Hello there! Before you continue reading this, a word of warning: I am a Marvel fanboy. The kind that collects comics and toys, wears store-bought and custom-made T-shirts and watches movies, cartoons, and TV shows and has a preferred continuity and look for almost every Marvel character. But, that doesn’t mean that I am going to adore every single thing that has a Marvel logo on it. If anything, it means that I’m a much harsher judge of the things I love.

With that in mind, join me as I take a look at “Marvel Strike Force”, a mobile, turn-based RPG game from FoxNet Games and see if it’s worth all the hype. After all, just having a popular brand isn’t enough to retain the player’s attention if the game is too uneventful, or too complicated (see “DC Legends” and “Middle Earth: Shadow of War” for examples how not to do it).

The one good licensed game that “Marvel Strike Force” could be compared to is “Star Wars: Galaxy of heroes”. Just like that game has its Dark and Light Side; here the main divide is among superheroes and villains. Both sides have their own single player campaigns for you to work through, but when playing other game modes (PVP battles, Alliance Raids and more) the only limit in creating your dream team is your creativity.

To unlock certain characters, you have to collect character shards that are specific to them. More valuable characters require a higher amount of shards that can be obtained only from the harder missions. (For instance, a generic Hydra soldier is yours if you collect only 15 shards, while Hulk requires 180 of them, and Iron Man is yours once you get 310 Tony specific shards). There are currently sixty playable characters divided into five classes (Blaster, Brawler, Controller, Support, and Protector) and the trick is in making properly balanced teams that ideally contain the characters you like.

The first thing you’re going to notice once you start the game is its stunning visuals. It looks and sounds much better than, say, any handheld variant of “Marvel: Ultimate Alliance”. It even implements ragdoll physics, which are always a pleasure to look at. All of the character animations are truly spectacular, and not just those you’d expect to be cool, like, say, Spider-Man and his web-spinning attacks. Every character looks and moves in a unique enough way to make this one of the nicest games to look at. This is all enchanted by a swooping dynamic camera, which zooms in to highlight special attacks.

The game has an autoplay option, but I don’t recommend using it – once you give commands to your heroes, there is never a dull moment on screen; they all seem to interact as a genuine team, helping and protecting each other, making room for the other team member to perform their special attack, and so on. The joy you’ll feel once you get a team that works well as a… well, team… is something that you’d have to experience for yourself to believe it.

As for gameplay, at a glance, the basics seem pretty simple: assemble your team, use the team members’ unique skills to win a stage, and then use the rewards gained after the victory to boost your powers. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s only because it is. You see, the way this game is set up, the heroes are those who earn rewards needed to boost the villains and vice versa. This means that you’ll be switching from one campaign to the other, gathering resources to boost up your preferred side.

Another catch lies in the fact that the arena portion of the game works on a multiplier system, meaning that, while the more you win, the more points  you’ll be getting, but the power level of the opponents you’ll be facing will also be rising proportionally (think “Marvel: Contest of Champions”). However, the focus is on a synergy between your team members, and facing someone with a much higher power level is not an issue if you’ve managed to put together a well-balanced team. Oh, and one good team will not be enough. The arena also forces you to have more than one good team since you have to refresh your characters with health packs between matches. There is a specific challenge that happens twice a week when you can stack up on arena health packs as well as daily objectives which net you a couple of them. Without packs, characters recover every 3 hours after matches, so having more than one great team is essential if you don’t want to wait or shell out hard currency to get your team back in the game right away.

Speaking of team building, this being a free to play game, after all, this can be done the easy way (shelling out some hard cash and buying the character packs) or the cheapskate’s way – by fluffing missions and progressing through the game. Those of us who are a bit on the stingy side will have to grind, but it’s not too bad. In fact, I’d say that the heroes are easily farmable, provided that you devote enough time to playing the game. (All of the completed campaign mission can be replayed for resources and character shards with the help of the auto-win system, at least if you have sufficient energy).

This game has the baddies from Hydra and the Hand pitted against Earth Mightiest Heroes, and yet, it feels perfectly balanced. All of the pretty visuals and challenging game modes would be useless without this major detail. It feels like a well-assembled team of yours can beat any other time it faces against, and, to make matters even better, it’s actually the truth.

This is a game meant to be played every day in short intervals, but a game that will reward you for getting back to it regularly. As an added bonus, there are special limited-time events that allow players to accumulate character shards (each level in the event can be played only once), usually centered around a specific trait or a Marvel movie that hits the theatres around that time. Updates also bring new characters that can be obtained the regular way (there are more than twenty upcoming characters already confirmed), and new arenas and surroundings. The most important is the fact that the character’s abilities, as well as those of your in-game enemies,  are constantly being recalibrated to give you well-balanced playing experience.

It is clear that FoxNet games know what they are doing: there is no brand name that can guarantee a game’s longevity. Instead, the players need a game that will reward their skills and patience, a game that will make players want to get back into it and explore everything it has to offer, and that is exactly what “Marvel Strike Force” is – a highly rewarding pleasurable experience that just so happens to have a great number of Marvel heroes   and villains in it. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, it looks, feels and plays great. It is clear that “Marvel Strike Force” is here to stay.