I Already Have Some Problems With Multiversus

Lukas Peace OpEd

I’ve been following Multiversus since it first got leaked online a couple months ago. With Smash Bros. finally ending its DLC support and Nickelodeon All Star Brawl being… Well, a halfway decent game… The genre definitely feels ripe for something big to fill the gap.

I don’t think anyone expected All Star Brawl to get the response it did. I don’t even think Nickelodeon expected it to get the response it did – If they did, they would have included voice acting, because they had a chance to make bank with this game.

Nickelodeon has a history of settling for a mediocre, bargain bin-style game design approach, with the hope being they’ll make a small profit on their investment without having to spend too much money on production.

Then there’s Warner Bros.

So I guess warner bros decided they wanted a piece of the pie and said “hey, we own like, 50 billion IPs. Let’s put em in a fighting game. Yknow… because we like money.”

And now here we are – Multiversus, the once rumored game with some suspiciously high quality “leaked” screenshots is now an announced title coming out sometime in 2022. And I’ve gotta say, I’m already a little worried about how it’s looking.

Multiversus feels like a direct response to the praise Nickelodeon All Star Brawl was getting prior to launch. They even go so far in the new trailer as to directly mention the voice talents they have working on the game.

They made sure to check off all the same boxes the Nickelodeon team did when they were developing their game, including telling us how reliable the online would be and how they plan to support the game in the future with additional DLC.

But here’s the thing – I’m already getting worried by this game. Why?

Remember how a few months ago, Space Jam: A New Legacy came out and everyone was calling it a soulless corporate cash grab to throw as many recognizable characters into a single movie as possible, just to advertise the hell out of warner bros IPs and make lots of money?

Yeah, that’s why.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I know that pretty much every smash bros game is trying at some level to be a marketing tool for whoever’s making it.

You think people were clamouring for Byleth to be DLC in that game? Of course not – Nintendo just wanted to sell more copies of the new Fire Emblem.

The thing is, games are a product, and products need to be sold to make more of them. These companies want to turn a profit, and that’s ok.

I think Smash Bros has always done a good job of putting game design before profit, at least in the base games. First, they make a really great fighting game that anyone can enjoy at any level. They fill it with fun, recognizable characters, add in lots of little secrets and modes to keep you playing, and then market the hell out of it with DLC. That doesn’t bother me.

I think Nickelodeon did sort of the reverse of that. They had a small, relatively unknown team of developers, and they made the fighting game they always wanted to make. Something for the competitive, high level fans. There was a lot of love put into it, but they didn’t try to appeal to a wide audience, and the company that was backing the game didn’t give them the resources they needed to make a more polished product. All Star Brawl isn’t a bad game, it’s just sort of bland, and gets boring really quickly if you’re not playing competitively. 

My fear with Multiversus is that it’s just going to be Space Jam 2 in video game form – A product with millions of dollars pumped into it to deliver a spectacle of recognizable characters and sell people on it before they even have a chance to play it for themselves.

I’ve already seen Youtube comments of people saying this game is BETTER than Smash Bros. A game that had its first trailer TODAY – A game NOBODY has played yet, and we’re already hyping it up as “better than smash bros.”

You know what other game people said was “better than smash bros?” Nickelodeon all star brawl. And look at how that turned out.

I’m honestly hoping this game ends up being amazing, because the potential for a really fun game is definitely there. Warner Bros has a virtually limitless amount of IPs it can cash in on for this game, to the point where they could rival Nintendo’s 80+ character roster that they’ve been building up for the last 20 years.

There are a couple of things that worry me based on what I saw in the reveal trailer, but the biggest thing that bothers me is how the game is… ugh… free to play.

Say what you will about free to play games, but I’ve rarely seen the concept work well. There are a few games, like Rocket League or Warframe, where the base game is left intact and you’re only choosing to purchase cosmetics, where the concept works out fine, but I’d still rather just pay $60 to have the full game at launch. Just give me the option to pay for all your content like a normal game.

The developers announced that the game would be “free to play – With additional DLC being available after release”. That gives me the impression that the game will launch with a small roster of playable characters, and based on the success of that launch, they’ll continue adding characters down the road that you can get – You know, with real money.

