Love & Hate: Marvel Puzzle Quest
As I type this, I am… uh… obviously not treadmilling.
I mean, technically, I could be! Writing this AND treadmilling, I mean. It’s not impossible. My wife has affixed a board to our treadmill so she can work while she walks, but I can’t even imagine how ineffectual I would be at it. I’d either sweat all over my Mac or just make an endless stream of typos that I would be correcting (more than I already do somehow).
As it is, treadmilling and I have an uneasy alliance. I’m not someone who can exercise for exercise’s sake. I need pretty much ALL of the mass media surrounding me while I am on the machine so I am reminded as little as possible of what I am physically doing. My TV is on (either to watch wrestling or football, or to have Spotify playing), my cell phone is playing either music or a podcast, and I have to–HAVE TO–be gaming somehow. I don’t know whether it’s my abhorrent attention span or my even more pathetic lack of stamina, but if I’m not encompassed in the entertaining glow of my many technologies, my trips to Exerciseville are short-lived and unfulfilling.
For a long while, dating back to my previous apartment and when we owned an elliptical machine instead of a treadmill, the gaming point up there meant that I was playing Pokemon, usually online to battle against people the globe over. I’d put together my team and jump into a vast world of Triple and Multi Battles to test out my monsters against my fellow man. But I fell out of the online Pokemon community rather abruptly by not purchasing Sun or Moon when they came out. The rest of the community moved on, and the online realm of X and Y became a wasteland.
Fortunately, almost two years ago during a Dungeons & Dragons session, Andy introduced me to his then biggest craze, Marvel Puzzle Quest.
MPQ is essentially a snazzied-up version of the classic Bejeweled formula: there is a board full of brightly colored tiles, and you switch the tiles around to match at least three like colors in a row. The MARVEL aspect of all of this is that you build a three-character team of Marvel heroes and/or villains to battle against a team of the computer’s, and as you match the tiles away, you accumulate colors with which you can activate powers and whittle your opponent’s HP down to zero. BOOM! Take that, Thanos! You are no match for Vulture’s Hybrid-Tech Slicer!
Honestly, I had more-or-less blown MPQ off after Andy showed it to me. I downloaded it to humor him, but I had little desire to actually play some dumb matching game on my phone. As luck (?) would have it, though, very shortly after he showed me the game, I ended up in the hospital for a few days. With little else to do between tests and naps, I started poking at the colored shapes. And I haven’t stopped since.
Marvel Puzzle Quest has, if nothing else, been a mighty godsend to my desire/need to treadmill regularly because the game is nothing if not IMMENSELY TIME CONSUMING. There are two core modes: Versus (more commonly known as PVP, player vs player) and Story (more commonly known as PVE, player vs… ecstasy?). Both modes feature two non-mutually-exclusive methods by which you can accrue prizes; you can collect points to hit progression rewards as you play, and you can also gain a slew of rewards at once by having a high total placement (i.e., being in the top 10, 20 50, 100, etc of scorers) when the event ends. Blah blah blah, but if you play a lot, you get a lot. And Uncle Stew doesn’t half-ass shit, kids. If I’m doing something, I’m DOING IT, and PVE mode alone is a commitment of about an hour-plus per day over the course of doing your “initial” clears and then your “closing” clears later on. Either one of those sets of clears is about 30-50 minutes worth of work (depending on what storyline is running and which playable characters are boosted that week), and that is some quality treadmill time.
Oh. Oh, wait. I’m not actually writing this article alone. This is another of our wonderful blogcasts! And while I could keep going, that would shut Andy out entirely. So let’s toss it over to him, and I’ll be back in a bit…
Thanks, Stew. When I wanted to write a MPQ related blog, Stew was the obvious candidate given he and I were in the same “alliance” for over a year in the game, The good ol’ Yancy-St.Gang. Alliances, like in so many other games, are similar to guilds or squads or teams (call them what you will), but they are a group of players that band together to reap the rewards of playing constantly side by side. Day in and day out…week after week…repetitive month after repetitive month. If you haven’t guessed there’s going to be a theme for my portion of this review, and it’s not exactly positive.
