What to Expect from the AVENGERS Video Game by Square Enix

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September’s Spider-Man game on PlayStation 4 exceeded expectations critically and commercially, and even we at The Beat can’t stop talking about it. But Marvel Entertainment also has another title in the works, simply titled The Avengers Project. Here’s a short trailer originally released way back on January 26, 2017

That isn’t a lot to work with on its own, but there’s more than the teaser trailer to consider when trying to discern what to expect from this AAA, big-budget Avengers game. We go deep into the think tank, and if you want to join us then keep reading.

Details About the Development

The Avengers Project is the latest in a recent initiative driven by former Marvel Comics editor Bill Rosemann and now the executive creative developer for Marvel Games, with the straightforward goal of finding great developers to play with their iconic characters. The initiative started with the revival of Marvel vs. Capcom, the Guardians of the Galaxy TellTale series, and, most recently, the critically acclaimed Spider-Man for PlayStation 4. The Avengers title is currently the announced only game in Marvel’s initiative still awaiting release. Details are sparse right now, but here’s what we can tell you.

About The Developer

The studio behind the upcoming Avengers game is Crystal Dynamics, a subset of Square Enix. Readers with some knowledge of video games are most likely to be familiar with Square Enix for its Japanese role-playing games (JRPGs) including Kingdom Hearts and the Final Fantasy series. But Crystal Dynamics is an American video game developer and the Avengers game is being made in Montréal, an ocean away from the studios behind those titles, 

Crystal Dynamics rose to prominence with its Gex the Gecko platforming trilogy and the action-adventure Legend of Kain series. Square Enix offered them the Tomb Raider series after Core Design’s later entries failed to sustain interest in the franchise. Crystal’s first game in the series was Tomb Raider Legends in 2006, but it was the 2013 reboot, simply titled Tomb Raider, that achieved critical acclaim and turned Crystal into a high-profile developer. That and its sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider, are almost definitely what caught Marvel’s interest in the studio.

What We Know

Aside from the brief and mysterious teaser trailer, most of our knowledge about the game comes from what’s mentioned in the announcement:

Marvel Entertainment and SQUARE ENIX® have announced a new multi-year, multi-game licensing agreement to develop and publish original games based on beloved Marvel Super Heroes, beginning with The Avengers. This newly established partnership pairs the creative minds at Marvel and Square Enix for one of the most powerful alliances in interactive entertainment. The first blockbuster game is being crafted by Crystal Dynamics®, developers of the award winning TOMB RAIDER® series, in collaboration with Eidos-Montréal, the home of the critically acclaimed and award-winning DEUS EX game series.

The Avengers project is being designed for gamers worldwide and will be packed with all the characters, environments, and iconic moments that have thrilled longtime fans of the franchise. Featuring a completely original story, it will introduce a universe gamers can play in for years to come.

The “multi-year, multi-game licensing agreement” mentioned likely refers to Marvel Entertainment’s licensing plans in general, not specifically pertaining to The Avengers Project. So don’t look at the statement as a guarantee for an Avengers sequel, though if sales are good Marvel’s not known for leaving money on the table.

A lot of the statement is marketing speak, but it’s interesting that Crystal Dynamics is partnering with Eidos-Montréal, the studio behind the Deus Ex series. That and information we learn later illustrate that everyone understands what a big undertaking making a high-quality Avengers game is, and might even hint at what kind of gameplay we’ll see in the finished product.

What the Trailer Tells Us

The “Avengers Project Announcement Trailer” is a scant 51 seconds, and only contains 32 seconds of actual content that isn’t logos or hashtags. But you can still make a lot of educated guesses from what there is to see.

The Game has Four (or More?) Playable Characters

The trailer clearly shows the shattered remains of Hulk, Thor, Captain America, and  Iron Man. Each hero receiving their own moment in the cinematic hints that we’ll get to play as each of them individually. Chances are you’ll either experience the story of how they reached the disaster teased in the trailer or, more likely, follow what happens next.

There’s nothing to specifically indicate there aren’t additional characters you can play as, but I doubt you’ll see a fifth playable character until the release of DLC, if ever. The last two games Crystal Dynamics developed were Tomb Raider and Rise of the Tomb Raider, titles in which you can only play as Lara Croft. Developing four characters with gameplay as fluid as hers is a big enough challenge. The shift to four playable characters might even be the reason we haven’t heard more about the game in the almost two years since the announcement and four years after Crystal Dynamics finished development on Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Expect Separate Storylines

The word to watch in the trailer is REASSEMBLE. Square Enix even wants it to be a trending hashtag.

