system was in place in which all characters shared experience, then this would implore experimentation.

Ultimate Alliance 3 is a decidedly old school romp and this works both to its benefit and detriment. While playing as different characters through the Marvel Universe is still fun, the in-game systems don’t do enough to add depth, which can make this feel repetitive quick. The campaign moves at a brisk pace and is generally fun, but outside of Infinity Mode, there really isn’t much else to the game. But if you’re a fan, I would recommend giving it a go. Otherwise, there isn’t enough here for a recommendation.

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