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WB Multiversus: Preview

Playground arguments are funny things, especially when it comes to popular characters. No matter what the discussion is, it will inevitably devolve into ‘who can beat who’. Well, Warner Brothers Interactive and Player First Games have heard your prayers and have decided to let fans find out for themselves. So, if you and your friends have ever wondered if Shaggy could, in fact, defeat Batman or if Arya Stark would be able to best Finn the Human well now you can finally find out.

Multiversus is an arena fighter designed similarly to the popular Nintendo series Super Smash Brothers. Now, it is inevitable that comparisons will be drawn between the two but is that fair? Smash has had time to implement new ideas and improve the basics. Multiversus hasn’t had that, yet, so it is only fair to look at it on its own merit. So let’s grab our childhood favourites and smash them together like action figures.

Arena fighters are entirely dependent on the characters that they can bring to the front. If the characters are a mix of recognisable and enjoyable to control, then players keep finding reasons to come back. There needs to be enough of a draw to make players want to experiment and practice with these characters. Thankfully, Multiversus has the entire Warner Brothers licence to fall back on, and there are a few characters you wouldn’t expect that sweeten the deal.

The list of characters is impressive and Multiversus manages to avoid only using the more…fighty characters. Batman and Superman are there, of course, but other characters like Velma and Taz also make an appearance. This variety works to the game's credit and means there is a reason to experiment. I assumed I would stick with Shaggy (for the memes) and Batman, but honestly, I ended up trying all of the characters just to see how they played, or at least I did in practice. You can only unlock characters in multiplayer using coins and their acquisition is a mixed bag. They’re easy enough to get at first, but after completing the first set of missions it becomes more of a drag to acquire enough to unlock characters.

Each of the characters feel different, but the control system is simple enough that it isn’t a struggle to pick up and play a new character. The actual fighting is simple at first, with there being a basic attack button and a super button. These can each be affected by using directional controls. Where the variety and challenge comes in is how the attacks work and the classes.

Multiversus has decided to change things up slightly by giving more focus to the teamwork aspect of the combat. Certain characters have abilities that not only affect them but also affect teammates. Meanwhile the classes (Brawler, Caster, Support and Assasin) mean that picking the teams becomes more important, although it makes 1v1’s slightly more complicated as certain classes are considerably weaker in combat.

This simple addition adds a whole new mechanic to the game and gives some tactical edge to the party combat. This concept pushes the concept of teamwork and pairing the right characters together to get the best out of both. However, it doesn’t work perfectly and the actual validity of the attacks isn’t constant. In truth, there is an issue with balance throughout the entire game, with some characters clearly being better than others and certain attacks being considerably more powerful. Two of the main perpetrators are Jake and Taz who have attacks that cross the screen and can only be dodged rather than countered.

Finally, there is the addition of perks for the characters that are earned as the character levels up. The perks are a mix of character-specific and generic for all characters. They supposedly add small increases to the character's moves and attacks. These perks can be further increased if two characters in the same team have the same perks. It’s a nice concept, but the majority of them don’t ever really seem to add much. While seeing text that states your attacks do ten per cent more damage on a screen is nice, it doesn’t translate much to actual gameplay.

Multiversus is by no means a visually impressive game, at least at first glance. The game makes use of a cartoony style that resembles action figures and gives all the characters an almost plastic-like sheen. However, this design choice works in the game's favour. Multiversus has a variety of characters from a multitude of different properties. This graphical choice allows the characters to all fit together visually while still maintaining elements of their own styles. The actual movements all flow well and there wasn’t any clipping that I saw, but the issue of things being lost in the melee still occurs in this game. It becomes difficult to tell what is happening when all of the characters clash, but oddly this is almost a trope of arena fighters at this point.

The audio design is, as one would expect, very good, at least where voices are concerned. The characters all use the voices from their respective shows and interact with each other in some interesting ways. For instance, Batman at one point mentioned that Arya Stark would get on with Damien. It’s entertaining and helps to make the result screens more dynamic. The music choices on the stages all link with the actual show that the stages are based on. This adds some familiarity (and who doesn’t love the Batman Animated Series main theme?)

Multiversus has a lot to offer fans of these series, but there is an argument that there isn’t enough here to draw in anyone else. However, the mechanics are well done and the fan service is certainly entertaining at first. There are plenty of chances for new things to be added in the future and there are certainly areas for the game to grow. Hopefully Waner Brothers interactive takes the time to look into what made other games of this genre popular. However, this is all moot as Shaggy has the power to destroy any wall blocking the game from the top ten. Multiversus is slated for release in 2022 for all major consoles.

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