Marvel’s Midnight Suns is set to launch later this year (check out the latest Summer Game Fest trailer) after being delayed from its original spring release. The RPG superhero reimagines the events of the ’90s “Rise of the Midnight Sons” comic event by joining Marvel’s darkest occult heroes, such as Blade, Magik and Ghost Rider, with his heavy hitters like Iron Man , Captain Marvel and the newly revealed Spider-Man and Scarlet Witch. Players assume the role of the Hunter, an original customizable hero who serves as the key to eliminating their parent and the game’s villain: Lilith, the mother of all demons.
We recently took a trip to Firaxis to play a few hours of Midnight Suns to see how it fared since our cover story last year. After facing Lilith’s corrupted forces and battling Hydra, here are some important takeaways.
Card battle is fun and rewards creativity
Some may see Midnight Suns as “XCOM but Marvel”, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Firaxis describes the game as a turn-based role-playing adventure; the difference is that instead of selecting traditional commands, players use cards to launch attacks, activate skills, and trigger special moves.
Firaxis told us that it’s well aware that card mechanics carry negative baggage from people who dislike deckbuilders or associate them with microtransactions. While fair, the creators told us they chose the maps because they wanted to find a way to make every turn feel fresh and unpredictable. The only way to do this was to ensure that players wouldn’t have the same combination of abilities At each turn, a concept of card games lends itself well. Despite initial skepticism, I’m happy to report that it’s a great choice.
Executing powers is as easy as drawing and playing a card, and each character has unique traits that make team and deck building a fun exercise in strategy. Blade’s bleeding sword attacks have made him my favorite offensive hero. I found Doctor Strange’s support-based powers invaluable, such as his ability to increase the damage dealt by all cards in hand. As a fan of collectible card games, I liked to strategize on the best moves a hand offered, and thanks to the way the decks are structured, I always had an option. Individual hero decks sport eight cards and must contain a number of each card type and up to two copies of the same card, ensuring players have a balanced mix of options. It’s also useful to be able to redraw a card twice per turn, allowing you to drop abilities you may not be able to use at the moment.
I also dig into how combat encourages intelligent thinking by allowing players to combine the talents of a team. For example, Ghost Rider can create hellish pits that instantly KO enemies who fall into them. Magik, another favorite of mine, creates portals that can teleport enemies around the arena (including into hazards). Feeling sneaky, I placed Magik’s portal atop Ghost Rider’s literal Hell hole, allowing me to drop enemies in an instant one-way trip to a fiery death. I wasn’t sure this would work and was glad I was right. Despite its presentation, fans of RPGs and tactics should feel right at home with the action of Midnight Suns. If you like TCG, even better.
The environment is your secret weapon
Battlegrounds contain many destructible objects and hazards, and I quickly fell in love with using them to my advantage. Some attacks push enemies back or knock them in different directions. For example, the Hunter sports a whip that can knock opponents anywhere you aim. I soon realized that a large target is often another enemy, allowing me to kill two birds with one shot. A warehouse area has a hanging pallet of boxes that can crash into surrounding targets with a well-placed ranged attack. In addition to watching baddies crash through crates, weaponizing my surroundings allows me to get the most out of each map, as playing just one can lead to a chain reaction of additional damage if timed correctly.
The abbey has a lot to do
I spent a lot of time wandering around the Abbey, the headquarters of the Midnight Suns, between battles. The area offers an array of activities, large and small, which absorbed more of my attention than expected.
First, you can customize your room by hanging collectible paintings (scattered around the area) and buying furniture using in-game currency. This includes buying a comfy bed for your demon dog, Charlie , which you can totally stroke.
You can improve maps and train with your teammates outside in the yard. The Forge, where Tony Stark and Doctor Strange combine their talents to develop new toys for the team, is where you’ll earn new cards and conduct research projects. The Abbey operates on a day/night cycle, with some tasks requiring a full day or more. For example, you can send individual heroes on special missions to earn extra goodies, though that teammate won’t be available to fight for at least a day.
Collectibles include over 20 tarot cards themed around various heroes. I found cards based on Human Torch, Moon Knight and Cloak and Dagger. I also located elemental rods that unlock a particular puzzle and several locked chests that require keys. Luckily, the map automatically notes these chests so you can revisit them later.
Solving environmental puzzles, like paying homage to scattered statues, rewards extra gifts and secrets. The Abbey also has many closed areas that can only be opened by using exploration-based spells. A quick-select menu shows four ability slots, even though I only gained one during my session; a sort of forced push that opened doors bearing a corresponding symbol.
Although the Abbey has a slight gathering element, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like looking for lore notes, artifacts, or easter eggs. I was pleasantly surprised by his involvement and I want to see how the Suns house evolves.
You have to selectively build friendships
The Abbey’s most important activities are socializing with allies in what Firaxis calls the “Friendship System”. Similar to games like Mass Effect or Fire Emblem, the more fun you have with a character, the closer you’ll get. The easiest way to create favors is through dialogue. Choosing an answer that resonates positively with someone earns you a point in their favour. Saying the wrong thing has the opposite effect, and knowing your audience is key. Tony Stark might appreciate a sarcastic comment, but the more intransigent Blade might take offense. Positive or negative answers earn points for the Hunter’s respective light and dark skill trees, so there’s an incentive to be a fool if you want to get darker skills. Still, I found it hard to want to be anything other than an angel, because I feel like there are more benefits to having everyone like me, but I should do everything to be a nuisance to be sure.
Special meeting places offer the most substantial forms of relationship building. These events can take an entire evening, and multiple characters can be available to unwind at the same time. I spent a night playing video games with Robbie Reyes as he told me about his younger brother. You could spend another evening meditating with Magik. You can’t hang out with everyone in a day, and Firaxis told us that the adventure only has enough time for players to max out relationships with three or four heroes, so you’ll have to pick your favorites. Whether you form your inner circle solely based on your personality or your combat prowess is up to you. The Abbey even has clubs based on shared interests within the team (like a book club), but I couldn’t see that element in action. These interactions provide a light, sometimes humorous break from the action. I enjoyed how they let me see the human sides of these titans, which brings me to the next point.
The tone is lighter than you think
Despite its darker, heavy metal-inspired vibe, Midnight Suns retains Marvel’s signature sense of humor. Stylized Borderlands-esque title cards introduce characters (like that of a random Hydra soldier subtitled “Joined for the dental plane”). Heroes joke with each other on and especially off the battlefield. For example, Tony Stark and Doctor Strange humorously discuss the merits of technology over magic. There’s even a Twitter-like social media feed that the Suns communicate on, and topics can range from the current mission to an investigation into who’s using another teammate’s shower loofa. Not all jokes land, but the humor generally worked based on what I saw. Do not worry; it’s still not a total comedy. Midnight Suns gets serious when it needs to, so expect a similar balance to the average MCU movie.
It’s a long game
Firaxis told us that integrating Midnight Suns takes about 40 hours. However, those who want to dig up all the collectibles and secrets or spend as much time as possible getting to know their teammates should expect to put 50-60 hours into it.
You can create custom comic book covers
A small but surprising bonus is that players can create custom comic book covers after missions. Each comes with pre-made characters themed around the battle you just completed, but you’re free to change the background and titles, add various word bubbles, and more. I’m not sure what the purpose of this feature is other than to mess around for a laugh, but it’s a neat touch nonetheless.
Overall, I had a good time with Midnight Suns, and the delay seemed to have done the game well in terms of finishing. We can’t wait to experience the full adventure when the game launches on October 7 on PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC. Also, be sure to watch us battle Fallen Venom in our latest episode of New Gameplay Today.