In fact, at times the rest of my section might sound like an airing of grievances against MPQ and will hopefully go some way to explaining why despite being good friends with Stew and loving all things Marvel, I eventually threw in the towel and quit this time burglar of a game. But before I get to that, let me elaborate on my history with this game that my cousin JA Scott called the bastard child of Candy Crush and the MCU.
First off, I didn’t really come to the game willingly at first. I was somewhat silently strong-armed into it my older brother, Dave, who had discovered the game and was quite addicted when he introduced me to it. He wanted me to play because we had over the course of past several years been playing a wide variety of co op games together on the PS3 like Borderlands, Mass Effect 3, Red Dead Redemption, Diablo 3…y’know real video games. He saw this as an opportunity to play a comic book related game together that was cross platform and didn’t have to rely on us getting the newest system or something.
Plus, it was scratching a major itch for Dave as given he was a comic collector, the notion of earning mystery “cover” packs which could be then unwrapped to reveal some new Marvel character to add to his collection, was obviously tapping into the same reward center that he got from opening a new box of his monthly shipped comics. However, not only was the purpose to collect the new characters, but to get all of their unique combination of covers so you could get them to the magic number 13 and thus “champion” them, which not only meant that they were at maximum power in a fight, but they also started earning you rewards for every additional cover you got. Also, let’s face it, for a collector, getting your character to champion level was like completing that comic book run that you just needed one more issue to have the entire set. It could drive you to drink until you got it, especially with how random the entire process was to get the certain cover you needed was for a really long time. Seriously, it would keep you up at night.
And it did keep me up at night. And day. And Everything in between.
Yes, eventually got just as hooked as my brother Dave did, and would spend countless hours playing this game over and over again. Clearing the same damn boards over and over on the same damn PVE quests that were marched out in a never ending repetitive chain. You see I decided when I first started playing that I wasn’t going to pay a cent to buy any of the fast upgrade packs the game was hocking to help you level your characters faster. Nope, I was just going to play the game and play it a lot until I earned everything I got fair, square, and most importantly free. That meant I needed to find the most quick and efficient ways to clear boards quickly, which is I think where things first began to go south for me.
Initially I remember being excited to read the little bits of dialogue in between matches that were supposed to fill in some sort of story surrounding the game. That died quickly. Reading those took too much time, plus given it was the same story over and over again because you had to clear the node so many times in a row, it wasn’t worth it.
I was excited to see all the little animations that they would use when you made enough matches of a certain color to allow you to use a characters power. Nope, eventually those just got in the way of clearing the boards faster. Again sad really as some of them were pretty neat. I mean, check out this animation for my boy, Vision, below where he’s coming out of the game screen! Pretty nifty…but alas it just took up valuable seconds.
Then finally I was initially excited with all the new characters they would introduce for your stable. Earning them. Powering them up. All that jazz. Nope. Eventually that excitement too would fade, as you quickly realized there were a few really useful characters that would help you clear boards faster, and that everyone else was totally superfluous in comparison to them. Characters like the 3 star Dr. Strange, 4 Star Rocket & Groot etc. These were pretty much the only characters you needed and everyone else would only be wheeled out when the game pretty much forced you to play with them.
And that was the real death knell. You see eventually against the “better judgement” of so many other players who said it would ruin the game to do it, something like a year and a half after I started playing I had earned enough to champion my 5 Star Spider-man. I felt I had played long and hard to earn enough covers to actual champion one of the characters in the ultimate elite tier in the game. Not only that but, it was my favorite character of Spider-man. C’mon that’s a no brainer. This was my reward. A perfect capstone to all those hours playing. So I did. And in doing so I did ruin the game. But not for the reasons other players thought it would.
Most told me PVP would be a nightmare, and that I wouldn’t be able to earn anything further. No, that didn’t happen. The opposite did. With the 5 star Spidey teamed with the incredible damage buffing of 4 Star Grocket (that’s Rocket & Groot for non MPQers) and 4 Star Gamora, nothing in the game was unbeatable. PVE, PVP, whatever it was, I could walk in and crush, just with that team alone. And in that instant the entire rest of my 150 character deep roster became as meaningless to me as chocolate milk is to a Sequoia tree.
