Though the card-based formula of Marvel’s Midnight Suns raised some skeptical eyebrows when it was revealed, naysayers were proven delightfully wrong by the launch of Firaxis‘ superhero strategy game. By the time you roll credits on Midnight Suns, Hydra’s next Christmas party will be a decidedly quieter affair: for a team of non-lethal supes, you’ll send a fair share of henchmen careening into explosive barrels or toppling into fiery pits of damnation. It’s flashy, morally ambiguous fun – and a lot of the reason we awarded it four stars in our review.
Yet when you weren’t filling out ICUs or decking demons, Midnight Suns had you hanging out with your fellow heroes at The Abbey: a hub where you bond with your crime-fighting pals, manage things like research, and train between missions. Going into Midnight Suns over the Christmas break, it sounded wonderful – I adore Garag Mach monastery in Fire Emblem: Three Houses, which functions similarly to The Abbey, and I love the charm of Persona‘s social downtime. On paper, I should have fallen head over heels for Midnight Suns‘ Abbey – but on the contrary, I found myself racing through The Hunter’s free time, trying to get back into the game’s turn-based action as quickly as possible.
For a while, it was difficult to put a finger on why I found visiting The Abbey so grating. I loved the characters living there, and enjoyed seeing the group’s human angle – like moody vampire Blade swapping bloodthirst for Captain Marvel thirst, or Spider-Man or Ghost Rider making a secret crafts club away from the judgy eyes of Iron Man. So many great stories play out within The Abbey, but try as I might, none were enough to avoid skim-reading dialogue and sprinting from mission to mission.
So what was the problem? At first, I wondered if it was because I wasn’t a huge Marvel fan, or if Midnight Suns‘ turn-based shenanigans were simply too much fun to peel away from. But those answers didn’t sit right – Fire Emblem and Persona both juggle those elements without a hitch, and there’s a shamefully long list of fictional characters I’ve lost my heart to.
Eventually, it became clear that Midnight Suns‘ issues weren’t inherently attached to its social elements, which are brilliant. The real problem is that many of the mundane progression systems like research or crafting – which Firaxis usually relegates to simple menu screens in XCOM – required a physical presence to use in Midnight Suns.
Want to research new technology, or open the loot from your last mission? That’s a trip down to the forge. Need to train your heroes or dispatch someone to an off-screen mission? Get jogging. When you’re trekking around The Abbey to tick these off between every single mission, it feels like a chore – and because all of Midnight Suns‘ social elements are tied to the same location, it can be difficult to separate the two. When you pile on all of The Abbey’s other mysteries that require running around to solve, it’s all a bit much.
Broken up, The Abbey could have been as wonderful as the rest of Midnight Suns. Perhaps the daily tasks – opening crates, delegating behind-the-scenes work – could have been cut down on, or we could’ve told Dr. Strange to handle things with a quick SuperLink message. At the end of the day, there’s a reason we don’t get our mates around for a night of pints and hoovering: socialising and chores don’t mix, and that’s exactly what Midnight Suns does.
Marvel’s Midnight Suns is available on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC (and is, to clarify, very good).