Smash Brothers has been a wild success for Nintendo for years. Games like Brawlhalla, Slap City and Lethal League Blaze have tried to emulate this massive success, but none have really come close. That could be about to change with the Open Beta release of Multiversus. This is Player First Games and Warner Bros teaming up, bringing the likes of Superman, Scooby Doo, Bugs Bunny, Taz and Ayra Stark all into the same game. This has huge potential, but can it live up to the high-bar set by Super Smash Bros. Today we’re going to find out as I dive into my review of Multiversus.
There aren’t too many companies out there who can bring together a huge cast of characters like Warner Bros. has done here with Multiversus. We have Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Steven Universe, The Iron Giant, plus Game of Thrones characters. The Open Beta has 17 characters, which is a decent-sized roster to start with, plus leaves them plenty of room to add more as time goes on. Nintendo had great success in not only providing the base game, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but then success for years after providing character updates, and other companies have taken note of this. Le Bron James has just been added and Rick and Morty are due next.
Player First Games have done a good job with the gameplay, as a game like this really lives and dies with the gameplay feel. However, the world they are crafting feels great too, as many of the original voice cast have been added, providing a familiar feel to the eclectic fandoms that are going to gravitate towards this title. Masie Williams is here for Arya Stark, Kevin Conroy as Batman, and the list goes on. Warner Bros. has the finances and the clout to realise the ambitious vision laid out by Player First Games. This is a free-to-play game too, meaning hopefully the player count is going to shoot up when it comes out of Open Beta. Multiversus is already doing well, with the now classic ‘watch twitch streamers for drops’ marketing play.
Matches are 1v1, 2v2 or you have the four-player free-for-all style matches on familiar stages. Similar to Super Smash Bros. the developers have taken iconic locations, for example, The Bat Cave. Other stages are a little lacking at this time, with the Open Beta offering only a handful of stages, with little variation. This does offer the opportunity to improve over time, although the developers have to be careful not to offer something that feels half-baked. During this Open Beta, given there’s so much to see and learn with all the characters, I think they just about get away with it, but the levels could do with some love.
As for the gameplay, it’s right out of Smash Bros. playbook. You have to fight your opponents and increase the amount of damage on them, to make it easier to knock them off the main stage. Each character has a couple of attacks to work with, and these attack buttons combined with directional pushes offer variation in attacks. Standing still and hitting the attack button will be one variation, whereas holding up, down, left or right will offer a different attack. While it’s pretty much the same as smash brothers, it’s a system that works, plus it’s a system that’s being incorporated into the new Street Fighter, so it makes for an accessible entry into the game. You can get deep into the complexity of the characters, but to get up and running and into the action is quick and easy with few barriers.
The controls feel good and tight, albeit slower than Smash. Characters have jumps and double jumps, dashes to quickly move out of the way. Wall jumps replace the ability to mantle on the edge, which does take some getting used to, but the wall jumps are a nice addition and reminded me of playing as Chung Li in Street Fighter II back on the SNES.
Multiversus promotes the 2v2 mode, which sets the game apart from Smash, which is pretty much a free-for-all. You can play this way, but I’d recommend 2v2 as a good place to start. This means playing with other players, and characters compliment each other nicely, especially if they are from the same cartoon, or you could have Batman and Superman teaming up. Each character is assigned a class that helps promote a specific playstyle like tanks, assassins, ranged magic users and support, which means team composition is important and can swing the match in your favour. This offers a new dimension to the game; finding the right pair that work together well. Do Shaggy and Taz have great teamwork, or will Bugs and Velma work well together? Try out different combinations and you’ll find something that works for your team.
Players can equip perks before matches and these offer up bonuses during matches, allowing you to customise how fighters operate. Three slots can be used for movement or damage, which is further increased if your teammate adds something similar. The signature move is saved for the fourth slot, which are special moves associated with that character. The additions of these perks add a layer of strategy to Multiversus which surprised me, and also sets the game apart from it’s competitors. So much of the game is straight from Smash Bros, but this feature is something different and really adds to the game from a competitive point of view.
There are loads of characters and collectables to unlock. Multiversus isn’t obtuse when it comes to micro-transactions and monetisation though. The game is free-to-play, allowing players to dip their toes in and try the game, boosting the player population. Perks are unlocked by levelling up players or spending the in-game currency called gold that is earned from playing matches and completing Fortnite style missions and bounties. Characters can be bought with Gold, Gleamium, or Character Tickets which are available to those who bought founders packs. Four characters are unlocked when you start, but characters steadily unlock without an insane amount of playtime, play a few hours and you’ll get more characters. This isn’t another Darth Vader in Star Wars Battlefront situation.
Multiversus is off to a great start and has the characters and variety to succeed in the competitive fighter space. The roster is fairly small at the moment, but I imagine plenty more are going to be added over time. The monetisation isn’t in your face, and you unlock new characters and perks over time through gameplay. This is a player-friendly free-to-play game that feels refreshing. While it’s not as fast and slick as Smash Bros, it has the time and player base to improve over time, and it’s in a solid state right now if you want to jump in, plus it’s free in Open Beta right now.
Developer: Player First Games
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: PlayStation 4/5, Xbox One/Series S/X, PC
Release Date: July 2022