Avengers AllianceBack in January, Marvel announced its first Facebook game. On March 1, the game became available to all Facebook users. In ‘Marvel: Avengers Alliance’, you play as an agent of S.H.I.E.L.D., whose training has to end abruptly because a strange pulse hits Earth. The Pulse brings Iso-8, a material that can enhance the speed and strength of humans and superheroes. Iso-8 dust has boosted the abilities of common thugs, causing chaos in New York. You are to assemble the heroes and find out who is organizing the villains. Loki, Hydra, and others are working together and searching for pieces of Iso-8 that also came with the Pulse.

When you start the game, you select the gender, hair color, and skin tone of your agent. Nick Fury informs you that your training has to end early so you can help Marvel’s mightiest heroes bring order to the city. Since this is a Facebook game, you are encouraged to send gifts to your friends before you actually get to play the game. I understand gifting is a big part of a Facebook game, so it makes sense this is the first thing you see when you return to the game, but I did not appreciate the gift prompt interrupting the game; it came up during a story section and in the middle of a battle. The game is turn-based, so my character’s life wasn’t in danger, but I was ready to click on a move. Because the screen changed, I ended up clicking on a gift.

I’ve played Facebook games before, so I expected to have certain features unavailable to me because I don’t have 500 Facebook “friends” to spam—I mean notify—when I need certain items. However, I wasn’t expecting so much of the game to be tied to knowing others who play this game. S.H.I.E.L.D. points are very valuable. You need them to buy certain equipment, to train the heroes, and to conduct research. I don’t need fancy gear and special moves to enjoy the game, but the heroes cannot gain a level unless they are trained. If you don’t train the heroes, then they cannot earn XP from missions and their stats will not increase. Being denied special moves is acceptable, but being denied the basic improvements to a hero’s stats (health, strength, etc.) is not. If training was optional instead of required to level up the heroes, I would have enjoyed this game more.

Avengers Alliance screenshotYou get S.H.I.E.L.D. points from friends, and you can buy them with in-game gold. You can earn them while playing the game, but it doesn’t happen often or easily, so to make any progress in the game you need either a lot of FB friends who are playing this game, or you need to buy gold. Silver is easily available and used to buy common items, but gold gives you access to all of the game. In addition to S.H.I.E.L.D. points, gold can buy certain gear, special Iso-8 pieces, and Command points, which are needed to recruit certain heroes. Some heroes will become a member of your team after joining you on a mission, but if you want Spider-Man on your team right away, you need 130 Command points. I have to admit that I bought gold in order to train my heroes and improve my character because I thought I could earn more gold and S.H.I.E.L.D. points by replaying missions, but I didn’t. You can replay missions to increase your mastery level; the mission gets harder each time you replay it. You do receive a bonus for each star you earn (you can earn up to five), but it takes a long time to get a high enough score to get another star. I replayed the first mission at least fifteen times to get all five stars. Random bonuses are given after each boss fight, but it is random, so most of the time you get something you really don’t need.

The game is being promoted as a turn-based RPG. It is turned-based, but it is barely a RPG. Your character starts as a low-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent. As you level up, your stats improve, but the points are automatically assigned. You don’t have control over what stats to improve. I normally increase health and defense first, but this game won’t let me create the character I want. You have control over research, which gives your character new abilities, but if you don’t have S.H.I.E.L.D. points, then your access to research is limited.

The best parts of the game are the interface, the PVP, the sound, and the animation. The game does a good job showing the player how to play the game; the menus are clear and easy to understand. PVP is fun; it is interesting seeing Iron Man fight Iron Man. To play a PVP match, you need a Challenge point; you start with five, and you can buy more if you want. You can use items from your inventory to permanently give your character offensive and defensive bonuses. Once an item is removed from your inventory and used for PVP, you cannot get the item back. The music is not annoying, and the battle sound effects immerse you in the fight. What impressed me most about the game is the animation. Black Widow’s martial arts moves are smooth, She-Hulk strikes with power, Iron Man hovers, and the other characters have fluid motion as well.

This isn’t a short game. To discover the end of the story, expect to spend a lot of time with the game. With special missions for the heroes and ten chapters of story, there is plenty to keep you busy. Below is a short video showing the animation of the fights; the video is footage and sounds of the game.

To play the game, visit the game’s Facebook page and click “Go to App.”