Many games have attempted to provide a viable alternative to Super Smash Brothers, but none have achieved Smash’s mainstream popularity or broad mass appeal. Enter MultiVersus: A free-to-play crossover platform fighter that brings together the worlds of WB-owned products like Looney Tunes, the DC Universe, Scooby-Doo and Game of Thrones, to name a few. That alone is enough to get my attention, but the big question is whether MultiVersus will be able to hold its own with its core gameplay, progression mechanics, and free-to-play monetization plans.
Having spent over 12 hours on an alpha build, I think my attention is being held tight. MultiVersus is a smash, with several unique twists on tried-and-true platform combat mechanics, an intelligent focus on 2v2 combat, and an absolutely wild roster of popular characters, all brought to life by their actual voice actors. It all adds up to a game that at first glance seems primed to be the next big thing in free-to-play gaming, and could potentially be a blueprint for future fighting games.
On the surface, MultiVersus is a bit like Smash Bros. There are damage percentages, simple one-button-and-one-directional inputs for movements, and even Shaggy has a Captain Falcon-style knee of justice. But there are a number of key differences in MultiVersus that make it play very differently. For one, there is no blocking. You can only dodge, roll, or dodge in the air to evade attacks, and the more times you do this in quick succession, the less invulnerable you become during those attacks. For two, each character can perform a double jump, two mid-air dodges, and two mid-air special moves before hitting the ground.
Not to mention, each character can also do infinite wall jumps to quickly climb back up from the floor of the stage. That means the air mobility in MultiVersus is huge. There is no such thing as a character with a bad recovery, as each character generally has the same powerful tools to get back onstage, and on the other hand, each character can be super aggressive offstage as well.
But the big thing that sets MultiVersus apart from the rest of the platformer crowd is its 2v2 focus. Each character has an aspect that promotes cooperation between teammates. Whether it’s as small as Taz’s whirlwind special, which gives his partner a speed boost when they pass through; or as groundbreaking as Wonder Woman’s ability to instantly dive to her partner and protect both of them with a shock-absorbing shield.
My personal favorite character is Steven Universe, and that’s just because of how he’s able to subtly help his team while still holding his own. I know I said there is no blocking in MultiVersus, but Steven is the exception. Instead of using a spot dodge, he can summon a shield that can absorb three hits, and the twist is that it not only protects him but also his partner from any distance. In addition to this, Steven can also place a healing zone on the ground that heals both himself and his partner, he can detonate a bomb that can be picked up by his teammate and delivered to the opponents, and he can fire a shield projectile that gives you a Can bestow armor on teammates when passing through them.
Aside from each character being built to provide some sort of team support, each character also feels incredibly individual while still feeling true to their source material. Tom and Jerry is one of the most interesting examples, where the player only has direct control of Tom, but uses Jerry as both a projectile and a tool that can be enlisted for a variety of other projectiles that can hit from unexpected angles. Velma from Scooby-Doo, on the other hand, is a minor character who can buff her teammate and debuff the opponent, but also has her own side goal of solving a mystery. By hitting opponents with certain attacks, she can make them drop evidence. Once enough evidence has been gathered, she can summon a police car that will imprison an opponent for a short time, sometimes even catching them in mid-air and dropping them helplessly off the stage. There’s an incredible amount of creative energy poured into these characters, and that makes for a roster that’s a ton of fun from top to bottom.
The big question mark up to this point has been how MultiVersus will ultimately monetize its content as a free-to-play fighting game. We get a little glimpse of that in this Alpha: A traditional Battle Pass with both a free track and a paid track that offers rewards such as new skins, emotes, banners, etc. a selection of characters that are initially locked and a significant amount require in-game currency to make them a permanent part of your squad; and a variety of daily and seasonal challenges that help afford new characters and make the Battle Pass that little bit easier.
I spoke to Game Director Tony Huynh about MultiVersus’ monetization strategy and he made it clear upfront that Multiversus is not a pay-to-win game. There are perks that can be equipped on characters that can slightly boost their stats and add new traits to platoons, but these can only be earned by playing with those characters and improving their character-specific progression path. The vast majority of things you can buy with real money in MultiVersus are cosmetic items, ranging from skins to banners to announcer packs with the actual voice actors for the characters and my personal favourite, unique ring-out animations. There’s something special about throwing Arya Stark off the screen and seeing a huge “That’s all folks!” fire from the off instead of a standard comic explosion.
Characters themselves will be purchasable with real money, but Huynh emphasized that characters can also be earned with in-game currency. After my experience with the Alpha, I was able to unlock four new characters in my 12 hours, and the sense of progression felt like it was in a pretty good place.
I came back from my time with the Multiversus alpha extremely impressed. In terms of gameplay, it’s not as tight as any of the Smash Brothers games, but to be fair, it also aims to offer a type of experience that’s very different from Smash Brothers or any other platformer. Its 2v2 mechanics are well designed, adding new wrinkles to a well-known formula, its character roster is a wonderful mix of the new and the nostalgic, and its gameplay is instantly catchy and play-friendly, while still offering plenty of tech for the hardcore gamer too dig. If you’re looking for a new free-to-play game to play with your buddy, keep MultiVersus on your radar.
https://www.ign.com/articles/multiversus-preview Multiversus Preview