Marvel’s Midnight Suns PS5 Review. The XCOM and Civilisation developer takes on the might of the Marvel universe with an epic RPG that builds on the best of both worlds. Find out just how successfully Firaxis shuffles the deck with our Marvel’s Midnight Suns review for PS5.
In Midnight Suns, the world is in peril once more when the nefarious Hydra decides to resurrect a demonic force known as Lilith, who then sets about enslaving the organisation to further her own goals of releasing the ancient God Cthon. She also manages to brainwash a series of Marvel heroes and villains, turning them into beefed up demonic versions of themselves.
This world-threatening event brings together The Avengers, such as Iron Man and Captain America, and the Midnight Suns, who consist of a magic and supernatural-based heroes such as Blade, Magik, and Ghost Rider. But they need someone to unite them.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns Review (PS5) – Firaxis Works its Magic on the Marvel Universe
Marvel Superheroes Come Together For Turn-Based RPG Card Battles
This is where the player comes in. Midnight Suns sees the creation of an entirely new character in the Marvel universe known as The Hunter. This character, who can be customised to look like the kind of hero you want them to be, is the warrior offspring of Lilith. They defeated their mother three centuries earlier before both ended up taking a nice long nap in a stone bed. Having been resurrected by their surrogate mother and keeper of the Midnight Suns, Caretaker, it’s up to them to lead a fractured team of heroes in a war against demonkind.
Going into Midnight Suns it was clear it would be a bit of a departure from the kind of Marvel games we’ve had in recent years (well, except maybe Marvel Snap) and from the kind of game Firaxis usually makes. The initial reveal screamed ‘XCOM but Marvel’ and that turned out not to be quite the case.
Instead this is a turn-based RPG with a card-based battle system. There’s plenty of XCOM D.N.A. bubbling under the surface of this combo, and it starts to boil over as you get deeper into this 60-hour saga. The meat of it though, is refreshing.
The RPG side of things manifests itself in a hub world known as The Abbey. This floating church in a pocket dimension is the sanctuary of the Midnight Suns, and acts as base of operations for launching assaults on Hydra and Lilith’s demonic forces. Each day in The Abbey offers up activities outside the mission you choose to go on that day. It’s structured in a similar manner to Persona 5’s passage of time, with a mixture of social and tactical interactions on a daily basis, but limited to a certain amount of ‘moves’ per day.
This can involve sparring with your teammates to train both of you up for the battles to come or researching artifacts to help build vital kit around The Abbey. There’s also places to explore on the grounds with items to unearth throughout the grounds. Yet the crux of Midnight Suns’ hub world is hanging out with your teammates.
Hang Out With Your Favourite Superheroes
The slightly absurd idea of joining a book club started by Blade, having a drink with Spider-Man, or watching trashy movies with former Runaway Nico, is made fresh here and surprisingly effective at building up an attachment to these heroes beyond what we already know about them. You can usually hang out with one teammate per day and if you choose the most appropriate activity (and maybe have an equally appropriate gift to hand) you can not only boost your friendship with them, but make you both stronger. Each character has their own personal story that helps give weight to the overarching tale, and yes, you will find yourself picking favorites.
For me, while the dazzle of hanging out with established Avengers is cool, it’s the relatively young Midnight Suns that shine brightest. Mentor Blade is easily the most nuanced take on the character seen on screen in a long time. He’s surly, badass, and also a protective father figure to the younger members. Magik, Robbie Reyes (Ghost Rider), and Nico Minoru bring a fresh perspective to proceedings.
They’re belittled and pushed aside by the senior heores despite being better versed in the kind of magic-based danger Lilith brings to the table, but they hold the keys to Midnight Suns’ best stories. Consequently, they were easily among my favorite characters to interact with. No mean feat in a game that features Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Scarlet Witch, Wolverine, and Captain’s America and Marvel.
It’s up to you who you hang out with most, and while there’s a fawning adoration for The Hunter’s reputation regardless, there’s the opportunity for hostility and bickering as clashing ideas, ideals, and plans are put forward. There’s a lot of writing and voice work here, and it’s probably the most accurate representation of how a comic book adaptation should read and sound. There’s an inherent goofiness that underpins the tragedy and darkness of the world-ending drama going on.