Sony and Insomniac’s Spider-Man on PlayStation showed that Marvel is willing to tell stories that don’t align with the movies. Based on the destruction in the trailer and the remains of the heroes spotlighted, it’s safe to assume that the group has disbanded and the story will be about them coming together or, in other words, reassembling. Each hero receiving their own moment in the cinematic hints we’ll get to play as them individually. At some point in the narrative, when the character’s storylines intersect, the Avengers will ultimately reunite team up against a big threat none can take down on their own.

Separate storylines make a lot of sense because controlling four distinct characters in real-time combat is incredibly difficult for both designers and players. Also, as mentioned previously, it could explain why we haven’t heard more about the game since Crystal has to fine-tune gameplay for four characters with very different power sets.

Prepare for Amazing Cutscenes

Crystal Dynamics proved with its most recent Tomb Raider titles that they can create incredible cinematics with impactful writing and beautiful, lifelike animation. The Tomb Raider reboot contained over two hours of cutscenes, more footage than the average film, so you can expect that much or more to appear in the Avengers game. The visuals in the trailer are beautiful, and it will be exciting to see Avengers like Iron Man and Captain America interacting and emoting with the quality seen in the Tomb Raider games.

Enjoy a Compelling Narrative

Crystal’s last two Tomb Raider games have redefined what to expect from video game storytelling. The death scenes are genuinely haunting, and players still talk about the moment (SPOILER) Lara has to kill a deer to survive and hates herself for it. There aren’t many teams more suited to tell a rich story about beloved icons as a video game than Crystal Dynamics.

The trailer shows that the studio is telling an Avengers story that diverges from the movies and most comic book arcs. Taking place after an apocalyptic event gives the developers new ground to cover and lets them upend expectations we have for members of the Avengers and their supporting cast. After breathing so much life into Lara Croft, a protagonist whose most unique quality was her gender, they’ll to do wonders with characters like Captain America and Iron Man.

Crystal Dynamics at work on The Avengers Project

What We’ll Learn

There is, of course, plenty we still don’t know about The Avengers Project. Here are some of the biggest question marks we currently have about the game.

What Will Gameplay be Like?

Beyond what we’ve seen in recent games made by Crystal Dynamics (and Eidos-Montréal) it’s hard to guess the gameplay, given there’s no footage of it yet. In fact, the addition of top-tier talent for the Avengers project makes it even harder to guess. Crystal hired developers behind games as diverse as Batman Arkham Origins (an action-adventure), Dead Space (a survival horror game), and Star Wars Battlefront (a multiplayer shooter).

If anything, the range of talent being hired further suggests that you will play as different characters with different move sets. Whereas controlling Iron Man could be akin to playing a third or first-person shooter, Captain America might involve more stealth. And while Thor relies on weapons like his hammer, Hulk uses more direct combat. Hiring developers with different areas of expertise might be the best way to deliver a game that’s fun to play as every character.

Will There be Multiplayer?

Eidos-Montréal was responsible for Tomb Raider’s multiplayer modes, so it’s not a big leap to assume their role in the Avengers game will also involve elements of multiplayer. To be honest, the multiplayer in Tomb Raider was never a big selling point. Most players (myself included) didn’t even know it existed, because those character-driven games are so tied to a single-player experience. Hopefully the multiplayer for The Avengers Project makes more of a splash.

Will the Game be for this Generation of Consoles or Next?

The PlayStation 4 and Xbox One are starting to show their age, and both Sony and Microsoft have openly discussed plans for the next generation of consoles. Theories for the releases of new consoles vary from 2019 to 2021. Given The Avengers Project is likely a year away or more, it makes sense for Square Enix to release it on the PS4 and Xbox One and also on whatever comes next. Its release date will likely be in that sweet spot where it makes sense to be a cross-generation game, working well on what we have now but later taking advantage of the new features and greater graphical power of next-gen consoles.

When Will It Come Out?

Even more difficult than determining what consoles the Avengers game will be available on is trying to pinpoint a release window. But we do have a little data to pull from.

The last three Tomb Raider games (two made by Crystal Dynamics and another which Crystal only played supporting role in) were originally scheduled for Quarter 4, the peak season for video games. Only the most recent, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, actually hit its date, but based on past decisions it’s likely we’ll see the Avengers games at least scheduled for the end of the year. Which year, we’re not sure.

Wrap-Up

That’s about all we can figure out and speculate about Square Enix’s Avengers game with what we know now. But more information will become available, and at that point, we’ll be able to get a stronger idea of what to expect. Whatever this turns out to be, we expect great things. Do you have more theories or educated guesses for The Avengers Project? Shout out in the comments below.

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