Developer: Player First Games
Publisher: Warner Bros.
Platforms: Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, Playstation 5, Xbox Series X|S (Reviewed)
Release Date: Available Now
Price: Free (Founder’s Packs Priced $39.99 – $99.99 USD – Available Here)
When it comes to recognizable characters few companies have quite as many to choose from as Warner Bros. While we have seen plenty of multiplayer brawlers over the years, some focusing on wholly original characters, others focusing on a single brand, and of course Nintendo’s very own Super Smash Bros, none of these have the sheer variety to pull from that Player First Games’ Multiversus. After a number of closed tests and an early access to the beta, Multiversus has been fully released in open beta and while some aspects are still yet to be added and changes are still being made on a weekly basis, now that it is available to everyone as a free to play title is Multiversus a brawler worth sinking time into?
On paper Multiversus feels like a perfect match for those looking to scratch that brawler itch. After a short tutorial to give players at least a handle of how certain in-game combat mechanics work, the title opens up and allows them to tackle any of the multiplayer modes that they so choose. This includes the game’s favored mode, 2 vs 2 team combat, a four player free for all with only one victor, and a standard one on one battle. These matches can currently be fought against other players online, against bots for practice, and eventually in a ranked mode that is currently unavailable. Also included are some local play options as well as custom lobbies to play against friends without any interference but it is worth noting that these do not allow for progression in any way.
When starting a match, currently Multiversus offers seventeen playable characters to choose from and appears to rotate the free characters on a regular basis. Characters that aren’t free must be unlocked either through gold currency that is obtained in-game from fighting matches or by using the premium currency Gleamium or a character ticket obtained from purchasing a launch copy of the game. The rate that players earn gold to unlock characters feels like it is a bit on the slow side but not punishing to the point that it forces players to spend money as playing three or four hours can usually earn enough to unlock a character. Unfortunately it is worth noting that since some Battlepass missions, which we will discuss later, require specific classes or franchises for use, they can be locked away should players not have certain characters.
Once players are actually fighting, it plays just like one would expect from a Smash Bros. style game as health isn’t drained from an opponent but instead builds up at an ever increasing rate. Dealing damage to an enemy raises their number and makes it easier to launch them off of the stage towards the edge of the screen for an elimination. This is done through two attacking methods that vary depending on character but always come in the form of a standard attack and special attack that have variations depending on if they are performed as neutrals or while holding the analog stick up, down, or left and right. Many characters offer chargable attacks that can potentially launch opponents further if landed correctly and all characters come with a powerful “spike” downward aerial blow that can be used to send an already airborne foe plummeting down.
To avoid elimination players will find that they have perhaps the most mobility available in a brawler like this yet. Not only can characters use two special attacks in mid air but they can also make use of an extra jump and two dodges to try and make their way back to a stage or, if they feel risky, chase after an opponent to try and eliminate them. It is worth noting that there is no edge grabbing in Multiversus but instead there is wall clinging. Players can reach the wall of a stage and cling to it, allowing for some last chance jumps to safety.
Now for the characters players are able to use, there is a wide array to choose from and while they are classified into specific classes such as bruisers, tanks, assassins, mages, and support they all play differently. Bruisers are meant to deal plenty of damage and launch characters with Shaggy and Batman filling these roles while the original support character Reindog can use a magical tether to drag their ally back from danger. Along these lines we have Velma who can not only send word bubbles to attack foes but also buff her partner while healing herself, Superman that can take plenty of damage and fly around a stage, grabbing foes and throwing them around, Bugs Bunny that summons rockets and safes all while digging underground for a surprise attack, and much more. With the game being primarily focused on team battles, there are a number of moves that also help synergize and buff your teammate as well and making use of these skills can often make or break a match. There is a lot of variety here and players can experiment with every character in “The Lab” training room even if they haven’t unlocked them, giving them something to try before sinking hard earned gold into a character.
As players use characters they will level up that specific character and unlock various perks. These perks are small little improvements that do things such as reduce damage, increase the amount of damage dealt by attacks in the air, reduce “bounciness” after being launched, etc. with three of these smaller perks being able to be equipped at a time and occasionally synced with your teammate to increase their effectiveness. There is a fourth perk that is character specific and provides a unique boost to various moves such as allowing for Shaggy to enter enraged state when reaching 100 damage or causing a pillar of flame after Superman’s diving attack.
