Avengers: Endgame officially broke box office records with perfect timing for Team Ninja, just as Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order hit the shelves exclusively for Nintendo Switch. There has never been a bigger and better time to release anything to do with Marvel or The Avengers, and Nintendo was well placed when they took over the franchise rights from Activision. This is Team Ninja’s first attempt at the Marvel Ultimate Alliance series, and therefore there are noticeable differences to the previous two games. With a star-studded line-up of characters from all over the Marvel Universe, Thanos doesn’t stand a chance.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 plays out basically how you would expect it to. The game starts with the Guardians of the Galaxy team, though the core Avengers team of Iron Man, Hulk, Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Black Widow aren’t too far behind and it’s not long until your team starts to rapidly expand. With everyone from Spider-Man to Deadpool to Daredevil, there are surprises around every corner. Your team can have bonuses if you match them with certain criteria such as Avengers, all female, all flying, all strong, and the bonuses can prove to be very beneficial when taking on some of the more challenging enemies.
There is also a huge talent tree which takes the shape of six hexagons that you gradually unlock parts of using Alliance points. Upgrading your health, defense, strength, as well as some more focused abilities are key to surviving later in the game if you’re playing on the harder difficulty. Unlocking every part of a hexagon will reward you with an even better talent that will boost your team, though we found that one playthrough was barely enough to finish just one of the hexagons. It’s clear that Team Ninja is expecting people to put a lot of hours in to replaying the various missions and trials (that we’ll mention a bit later) in order to max out everything.
Teamwork plays a large role in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, as each superhero has four unique superpowers that are unlocked as you level up and can be upgraded to be even more powerful. Some superpowers work together to form a synergy attack which does massive damage. If you’re playing solo, it can be hard to time synergy attacks with other characters and some of the boss fights later in the game are definitely easier if you have 1-3 other people playing with you.
With almost 30 bosses throughout the Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 campaign, and almost just as many non-playable yet familiar Marvel non-playable characters, MUA3 never stops delivering content for Marvel fans. The bosses gradually get harder, however due to the Thanos storyline and his henchmen, the game ends with about 8 boss fights in a row which gets a little dull. The main story takes about 10-15 hours to complete and isn’t terribly hard on the harder difficulty. Once completing the game, you unlock Ultimate difficulty which is a lot tougher. Planning your team, maxing out the superheroes’ levels and skills, and using your synergy powers at the right time are all required on your second Ultimate playthrough.
Every now and then throughout the campaign you will come across an Infinity Rift which then becomes accessible from the main menu. Infinity Rifts are trials ranging from 1-5 minutes in length and require you to complete three different challenges to earn every unlockable item. As far as end-game content goes, the infinity rifts provide you with some good quick content to test out different characters. You can always replay one of the many story missions, but the rifts are a great way to jump in for some boss action without having to go through the rigmarole of the story.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 balances the characters’ powers evenly across the board which doesn’t make much sense. Every now and then you will find XP cubes which allow you to level up a character of your choice, and we used this to power-level Captain Marvel to make her truer to canon. It didn’t make sense to us that Captain Marvel could be weaker and hit for less than a Venom or a Wasp, but it’s entirely possible if that’s how you want to play the game. Perhaps a character as powerful as Captain Marvel should be a ring-in that you can only use for a few seconds to level the playing field when things are dire instead of making her a button-mashing drone.
Other than the Infinity Rifts, the only side content in the game are crates with useful items in them such as ability points, XP cubes or vanity items like artwork and music. Some of these crates are behind magic barriers that require a synergy attack to destroy which means you need to have the right characters to get access to them. This means you can’t 100% Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 on its first playthrough, though the crates are not essential. Team Ninja has promised DLC and we have already seen an announcement that two characters are joining the alliance, so hopefully we will get some more interesting side content over the coming months.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 looks and plays about as good as you would expect it to on the Switch. It has a cel-shaded art style which makes it look and play like it’s taken directly out of a comic book. It handles well in portable mode, and the battery comfortably lasted 4+ hours. All characters are instantly recognisable, though it helps that they have a classic comic-book style announced entry. Voice acting is done well with many actors voicing multiple characters. Nolan North for example voices Deadpool and Rocket Raccoon (and will be voicing Iron-Man in Marvel’s Avengers next year), while Liam O’Brien voices Black Bolt, Destroyer, Doctor Strange, Nightcrawler, Red Skull and more. It’s good to have solid voice acting throughout the game, though the dialogue only goes one-way as they couldn’t have every voice actor say the same lines for the player’s speech throughout the story.
Docked, the game hits full HD though can drop to 720p, while undocked it maxes out at 720p and can drop to as low as 540p. The framerate maxes out at 30FPS in both docked and portable, though does tend to drop more often in portable mode. Our biggest gripe with MUA3 however was the sluggish load times. Whether loading the next mission or trying to navigate through the menus to unlock new abilities, the game simply didn’t like to load as quickly as we expected it to on the Switch. This made the Infinity Rifts a tad annoying too as some of them only lasted for a minute, so you spend more time choosing and loading the trial than you spend playing it. Combining this with the fact that the framerate drops a bit in handheld mode when there’s a lot happening on-screen such as in boss fights, MUA3 could do with another good patch or two before releasing more DLC.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is a fantastic co-op game to present to anyone interested in seeing what the Nintendo Switch is capable of. Everyone has a favourite Marvel superhero, and in a matter of seconds you can get someone that may not usually play video games playing as the superhero they love, saving the universe from various enemies. Playing on a single Joycon in co-op mode worked well, though the ability to swap characters on the fly was not possible. The game looked good enough on a big screen when docked, and we’re excited to see what’s in store for future content in the months to come. If you’ve got a Nintendo Switch and you’ve been loving the Marvel movies and TV shows, it’s hard to find a reason to not add this game to your collection.
- The most ambitious crossover event in history - Fun and familiar story that constantly introduces characters - One of the best co-op Switch games available today.
- Timing the joint combat maneuvers can be difficult in single-player - Gets repetitive - Slow load times.