Marvel’s Midnight Suns interview – XCOM meets Marvel meets Persona
The rumours of an XCOM style Marvel strategy game by Firaxis Games are true and GameCentral has already spoken to the creative director.
Despite what you might imagine, having the rights to make a Marvel video game is not a licence to print money. Although Square Enix’s Avengers game is the most high profile failure the only ones that have been major hits have been Sony’s Spider-Man games and the Lego titles.
Not that there have actually been that many Marvel games, especially on consoles, but joining their number is the much rumoured new game from XCOM creators Firaxis Studios, revealed at Gamescom to be called Marvel’s Midnight Suns.
There’s been no gameplay footage so far, but we were allowed a short chat with creative director Jake Solomon, who was director on XCOM 2 and is now heading up what is already one of our most anticipated games of next year – and we haven’t even seen the gameplay yet.
First things first, though, the Midnight Sons are a superhero group made up of supernatural characters that dates back to the early 90s. But that’s not quite what this is about.
Why exactly the game is called Midnight Suns hasn’t been revealed but it’s probably to signify that the game is similar in concept to the comics but not technically the same thing – which you can see immediately because it has several Avengers in it.
There are going to be 13 heroes in the game, although only 10 have been confirmed so far (Solomon exclusively revealed to us that Squirrel Girl is not one of the secret ones). Three of these are ordinary, non-magical Avengers, namely Iron Man, Captain America, and Captain Marvel. Wolverine is, obviously, part of the X-Men, but again he’s not magical – but is occasionally an Avenger.
On the supernatural side of things you’ve got Doctor Strange, Blade, and the Robbie Reyes version of Ghost Rider, all of who have appeared in movies or TV shows. Technically Nico Minoru has been in the Runaways TV show, but we can’t pretend to have ever seen that, and we’ve also never heard of Magik before – although apparently she’s also from the X-Men.
The one character no-one has ever heard of before is the Hunter, for the very good reason that they’re a custom character that you can design yourself, in terms of both appearance and abilities, and who becomes your avatar in the game.
We weren’t told much more about the plot than what you can discern from the trailer, but it involves Hydra waking up Lilith, the Mother of all Demons (and of the Hunter), who in turn wants to summon Lovecraftian style Elder God Chthon.
The game is described as a ‘tactics RPG’ but while no gameplay footage is going to be shown until next week we were able to tease a few details out of Solomon.
‘There’s two sides to this game, one side is the combat where you’re fighting alongside these Marvel heroes and it’s tactical turn-based combat. But the other important side of the game is living alongside these heroes in your headquarters’, says Solomon.
‘And so after combat you always come back to the Abbey, which is this new superhero headquarters that we created with Marvel. And the idea is that you hang out with the heroes and you choose which heroes to develop relationships with, because relationships in our game is how you allow the potential of the heroes in combat’.
The Abbey at first sounds analogous to the strategy level base building from XCOM but while there is an element of that to Midnight Suns you get to explore the Abbey in real-time from a third person view, with what sounds like social elements similar to Persona.
‘Since we have so many Marvel heroes’, says Solomon. ‘The player has to choose which heroes they’re going to invest in and develop relationships with. And you do that through lots of different things, like talking to them throughout the day.
‘After combat, you choose whoever you want to hang out with. So Dr Strange might want to read a book or meditate, Captain Marvel may want to lift weights or Robbie may want to play video games. When you’re doing those activities, you get to choose dialogue choices, you’ve got to give them gifts, you’ve got to join the right clubs around the Abbey, so it’s a very social space.’
According to Solomon it was Marvel that reached out to Firaxis because they’re fans of XCOM, with one executive vice president offering ‘very pointed feedback’ on the final mission of XCOM 2. That goes some way to explaining the unusual match-up but Solomon is adamant that Midnight Suns won’t be accused of being a dumbed down version of XCOM, even though there’s no permadeath.
‘Combat is very, very different [to XCOM] even though you’re still scratching the same itch. It’s turn-based tactics, it is three heroes in combat against a bunch of enemies but the mechanics are 100% different. There’s no, holdover from XCOM in terms of the actual fundamental mechanics of how you fight enemies’, says Solomon.
‘The abilities are much more specific. If you think of XCOM, the abilities are kind of generic, it’s like ‘do this attack’, ‘do this much damage’. The abilities in Midnight Suns are very specific in terms of there’s a right way to use each ability. So ‘do this damage and also this effect occurs’.
‘There’s a lot of sequencing of abilities, there’s a lot of positioning tied to abilities. And then there’s this concept of heroism where you’re building up this resource that you can use. And so it is… I assure you that that [being accused of being dumbed down] is not something that concerns me once we can show people the gameplay.’
Solomon’s enthusiasm alone is encouraging but you won’t have long to wait to see the gameplay in action, as publisher 2K are planning a world premiere on Wednesday, September 1 at 7.30pm BST.
The game itself is due for released in March 2022, for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 5, and PC.
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