As for character balance… well things are ever changing in that regard. Lebron James just launched and will likely be modified while Taz has seen a significant debuff to his signature tornado attack already with upcoming patches to make changes to Bugs’ attacks as well. This is to be expected in a live service game such as this and while some characters are getting weakened, others have seen small buffs. That being said, there is still plenty of room for improvement here and this will likely get better with time.
One thing that seems to be almost perfect right out of the gate is the game’s online play. Multiversus makes use of both crossplay and cross progression as well as a rollback netcode that has allowed for matches to not only be found incredibly quickly, with the longest wait time being around thirty seconds at odd times of night, but almost always run flawlessly when the fights are happening. Combine this with the fact that the end of every first match offers an immediate rematch option for a best of three style of matches and players will easily find themselves battling with little downtime. Only on two occasions across over a hundred matches have I seen rubberbanding matches that saw characters jumping around the stage and being nearly unplayable but outside of these rare occurrences there were no issues. That being said, it is a bit annoying to say that should any player in a lobby disconnect either by quitting or dropping connection it immediately quits the match for everyone.
Now onto the monetization elements. First and foremost Multiversus makes use of a BattlePass system where players can choose to simply stay on the free side of things and earn small unlocks and cosmetics or purchase the Battlepass with Gleamium and unlock additional content at the same time. Regardless of whether the player has purchased the pass, they will be given six daily missions and, at least so far in this early BattlePass, six seasonal missions. Completing these missions provides a large progression boost alongside simply finishing matches in general but, as mentioned before, some of these missions may require elements that some free players won’t have easy access to and although a mission can be rerolled for free once a day, subsequent rolls cost precious gold. This can mean that BattlePass progression can be seen as rather slow overall, especially so for those missing certain character classes or franchises, and it will be interesting to see how it is handled during a longer season.
Elsewhere the monetization for the game’s Gleamium comes almost entirely in the form of cosmetics, though it can also be used to buy characters it is not recommended. These cosmetics range from backgrounds, elimination effects, announcer packs, and of course character skins. Character skins can be rather egregious when it comes to their prices as some are incredibly expensive compared to many other available cosmetics in the game with the most expensive currently being a Batman skin priced at nearly $20. It also doesn’t help that in many cases, the amount of Gleamium that players can purchase in any given bundle often doesn’t quite equal the price for a cosmetic. Meaning players must either buy two smaller packs to get the closest amount of Gleamium possible or overspend and have some left over afterwards. Of course this is all optional but still problematic nonetheless.
Visuals & Audio
MultiVersus makes use of a cartoonish art style that has allowed every character added into the game so far to feel like they fit in perfectly. This includes the likes of the large Iron Giant and human characters such as Arya Stark and Lebron James matching perfectly as they face off against Bugs Bunny, Shaggy, and even Batman. There are optional costumes for every character but, as mentioned before, nearly every one of these must be purchased using the premium Gleamium currency outside of a few offered in the current Battlepass. These costumes do actually change the character’s voice lines as well which is a nice touch. As for the stages, there is a solid enough mix of stages that are instantly recognizable from certain properties such as the Batcave, Haunted Mansion, and even the rare appearance of a Rick and Morty song stage but for every recognizable one, there are also bland areas that feel like fillers more than anything else.
It must be commended that Player First and Warner Bros have put a lot of effort into reprising all of these characters’ voice actors to record fresh lines for Multiversus. With the exception of Lebron James who does not voice himself, every character has recorded brand new lines that will directly speak against opponents they are facing off against or cheering on a team mate that is fighting on their side. This is a really nice touch that helps keep games fresh especially since, even after well over a hundred matches, new dialogue continues to pop up. As for the background music, Multiversus appears to use instrumental versions of many of the representative series as stage music which is quite enjoyable but it is often drowned out due to the action.
Multiversus has taken the strengths of Warner Bros’ massive library of beloved characters and their unique skills and talents and crafted an incredibly fun and unpredictable brawler that stands nearly toe to toe with the other big names in the genre. Player First Games has really managed to capture something special here, especially since most matches are not only fun but also feel incredibly fair, with even losses feeling like they were still great fights most of the time and even when they aren’t, players are able to almost instantly find a new fight to test their skills in. The BattlePass may not be the most balanced at the moment while the monetization of cosmetics is especially rough but MultiVersus’ potential is already quite evident even at this early stage and it is only up to the developers to see just how well they can capitalize on this strong start.
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