Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a new title from Firaxis Games, promising a darker take on the Marvel franchise emphasizing strategy and planning. We recently compared it to Slay The Spire meets Mass Effect.
However, a more apt explanation of what Marvel’s Midnight Suns is about and how its deckbuilding strategy and relationship-building aspects come into play has to come from the developers themselves. On that note, we caught up with Jake Solomon, creative director at Firaxis Games for Marvel’s Midnight Suns, to talk more about what the game has in store for players. According to Jake:
“Marvel’s Midnight Suns is truly a dream project for me. My Marvel roots run deep – I am a huge fan of the comics and my favorite series was this run in the 90’s called the Rise of the Midnight Sons. So for me, developing this game with this story is particularly awesome.”
From XCOM to Midnight Suns
The comparison between XCOM and its sequels to Midnight Suns is inevitable, as both are tactical RPGs from Firaxis Games. Thankfully, Jake also designed XCOM: Enemy Unknown and was creative director on XCOM 2. He pointed out several key differences between both games:
“We have multiple difficulties in Marvel’s Midnight Suns so you’ll be able to turn up or down the challenge depending on what you’re looking for. We designed Marvel’s Midnight Suns to play faster than XCOM, both in the actions you take as well as the length of the missions, which some players might feel is easier. But we don’t sacrifice depth or complexity, as these are essential for making any good tactics game.”
Jake added, “On permadeath, we have a more traditional RPG experience where if all your heroes are defeated, you fail the mission and you have to restart. Permadeath was an important mechanic in XCOM, both narratively and thematically, but doesn’t fit what we’re trying to build in Marvel’s Midnight Suns.”
“The time limit in XCOM was something that made sense both narratively and mechanics-wise. Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a different type of game and thus has a different set of design goals and mechanics. Depending on the player, Marvel’s Midnight Suns will take about 40 to 60 hours to play through,” he explained.
The Marvel game also allows players to bond with the heroes. Jake added that “it’s pretty unlikely” to max out the friendship with all the characters in one play through. He also revealed the following regarding the difference in gameplay between both games:
“In XCOM, the combat reflected the premise of the game – you’re taking this group of rookie soldiers against a superior enemy, pushing your way forward with danger around every corner. In Marvel’s Midnight Suns – you are the danger; you are a Super Hero as the Hunter and you have legends like Iron Man and Captain Marvel on your side. We want the player to feel like awesome whenever they’re on the battlefield, and taking cover, missing a punch or growing from rookie to badass over the course of the game didn’t fit what we’re trying to create,” he shared.
“Another side to this is that with so many heroes of various strength and abilities, we needed to find a way that balanced everyone out. Because cards are randomly drawn, we can create awesome and powerful abilities right from the start. This way, you won’t have to level up and grind to unlock Iron Man’s arsenal – you’ve got it, but there’s no guarantee you can use those powers this immediate turn,” he added.
“In many ways, combat in Marvel’s Midnight Suns is the opposite of XCOM. In XCOM, you know exactly what you can do turn-by-turn, but you aren’t sure if it’s going to be successful. In Marvel’s Midnight Suns, you don’t know what the next hand will draw, but once you have the ability or power – it’s always going to work. Cards offer us a new and interesting way to present tactics to the player, and I’m excited for people to check it out.”
In Marvel’s Midnight Suns – you are the danger
– Jake Solomon
The main XCOM games relied heavily on players forming their strategy around aspects like cover, which obviously would seem weird in Marvel’s Midnight Suns. Jake further cemented the idea of combat being total opposite in both games by making a point about these mechanics:
In Marvel’s Midnight Suns, a lot of combat is about making you feel like a Super Hero and we designed our combat spaces and mechanics so that it feels like a playground. We don’t have verticality or cover in Marvel’s Midnight Suns, because our heroes don’t miss or worry about taking cover. And because they’re so strong, you shouldn’t be scared of one or two soldiers.
So instead of progressing through the map and inching your way forward, the bad guys are trapped on the battlefield with you. There’s lots of them and using your random selection of abilities, you have to figure out how to maximize the amount of damage you do and minimize the amount of damage you take. We do this by presenting the player different types of enemies – there’s minions, who get defeated by any damage they take, as well as elite enemies who have health bars.
Assembling the Avengers (and more)
The Avengers, X-Men, and Runaways are amongst the allies and teammates players get to befriend with as the Hunter, the game’s customisable player character. Jake revealed more about the Hunter’s role in the game and how the other playable characters were chosen:
“The Hunter will be required for the main story missions, but you’ll be able to pick squads without the Hunter for optional missions. The way we set it up is that at the War Room, you’ll be able to select from a set of missions to go on. There’s the main mission, which the Hunter is always a part of, but there’s also optional missions that require a different hero. For those optional missions, you don’t need to bring the Hunter and can select from any of the unlocked heroes you have,” he said.