And then in quick succession the rest of the questions started rolling in. If the rest of my roster is meaningless, why should I spend time trying to champion them since I’m never going to use them? If I’m not trying to champion them, why do I care about earning covers by playing the same damn boards over and over and over and over again? If I don’t care earning covers, why the hell am I playing his game, when I could be playing real video games again, or better yet, working on the podcast, or writing these articles, or playing with my kids, or working out, or watching all those TV shows I’ve missed…or..or…GOD I WASTED SO MUCH GODDAMN TIME!
So I put down the game, and stopped playing. And I feel like I’m not the only one that’s played MPQ and did the same. For me, the biggest issue with MPQ is there’s actually not a lot of substance to this game. There aren’t many fun or unique story quests to play, and even if there are, you play them so many times that eventually you get sick of them. Most of the characters are useless for real day to day playing (don’t give me that shit where they are, you just have to get creative…that’s BS and you know it). The game ends up being all window dressing. A paper dragon you are constantly chasing until you realize you caught it just to have it crumble in your hands. It’s sad but its true.
And it’s not as if I didn’t give this game a fair chance. As I said I invested so much time into it that now that I’m on the outside finally, I feel somewhat cheated. That this game should have been better. That it should have spent more time crafting a meaningful game experience with good stories, interesting battles etc. than just forcing players to grind the same boards over and over again with the same characters all in some vain attempt to champion other characters that you’ll honestly never play with once you get them.
But I digress. As I said, some of my part of this article is just venting about my disappointment in a game that I did enjoy for so long, but ended up coming up short in the end. I’ll throw it back to Stew for some closing opinions.
Okay, first of all, Andy picked the worst photo that exists in the world of me for this article. Look at that. Look at it! That is a man who had sat through, like, 12 attempts at getting a decent group picture and whose smile had turned decidedly fake. But it was the only good picture Andy and Chad could take, so they chose it as a winner. Bastards.
ANYWAY, yeah. Andy is a real downer there. And his point is somewhat valid; Especially in PVE, I use virtually none of the characters I have collected and built up. In that mode, I use the aforementioned 4* Grocket, 4* Gamora, 3* Dr. Strange, 4* Medusa, and… little else. For me it’s less about how “fast” I need to clear PVE and more about how tedious and repetitive PVE is. When you are paying the same 10 nodes per day–and playing each of those nodes 7 times–that you have played dozens of times before, it’s a frustrating ordeal. So I use the characters that are best suited to just tear through that mode with little fuss or muss.
I will argue that in PVP, roster versatility is still the name of the game (at least as long as you are in the 3* or 4* tiers of the game… once you cross over to the 5* realm, you are definitely using the same 3-4 characters ad nauseam). I currently have almost 50 of the ~70 available four-star characters championed, and each week sees a new list of characters that are boosted. I am at the point where, because of this, the heroes and villains I use in PVP changes weekly, so I still feel a benefit to chasing and leveling up my characters! Not to mention there are occasional special events; as of this typing, the game just concluded a special PVP event where EVERY female character in the game was buffed, and I had a lot of fun with that! I’d switch from a team of Captain Marvel/America Chavez/Rogue to one of Jubilee/Jane Thor/Wasp to a unit of Mockingbird/Riri Williams/Jean Grey. Woo, look at all my toys!
I do like the game. I have found precious few video games I dig in my adulthood, but this… this I like. Hell, I downloaded the super mega ultra version of Skyrim for my PS4, and when I visited the new land that is part of the Dragonborn DLC, my brain basically went “No, this is different and strange; I don’t love this”. I also bought Fallout 4 the night I got the PS4; I got about 8-10 hours in and haven’t touched it since because it just feels like there is too much to do, haha. I have really embraced my old-man-itude! New music is scary! I don’t want to watch new TV shows when I can just watch Arrested Development again! Oh, but I don’t like the new seasons of that, either! EVERYTHING JUST BE MORE FAMILIAR!
Ah well. Treadmilling. That’s what it boils down to. I have an hour of time to kill every night in which I have to amuse myself, and these Dark Avengers aren’t defeating themselves! So you’ve still got me, Marvel Puzzle Quest! At least until I decide to just be fat[ter] and happy.
Or until you try to force me to advance to the 5* aspect of the game. Then I’ll probably just play Clash Royale more often.
Until next time… take care!