The issue I have with these free to play game models is that they’re rife for exploitation, and I see warner bros as the kind of company that will absolutely take advantage of people’s need to own every costume and play as every character.

Take Path of Exile as an example – a game I love, but one that I think does microtransactions completely wrong. That game, like Warframe, offers exclusively cosmetic upgrades for your characters, which is still better than some of the games I’ve played. But the cost of these cosmetics is despicable. For most of your basic effects, like a new helmet, body armor, a cape or wings, you’re looking at $20 PER piece.

They even have pets that can follow you in-game, which range from $5 purchases to an $80 four pack of various colors that you HAVE to buy together to get the pet at all.

At the end of the day, it will be up to Warner Bros. to decide how to handle these microtransactions, but the free-to-play model just makes it too easy to get greedy, in my opinion.

There are a few other things that bother me a bit about the game. Visually, the game looks… weird. Not BAD, but everything is sort of blocky and cartoony. It works well for simple characters whose designs already blend with this style, like Adventure Time’s Jake or Bugs Bunny, but when your game includes Batman and… and I can’t believe I’m saying this sentence seriously… Aria Stark… You have to find a balance that fits everyone. This is something I think Smash Bros did quite well, but these characters look as bad as fortnight characters here.

Of course, I’m also soured that the game will be coming out on every other major platform, including Play Station 4, but will be skipping the Switch. The reasoning behind not publishing a smash-bros style game on a Nintendo console is mind-boggling to me. 

I’m aware that developing for nintendo systems tends to be a difficult and time-consuming endeavor, but when you’re already paying for voice talent like Tara Strong and John Dimaggio, clearly you’re willing to go the extra mile and cover the costs to make your game stand out, so why not target the most obvious audience for a game like this? You know, one that eats this stuff up like candy.

The game seems to be structured in a way where fighters have “classes”. Most of the fighters fit in well to their assigned roles. Garnet from Steven Universe, for example, is a bruiser, which fits her style of fighting. Finn and harley Quinn are both labled as “assassins”, which seems to imply they use weapons, like swords or hammers, and probably fight similarly to link.

The thing that broke me is when I looked at Bugs Bunny and saw he was identified as a “Mage/Ranged” fighter. 

I think the thing I’m the most excited for is to see how each character’s special abilities work in team play. The game seems heavily focused on 2v2 gameplay, and each character has unique moves they can use to assist allies and hurt enemies. Steven can protect his teammate with his bubbles, bugs bunny can create tunnels his allies can use, and shaggy can… sigh, shaggy channels a dead meme because all star brawl had spongebob turn into a chicken and the internet continues to be a predictably depressing source of the most unfunny humor imaginable.

I know I brought up a lot of negatives in this video, but I’m really hoping this game surprises me and ends up being something special. There’ve been a lot of smash bros style games that have come out over the years, but I’ve never played one that’s been able to really get close to Nintendo’s level of quality. I hope this one will finally give that game a run for its money.

But I left the first trailer with a sinking feeling in my stomach. As soon as the game went from rumors and speculation to a full fledged work in progress, warning bells started sounding in my head about all the ways this game can go so wrong so quickly.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for this one, and hoping for the best, although the fact that I can’t play it on switch already means it probably won’t get as much playtime from me as something like All Star Brawl, which I can pick up and play wherever. Still, if the game ends up being amazing, I’m sure I’ll be grabbing it on steam and running through whatever version of the campaign mode is in this game with every character over and over again, just like i did with that one.

Gamer by day, game designer by night - Lukas studied Digital Arts in school, and grew up in the age of the N64 and Gamecube. He's the youngster of the bunch, but that doesn't keep him from shouting out at every available opportunity on Infendo Radio. He often finds himself at the edge of counter-culture (hates Metroid Prime, loves Other M), but isn't afraid to dive into the next big budget AAA title with the best of 'em. Favorite game: Sonic Adventure 2 Battle/Skyward Sword/Ocarina of Time/Zero Escape 2/You get the idea