“Figuring out who to be on our roster of heroes was one of the hardest decisions to make in Marvel’s Midnight Suns, but we’re really proud and excited on where we landed. We intentionally chose heroes from across the Marvel universe – the Avengers, Runaways, X-Men and more – and one of our story themes is this clash of old and new. That’s why you see characters like Captain America, Iron Man, and Captain Marvel – the Avengers are used to dealing with apocalyptic threats, but they’re out of their depth when it comes to the supernatural. Meanwhile the younger Midnight Suns heroes – Blade, Magik, Ghost Rider and Nico Minoru – they’re used to the supernatural but still need to earn their way to take on threats of this magnitude. As the Hunter, your role is to sort of bridge the two together.”
He also added, “Throughout the game, you’re going to need resources when it comes to upgrading your abilities, facilities in the Abbey, and more. Missions offer specific types of rewards – you’ll need credits for improving the Forge, so you should find a mission that offers credits as an award. Each mission has a required hero that you need to take, so this is one way we encourage players to play at least a little bit with each hero. Also, the more you take a certain hero into combat, the more you put them at risk where they take too much damage and get Injured. Heroes that are Injured can still be used in combat, but they’ll have some type of debuff – they might start a fight with less total health, for example. Also – in the Abbey, there’s times where the heroes themselves will ask you to take them into battle and you’ll get rewarded if you do so.”
When asked whether we could add villains into our team, this is what he said:
“Unfortunately for the Hunter, only Lilith has the ability to fully bind her enemies to her cause!”
We just hope that the game will do well enough that Jake and his team would consider adding Magneto in the future as DLC—fingers crossed.
Cards and Combat – Implementing strategy into Midnight Suns
Marvel’s Midnight Suns adopts a more strategy-oriented approach, with cards and deckbuilding as a big part of gameplay. Jake was kind enough to elaborate further on the card mechanics in the game.
“You control up to three heroes, each with a unique deck of their own. Decks are comprised of eight total cards that you can switch out abilities when you’re out of combat. You can have copies of the same card to increase your chance of drawing that card, and also to tailor the playstyle of that character to fit your needs. It’s entirely possible to make a Captain America who is very defensive or very offensive.”
He added, “This is one of the benefits of being able to use cards as a way to represent abilities – you can customize your deck and thus shift a character’s playstyle. The Hunter is the most flexible in terms of being able to switch it up, while the other heroes have certain traits or abilities that make them feel unique. For example, Ghost Rider does an enormous amount of damage, but his abilities often incur a cost to himself. Nico Minoru has powerful support and debuff abilities, but also has extremely powerful spells that are unpredictable and require some set up to truly draw out their potential. However, these traits don’t restrict you from making these characters more offensive or defensive, or better at generating Heroism or burning through it with powerful abilities.”
Jake also mentioned, “You only have three card plays, but the battle system has a lot of flexibility where some abilities refund a card play on KO, some give you extra card plays the next turn, and you also have things like the ability to redraw to give yourself something more favorable. Layer all of this with Heroism, which is the resource you need to pull of your strongest attacks as well as utilize the environment, such as throwing boxes or blowing up canisters. Using the environment doesn’t require any card plays, but using up Heroism means you have less ways to use your Heroic abilities.
All in all, it’s a really deep and interesting system and I’m excited to see the different types of strategies and combos players figure out. Just because you have three card plays per turn, doesn’t mean you’ll only do three actions. Abilities that have the Quick attribute will refund a card play on KO, which is very useful for clearing out weaker minions. You’ll have cards that grant you more card plays the next turn, or some cards that don’t use up card plays at all. Suffice to say there is a lot of depth to the system and many ways for the player to “break” the rules, so to speak,” he added.
In addition, we asked him if it was possible to skip attack animations, to which he responded with:
“You can’t skip the animations for the attacks, but Marvel’s Midnight Suns is designed to play fast.”
Incorporating the Marvel universe
Marvel is massive—Midnight Suns is practically an infant compared to the long legacy of some of the heroes added to the game. This would mean that Firaxis would be getting new fans, some of whom may be familiar with the comics while many would be accustomed to the films of the MCU. This is what Jake had to say to Marvel fans:
“If you were already a fan of any of the heroes in the Marvel’s Midnight Suns roster, there’s going to be a lot to look forward to in the game. Expect callbacks, expect easter eggs, and expect new things too. We will have suits and outfits that take inspiration from Marvel as a whole, sure to delight any Marvel fan!”
He continued, “I think this is a great time to be a Marvel fan, whether you like the movies, the TV shows, the comics or the video games. I’m really excited for players to meet some new characters in Marvel’s Midnight Suns that they may not be familiar with, like my favorite super hero Magik! – but also to see some of those familiar faces in unfamiliar territory, like Iron Man in a spooky mansion or Captain America punching some demons. It’s going to be an awesome adventure.”
Jake’s insight into Marvel’s Midnight Suns really made us feel hyped for what Firaxis Games has in store for us and the players. Thank you, Jake for revealing these details to us and our readers. We wish you and your team all the best!
Marvel’s Midnight Suns releases in March 2022 for PC, Xbox One, Xbox Series X | S, PS4, PS5 and Switch.
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