What ‘Marvel’s Avengers’ Can Learn from ‘Returnal’
I’ve been obsessed with the game Returnal as of late. You take control of Selene, a space traveler who crash lands on a strange foreign planet. As she faces the dangerous climate and fauna, she realizes that this isn’t her first trip. In reality, she is stuck in a time loop of some kind and repeats it every time she dies. It’s a simple premise that lends itself to a very challenging experience. Each death feels like the game is challenging you to do better and find a way to survive longer. It doesn’t hold your hands, and sometimes you won’t figure out how some mechanics work until your tenth run. The more I played it, the more I realized it had something that I believe Marvel’s Avengers needs at this point in its development: randomization.
When you die in Returnal, you don’t go through the same motions as before. The only thing that remains the same is the opening area where your ship crashlanded while the rest of the game’s map cycles through a variety of different layouts. Even the enemies get switched up regularly. So, while you think you know where they will spawn, there is always a chance something even more dangerous may appear. It adds a level of progression that plays on your ability to react to the change. In contrast, Crystal Dynamic’s Avengers offers you a handful of missions that get switched up weekly, but they don’t change at their core. The goals are always the same, AIMs bots stay consistent, and you know what you expect.
I have spent countless hours in the game and still enjoy every single content drop that has come out to varying degrees. The only issue is that once I played through the new content, there is no real reason to return. Even their latest Red Room Takeover event consisted only of five special gauntlets that repeat the same enemy rollout. Grinding your mission chains or gear becomes monotonous after a certain amount of time. Of course, you should take breaks when it comes to these ongoing experiences, but it would add an incentive to play more.
There is one random element in Returnal that I think a game like Avengers can benefit from. When you run through the game, you might randomly end up in a room with a pool of water or a floating ball of liquid mysteriously in the center of the room. The discovery of these random areas has been one of my favorite moments. It lets me piece together their significance in this world. You don’t figure out their relevance until later. It’s a creative way to build up the world organically in the game. Avengers does attempt it, as we get some great moments in Future Imperfect’s Wasteland’s usage of broken Kree sentries. Yet, I want to uncover a secret room that is the last refuge of a Kree soldier that got left behind. Perhaps we see some runes from the Woken who are preparing a ritual at the behest of Loki. It could even be a minor tie-in to the upcoming Disney+ series.
We know we’re getting some more information at E3 on their next expansion. So, why not give players a tease of what is heading our way with Black Panther. Have a Dora Milaje randomly appear in the Helicarrier, who is supporting some of the feeling Inhumans. I want to see the game make use of its comic history as it continues to grow. We know more is coming, but I also want to experience the change in the game. Clint being in his room between Taking Aim, and his operation had me excited to see how the story continues. Give me the temporary effects on the world that make it feel organic and not let your prisoner randomly vanish without a word. It doesn’t have to be a massive update, but minor changes to the world with hints at an ever-expanding story could truly make Marvel’s Avengers the gaming equivalent of living in the Marvel Universe.