I was sitting in a hot tub with Captain Marvel, both of us in our bathing suits, as we discussed going on vacation together after we’d saved the world. My Hunter was troubled, though, because clearly Captain Marvel thought our relationship was serious. The thing was that Blade had his eye on her and I’d been encouraging them before falling into a relationship while he stalled. The thing was, I’d been slowly developing some sort of relationship with the X-men’s Magick and I wasn’t sure what sort of thing it was. Friendship? Romantic? Both? Did a woman raised in Limbo by the Devil himself even care that I was seeing Captain Marvel? Hell, was my thing with Captain Marvel just a superheroes with benefits thing?
If this sounds like I’m describing my Marvel fanfic with an OC, congratulations, you have actually used the internet to its fullest extent. It’s also the primary appeal of Midnight Suns in what would otherwise be an average-but-entertaining card-based combat game. No, the primary appeal of Midnight Suns is that it is a “friendship simulator” that goes absolutely as far as it can possibly go so without fully confirming that you’re banging Nico Minrou, Illyanna Rasputin, Wolverine, Blade, Deadpool, or Spider-Man. The romance may be unconfirmed but I wasn’t making up the hot tubbing with Captain Marvel and discussing vacationing bit. There’s subtext and there’s, “Kitty Pryde and Rachel Summers are just good friends.”
The premise is that Hydra has resurrected Lilith, Mother of All Demons. Yes, the Nazis are doing occult stuff again and, you know what, that is 100% fine by me. If you’re going to do a big crossover plot then Hydra is the baddie everyone can agree on is worth punching off a rooftop. This is notably not the Biblical Lilith or even a comic book accurate one but a witch descended from the Elder Gods. She immediately takes down the Sanctum Sanctorum and the Avengers (or more precisely, Captain Marvel,. Iron Man, and Doctor Strange) seek out a team of occult heroes called the Midnight Suns (adapted from the comic book Midnight Sons). The Midnight Suns resurrect your character, a legendary hero who defeated Lilith in the past, and that leaves you as peacemaker between the two factions.
If that sounds pretty complicated for a superhero plotline, it actually is. There’s a surprising focus on character development with the Avengers being used to being big epic world-saving heroes but completely out of their depths when dealing with the supernatural (except for Doctor Strange). The Midnight Suns, by contrast, are extremely good at dealing with occult threats but they’re all inexperienced teenagers (except for Blade). Eventually, they recruit other heroes (Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine) while finding out that others have fallen under the sway of Liltih’s mind control like The Hulk as well as Scarlet Witch. It’s a fun storyline that mostly requires you to be the one who threads the needle between them. Given interpersonal fighting is like 90% of Marvel teambooks, that actually makes the story feel like a genuine crisis event.
Half of the game is Bioware-like conversations where you get approval or disapproval depending on what you say. You can buy gifts for the various heroes hanging around your abbey stronghold and depending on what type of gift they are (Magick likes X-men comics for example), you can cheat the relationship system that provides a variety of bonuses. You can also explore the mysteries of the abbey grounds that include a lot of backstory related to Marvel’s ancient history like Chthon and Set. It’s simplistic but satisfying if you like that sort of thing. Most of the characters are on-point with only a few exceptions as I don’t really care about Doctor Strange brooding on how he wasn’t awesome enough to save his house.
The action portion of the game has your characters face off with Hydra goons, demons, and various bosses with decks you build up throughout the game. You eventually unlock supermoves if you get your relationship values high enough and you can do an infinite number of low-level missions to grind them. The combat is fairly addictive and while you’ll probably just eventually find a build you enjoy that and only bring along other heroes when you want to up your relationship. Still, when you finally face Chthon and his armies of evil, you’ll need to have amped up everyone to the highest level you can.
Midnight Suns is not a must-have game but it is definitely one of the best Marvel games I’ve played in, well, a very long time. The fact it focuses on characterization and melodrama over combat is something that makes me want to have a full-fledged RPG. This is close enough with your “blank slate but semi-defined” character ala Commander Shepard to tide me over, though. Is it a bit Gary Stu/Mary Sue-ish to have all of the heroes of Marvel potentially fawn over you? Yeah, maybe, but it’s the closest I’m ever going to get to dat…err, I mean befriending Nico Minrou from Runaways. Which is not at all creepy as I was a teenager when she was first introduced. Ahem.
My biggest takeaway from this game is it’s a lot better than Marvel’s Avengers or even Guardians of the Galaxy (2021). It remembers the chief appeal of Marvel is its characters and we’re familiar with other characters than just the movie versions. The combat isn’t great and it’s a very simple game but it’s not bad by any stretch of the imagination. I even recommend picking up the DLC with their additional characters and missions.