THE Multiversus closed alpha is coming to a close tomorrow – and I was lucky enough to get a code. I’ve been playing the game every day for about a week, and I’ve had a lot of fun messing with what the game has to offer. The closed alpha has seen incredibly high activity, with people begging for codes like their lives depended on it.
As always with any new, high profile release of any kind, the golden question remains: is it worth the hype? Well – I’ve put on my reviewer shoes to try and figure that out.
A New Fighting Game Frontier
So, for context, Multiversus is Warner Brothers’ attempt at breaking into the crossover platform fighter market. At first, this was a market almost entirely controlled by Super Smash Bros. – Nintendo’s flagship crossover, and currently the best selling fighting game of all time. A celebration of gaming history, Smash has seen longstanding success. To this day, the game remains the face of the platform fighter sub-genre.
However, this somewhat niche genre has been getting some new entries. Last year we saw the release of Nickelodeon All Star Brawl – a crossover in a similar vein to Super Smash Bros. that crossed over various IP’s owned by Nickelodeon. Spongebob, the Ninja Turtles and Garfield would come together to fight in the game. Despite not seeing as much popularity as Super Smash Bros, the game does have a devoted competitive scene and is still receiving updates from the developers.
There have also been attempts at platform fighters that forgo the crossover element in favor of a gameplay focus. Rivals of Aether has seen a lot of success amongst fans of the genre. Brawlhalla, a free-to-play platform fighter, has also seen a lot of success – although, it has leaned more into crossover elements with time.
This is the world that Multiversus wants to break into. A niche genre with a potentially massive audience. Warner Brothers’ seems to understand this, and have already invested $100,000 dollars into a prize pool at EVO – the world’s biggest fighting game tournament. This game doesn’t just want to be a participant in this emerging genre. It’s going for the crown jewels.
Multiversus Of Madness
Understanding that context, Multiversus has a lot to prove. Can it become the new face of this breakout genre, or is it another attempt to cash in?
Well, to start, it’s important to cover the general feel of the game. Multiversus begins with a basic tutorial that showcases the main mechanics of the game. It’s mostly basic, showing how the movement options work, what button does what, etc – but I found it effective enough. Two things instantly caught my eye. Firstly, the game is incredibly floaty. Most of the time, combat is done in the air. This is a result of an abundance of aerial options. Two air-dodges, two specials, an infinite amount of normals as well as a very quick fast-fall means that aerial movement becomes the name of the game.
Second of all, I was surprised by just how simple combat ended up being. Each character has around eight normals, with about six or seven specials each. Each normal is chargeable, unless you hold forward – which results in a basic multi-hit combo. This makes normal usage very basic. Charge a normal up, pick a direction and the character you hit will go that way. Specials are more complex, with some characters having in-depth gimmicks. Tom and Jerry, for instance, has you control two characters at once. However, most characters do not have incredibly complex gimmicks. Your average Multiversus character can be understood without even going to training mode once.
Character movesets, on the other hand, feel very unique and creative. I played a lot of Superman in this closed alpha, and I was worried that the developers wouldn’t be able to capture the simple wonder that the character is known for. However, I was very wrong. Superman flies around with strength, and throws people around like they are nothing. His laser eyes are fun tools to work with and his super-speed is felt with his fast air-dodges. The design felt true to the character in every way. When I dabbled with Batman and Bugs Bunny, I also found their designs to be similarly effective. Every moveset feels like it was made with love and respect given to each character – which is refreshing.
The presentation of Multiversus is very appealing. Each character has wonderful character design that harkens back to their most iconic appearances. The stages are instantly recognisable, with iconic songs such as the classic 1989 Batman theme accompanying them. The HUD, on the other hand, is a disappointment. It looks very generic, and lacks the personality that the characters themselves have. It is customisable to some degree – but no customisation can save it from looking like a rejected Fortnite menu.
Make It Double
There is a 1v1 mode in this game – but it isn’t really the focus. The game is balanced around 2v2 combat. Playing with a friend is more interesting than dueling, and each character’s moveset has “supportive” options that can be used to help out a teammate in combat. This gives the game a unique angle that most other platform fighters don’t take advantage of. The frantic nature of doubles combat works well in this game, but there is a serious lack of visual clarity. It is easy to lose your character, and that means the game often devolves into aimless mashing in the general direction of your opponent. The limited combat options mentioned early contribute to this as well. It becomes so tempting to just mash whatever options you have until they start working.
Before a match begins, the game asks you to select “perks.” These perks are unlocked through playtime, and give you and your teammate certain boosts. I really dislike this system. I think perks promote an unhealthy relationship with the game – rewarding grinding in a way that is very uncharacteristic for a fighting game. Grinding out a fighting game usually means practicing techniques, combos and training the mental aspect of competition – not just sitting and playing games on repeat to unlock new perks.
The perk system also presents problems for smaller, local competitive scenes. These scenes rely on competitors bringing in their own setups to play on. It simply is not a reasonable expectation that every single setup has every single available perk on every single character. As the roster gets bigger, this borders on impossible. There is no local play in this closed alpha – but I hope that this concern is addressed in the future should it be added.
I also had problems with performance on the PC. I had semi-regular crashes, as well as in-game freezing and controller disconnects. Sometimes games would simply not load. If this game is to be competitively played online, these optimisation issues have to be fixed before launch.
Multiversus’ closed alpha is really engaging and fun for what is there. The combat feels good – and each character feels unique and fun to work with. I’ve really enjoyed playing this game with my friends over the last week or so, and I hope that the developers continue to iron out the little problems with the game.
I think that if the developers are willing to continue supporting this game (which they seem set to) – we could be looking at another serious contender from a big brand in this emerging crossover platform fighter genre. With the big pull of characters like Batman, Superman and Bugs Bunny, it’s hard to imagine just how big of an audience this game could get. With the new, mostly unobtrusive free-to-play model at hand as well – this game is primed to pull a massive audience. I am very excited to see what will change by the release of the open beta in July – and I am even more excited to see what changes the developers will make next.
P.S – Please buff Batman!