While Marvel Studios is closing the first chapter in its cinematic universe saga this year, Square Enix has yet to even open the book that is its “multi-game” Avengers partnership.
Two years have passed since Square revealed its universe-shattering superhero deal and familiar trailer, but the slow-panning clip of Asgardian weaponry, Hulk-ish grunts, and a discarded shield are still seared into the memory of gaming and Marvel fans alike. With nothing more than the mysterious “reassemble” hashtag accompanying the foreboding Avengers logo and some developer names, fans have been left in the dark, with little more than their imaginations to fuel theories of what is to come.
Before we breakdown what the trailer could mean, we should talk about what other information has already been made public.
Crystal Dynamics, the team behind the recent Tomb Raider titles, and Deus Ex developer Eidos Montreal are the two teams listed to be working on Square Enix’s Marvel initiative. Eurogamer reported that Eidos Montreal is supposedly helming a Guardians of the Galaxy game, so speculation for that can wait for another day.
Crystal Dynamics, however, has some old job postings that plainly state some of its game’s details. Third-person, cover-based action will lay the groundwork for the “very ambitious” title, with options to use “cover and melee-based” mechanics. An AI/combat designer job post on the same page goes on to explicitly list boss fights as a core part of the gameplay equation.
In terms of the talent behind the project, Crystal Dynamics named Uncharted: The Lost Legacy director Shaun Escayg as creative director of the Avengers game. Joining him is Dead Space veteran Stephen Barry, who has taken the role of director of production.
The aforementioned names both contributed to two of gaming’s most beloved third-person adventure series, so, despite the lack of public gameplay available, the team is already on the right track.
Phrases like “third-person” and “cover-based” scream Black Widow, though this may be selling the project’s potential a bit short. Black Widow deserves a spot in whatever Crystal Dynamics is planning, though her role could be shared.
Judging by the dark themes and enigmatic voice-over, things do not seem to be looking so good for Earth’s mightiest heroes. Tasking players to “reassemble” could point to something either gameplay or narrative-related. Maybe the Avengers have disbanded, and players will be tasked with rebuilding the team. Controlling different Avengers could warrant the introductions of new, varied playstyles and environments. Maybe one chapter will put players in the shoes of the stealthy Black Widow while the next hands Mjölnir to those who are worthy.
Nothing is more important than giving these iconic characters a unique feeling. Square Enix no doubt wants to stray from the Marvel Ultimate Alliance formula as much as possible, especially considering Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is just around the corner. In other words, expecting heavy story elements, cinematic camera angles, and a mostly serious tone is a safe bet. The likelihood of more weighty, less arcadey combat is also high for this same reason.
Mjölnir and, more importantly, the Avengers are practically household names thanks to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), so could the upcoming game see a tie in to the more recent Avengers movies?
IGN spoke to Marvel Games creative director Bill Rosemann in 2017 about the place that the studio has in the studio’s larger universe.
“We want to give our partners…freedom to look at all of Marvel history and to pick from what interests them. It’s a bit like we’re saying, ‘Hey you’re the chef, you’re going to make this meal. Here’s all of the ingredients. You pick the ingredients that you like and make a new meal.”
Judging by this comment, signs point to an MCU canon game being unlikely, but that does not mean the game will see no influences. The blatant usage of the Avengers logo and name at least points toward some mainstream familiarity. How closely this title will follow the story most know remains to be seen, but the possibility of a Thanos cameo or boss fight is definitely not out of the realm of possibility.
In order to cover a potential route for an MCU spin-off game, this piece will delve into spoilers from the recently released Avengers: Endgame.
So, here is your spoiler warning.
[spoiler]Endgame sees a shocking five-year time jump early on in the film that drastically changes the universe’s tone and setting. Of course, with passing time comes aging characters, and as the characters grow older, so do their children. By the movie’s end, Tony Stark’s funeral has plenty of MCU classics in attendance, including, but not limited to the teenage version of Iron Man 3’s Harley Keener, Peter Parker, Shuri, and the children of Ant-Man and Hawkeye. In short, who would not want a Young Avengers game? Reintroducing these characters to a gaming audience through a fresh lens could be a great way to connect to the already established MCU. Learning how to grow and use the powers alongside the young heroes could provide the perfect throughline for the game, too. In terms of story content, maybe “reassemble” refers to the Young Avengers reassembling the original team to takedown a greater threat[/spoiler].
Any way things go, many moons have come and gone since the initial trailer dropped. Every day that goes by without a proper announcement adds potential changes to that first (and so far only) trailer. “Reassembling” may not even play a role in the game at this point. Thankfully, Crystal Dynamics has kept its stance that it is still creating an Avengers game. Hopefully more details drop soon before the Marvel craze runs its course.