It’s balanced beautifully, and I constantly felt the desire to learn more about where the stories being told were going. It’s the Marvel video game equivalent of a comic book saga omnibus you can’t stop reading. That’s perhaps the highest compliment I could pay Midnight Suns because it’s what’s been missing up to this point in Marvel games.
Then there’s the battling side of things. I must admit I felt a fairly large twinge of disappointment when it was announced the combat would be card-based. It’s not something I’m especially fond of as game mechanics go, but Firaxis has long had a knack for teaching me to love something I’m not generally interested in.
Card Battles Are Pleasantly Surprising And Full Of Tactical Depth
You could say the combat encounters are the simplification of XCOM’s toolset, but I’d say they are on par for tactical depth when you really get to grips with Midnight Suns’ rulesets. You get three card plays per round and are dealt random cards from the decks you’ve built for each character in your three-person squad. Some cards, such as big attacks, will cost action points that can be earned by playing cards that add them to your total.
At first this makes for a tricky balancing act as you strive to make the most out of your miniscule number of plays, but as time goes by, more ways to get the most out of a turn reveal themselves as you can spend action points on environmental attacks that don’t cost a card. So, maybe you can knock an enemy into an explosive barrel or kick a crate at them.
As the game progresses, more cards can be found for every character in the roster and existing ones can be upgraded by combining duplicates, adding new wrinkles on the effects of them. There’s also a selection of cards you can take into battle that offer free one-off bonuses such as extra card draws or bleed damage.
The trick of the combat is in maximizing the effect of every card and move available to you. That can be achieved by putting attacks together via effects such as knockback where a hero knocks a baddie into another for the potential to take out two dirty birds with one superpowered stone. It can also help to have cards and latent abilities that can offer up things such as refunded card plays, chain strikes, and area of effect. Everything is on the front foot in battle, with your team eschewing cover and getting hit a given, so Midnight Suns’ combat is the embodiment of the phrase ‘the best defense is a good offense’.
The battles hold so many variables and uncertainties that it never got old lining up goons to boot into an explosive fissure or launching debris at their heads. While the deadly nature of XCOM’s combat made for despair-inducing drama, the safer approach of Midnight Suns isn’t without drama and tension. Instead of being killed, heroes are downed, with two shots at reviving them per mission. Let the heroes get too battered and they incur injuries that hamper their abilities for a couple of in-game days, effectively shelving them in a similar manner to XCOM’s injury system. You may not be able to lose heroes permanently, but your faves can end up out of commission just when you need them most.
I ended up very pleasantly surprised by the combat, and feel a bit daft for doubting Firaxis on that front. This game is absolutely a departure from one that I adore in XCOM, but so much of what appeals to me about those games is still present in Midnight Suns. Just in a more evolved manner. The way you can research and expand The Abbey grows increasingly similar to the way you upgrade the Avenger mobile HQ in XCOM 2, and it’s great to see the aesthetics change as the upgrades you apply are implemented. There’s a real effort to make you feel like an involved part of the Marvel universe on so many levels.
A Great Marvel Game Marred By A Troublesome Bug
Alas, there’s a villain in this piece. Nearly 40 hours into the game, a bug occurred during a hero ops assignment (hands-off missions you send heroes off to do for rewards) where no character was assigned but the mission went ahead anyway. The issue caused by this was that the game not only had its brains scrambled by this glitch to the point it crashed every time I tried to access the results of the hero op, it also locked me out of a character I’d eventually need for specific missions later. I had to trawl back through hours of gameplay to get back to the point I was at.
That coupled with a bunch of smaller visual bugs and the feeling the game was suffering under the weight of its own data the deeper I got, greatly soured an otherwise fantastic experience. It’s not the first time either, as the PS4 version of XCOM 2 had an even more acute variant of these issues alongside hefty slowdown. Midnight Suns generally moves along a lot smoother, but it’s disappointing have trouble with the game in this manner.
It speaks to the overall quality of Midnight Suns that I persevered anyway. It draws together the best bits of some of my favorite things and creates one of my favorite games of this generation. Hopefully some bug-squashing will paint it in a better light in future, and I’m genuinely intrigued how the DLC characters planned will be integrated into this already chunky story. Firaxis got the most it could from the license and made the deepest, most interesting Marvel game to date.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is now available for PS5, PC and Xbox Series X/S.
Review code kindly provided by publisher.