Of all the mashup genres, the platform brawler is probably the most contested at the moment. We’ve seen many attempts made to dethrone popular brawlers in recent years and while some are certainly better than others, they have all fallen short of that lofty goal. Cue the upcoming free-to-play Warner Bros MultiVersus, which, if I’m being honest, looked almost certainly poised to join the others in their distant runner-up status to me. To my surprise and delight though, after playing several hours and just about every possible match-up combination this alpha build currently allows, I have to say I am thoroughly impressed. With that in mind, here are the five biggest takeaways from the MultiVersus closed alpha.
Great Use of an Expansive Roster
The tonal disparity between Batman and Bugs Bunny might seem insurmountable for a mash up fighting game to make any sense of, but Player First Games has, through a consistent artstyle that nicely accommodates everyone, and smart use of their various personalities, made it all work. Despite a wildly diverse set of characters like Jake the Dog and Arya from Game of Thrones, each character is somehow able to shine in their own way, honoring the world’s they’re from while still defining this new one together. It really is a sight to behold seeing Taz fling Wonder Woman across the stage with his trademark tornado while Bugs Bunny and Harley Quinn see whose giant mallet will reign supreme. It’s completely ridiculous, yet still ends up one of the most compelling new fighting game rosters to emerge from the genre in some time.
These fights and the characters that populate them are greatly enhanced by the appropriately recognizable music arrangements and authentic voice actors, most if not all of which seem to be the talent known for portraying these characters today. Hearing Kevin Conroy’s iconic Batman voice sling those foreboding one-liners while Tom’s priceless screaming rings out as he’s batted off the stage to his death is guaranteed to put a smile on absolutely anyone’s face. Some of those audio samples are oddly over amplified for some reason and can sound a bit distorted as a result, but I can’t imagine that not getting fixed before the games official release.
A Familiar Combat System
Given how immediately familiar the game feels to play, the combat system has instant appeal. MultiVersus does pull the genre into a new direction just enough with its own twists like an emphasis on carefully timed dodges instead of blocking and more teamwork-centric abilities like shared perks that buff your teammate and different classes for the characters that complement each other in interesting ways. So far, I’m not often seeing these complimentary tactics used to the extent they are probably designed to be, as each person just doing their own thing seems to be about as effective as anything else, but the ability to create a tactical synergy together is a nice layer of potential depth nonetheless.
As you might expect, the combat itself is snappy, and is surprisingly well-balanced despite a few attacks – like Taz’s tornado – feeling a little OP. A team of two Taz players who know this are basically unstoppable. But the game does give you a fair chance to redeem yourself as rematches can be done as long as everyone agrees to it up until the best of three matches is determined. So, while it does functionally cling to the core tenants of the genre quite a bit, it does successfully ripen some of them at the same time with pretty consistently positive results.
Compelling Progression and Unlockables
It’s certainly true that some of the inner-workings of the game are being held back. Still yet, the systems we do see here are compelling and fun. There is a separate experience path for each character that awards perks, emotes, and alternate skins for them as you play them, as well as an overall experience bar that awards coins that can be spent to unlock characters. Plus, additional side goals to chip away at across all characters and modes that also result in rewards.
Long sessions with the game have stayed consistently engaging for me as I always seem to be getting something new from perks, costume variants, and/or enough money to bag a new character. Obviously, this will slow down as more and more of the game is unlocked, but with the variety provided in the matches themselves and all of the options within lobby settings as well as a surprisingly customizable UI, there’s clearly more than enough to keep players going long after they’ve maxed out their preferred fighters.
4 Main Modes
Each of your progression metrics can be contributed to consecutively as you play across the games 1v1, 2v2, PvE and free for all modes. The 2v2 is the star of the show though as it seems to integrate MuliVersus’ core ideas best with more characters on screen and more opportunities to work together. That teamwork is lost in the 1v1 mode, but that still creates its own sort of tension with nothing to fall back on but your own skills – or lack thereof. The co-op mode where you play against the AI wasn’t available when I was playing it, so the jury is still out on that.
Thankfully connectivity seems to be working well as I only found myself getting disconnected a couple of times throughout my multiple several-hour sessions. The only thing I’d like to see added to the experience is perhaps a more experimental mode that incentivizes that teamwork a bit more, as this could easily wind up being the game’s defining characteristic long-term. But as it is, the three main competitive modes as well as the PvE co-op mode feel like a fair amount of content for a game that costs exactly zero dollars to play.
A Free-to-Play Format
Under the hood we have a very similar format to most free to play games. Characters, perks, and cosmetics are unlockable with enough playtime, but with them being organized into different rarities, micro transactions will certainly play some role in the final version. Player First Games has said that they don’t want to monetize it to the point of it being pay-to-win, but with the monetization not currently being live, we can’t confirm or deny that beyond what they’ve said. Until we can, I sincerely hope Warner Brothers and Player First learn from the successes and failures of recent history and tread lightly in this regard.
All in all, it does appear that MultiVerses is unquestionably on track to be the most meaningful iteration of this genre to date. With a delightfully eclectic-yet synergistic roster of characters in a surprisingly fruitful marriage of platform fighting and free-to-play progression systems, Warner Brothers is definitely on to something special here. Provided the inevitable integration of the game’s monetization stays out of the magic’s way, I can easily see a dedicated community embracing MultiVerses right away, so hopefully Player First Games and Warner Bros are prepared to return the favor with the mindful long-term support it will need to truly go the distance.