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Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 Review: Style without depth

After a ten year franchise absense, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order looks set to capitalise off the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Exclusive to Switch and moving from Activision to Nintendo (and developed by Koei Tecmo), the title is available today. But is it any good?

Honestly, I’m not prepared to weigh in on that one just yet. We received a review code yesterday with enough time to download it just before bedtime. An early start today means I’ve played through an hour or so of content, so this review in progress will offer up initial impressions and, of course, will be updated as I spend more time with it.

Things open up with the darlings of the MCU, the Guardians of the Galaxy. Considering this is (yet another) retelling of an Infinity Stone saga, that complete makes sense. With five characters — actually, make that four as Groot and Rocket Raccoon team-up as a pairing — to choose from, Koei Tecmo’s selection for an opening squad provides great insight into combat mechanics and design choices.

If you’ve never played a Marvel Ultimate Alliance game before, expect a top-down affair with handfuls of low-levels and lots of opportunities for Diablo-like looting. Superheroes make for wonderful characters in these types of environments, allowing a developer to make each unique thanks to their powerbase. With the Guardians, Star-Lord has limited flight/hover capabilities alongside a blaster that fires in light and heavy attack mode. Groot and Rocket are a combination of that, really, with the light attack coming from Rocket’s blaster and heavy from Groot’s tree-like tendrils. Gamora’s a close combat girl… and well, so too is Drax. If you’re playing solo — so a friend isn’t in control of someone — you’re free to bounce between your active roster of characters with a press of the d-pad.

Each of the Guardians look near identical to their MCU counterparts — take that, Square Enix’s Avengers — though vocally, they’re a mixed bag. Drax and Rocket sound like carbon copies of their film counterparts while Gamora and Star-Lord sound like they belong in said Avengers game. While the mix isn’t that horrendous it can be distracting, especially when you’re first introduced to a character and want to see how they’ve been represented.

Back to combat and things feel very similar to past entries in the franchise. In addition to light and heavy attacks, characters can activate special moves with the R button and either the X, Y, B, or A buttons. Using a move like this will deplete some of an energy bar represented in blue (red bar above signifies health). Finally, a yellow bar between those two signifies your extreme attack readiness, one that’s activated with the L and R buttons and capabale of unleashing a lot of damage. You can keep mashing the L and R buttons to add extra characters into the attack, culminated in… you guessed it: an Ultimate Alliance EXTREME.

I’ve only used a handful of characters and have only been introduced with synergy attacks — one that needed Gamora and Rocket to coordinate an attack to break a prison wall was only recently thrown at me — so needless to say I’ve only scratched the surface of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. One thing’s for sure already: I hope I’m not running down a single corridor for the entire duration of the game.

Update: I’ll be honest: the single corridor thing keeps up for most of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. A ridiculous roster makes this one for Marvel fans; each hero and villain gets their moment in the spotlight as the overarching story plays out.

That fan service is really necessary, because despite a bunch of robust systems that include character levelling and team synergies that mean to make the game deep, MAU3 is at its core (and at it’s best) a button-masher. It’s perfect for Switch because I don’t think most will be able to play for more than thirty minutes or so at a time due to its repetitive nature.

If you enjoyed past titles in the Ultimate Alliance franchise or you’re just a hardcore Marvel fan, this one’s for you. Otherwise, you might want to consider something with a little more depth.


7 out of 10

The good

  • The characters look like their MCU counterparts, and I like that.
  • Reasonably varied combat through unique powers.
  • A ridiculous Marvel roster at your disposal (with more coming!).

The bad

  • Characters don’t sound like they should though, and it’s distracting.
  • So far, it’s got that ‘run down a long corridor and fight things’ fee.
  • It’s a button-masher, plain and simple.


Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is being reviewed using a promotional code on Switch, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.

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About the author

Steve Wright

Steve's the owner of this very site and an active games journalist for close to fifteen years. He's a Canadian-Australian gay gaming geek, ice hockey player and fan. Husband to Matt and cat dad to Wally and Quinn.