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Square Enix’s Avengers Initiative: What we Know and What to Expect

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The Avengers

While Marvel Studios is closing the first chapter in its cinematic universe saga this year, Square Enix has yet to even open the book that is its “multi-game” Avengers partnership.

Two years have passed since Square revealed its universe-shattering superhero deal and familiar trailer, but the slow-panning clip of Asgardian weaponry, Hulk-ish grunts, and a discarded shield are still seared into the memory of gaming and Marvel fans alike. With nothing more than the mysterious “reassemble” hashtag accompanying the foreboding Avengers logo and some developer names, fans have been left in the dark, with little more than their imaginations to fuel theories of what is to come.

Before we breakdown what the trailer could mean, we should talk about what other information has already been made public.

Crystal Dynamics, the team behind the recent Tomb Raider titles, and Deus Ex developer Eidos Montreal are the two teams listed to be working on Square Enix’s Marvel initiative. Eurogamer reported that Eidos Montreal is supposedly helming a Guardians of the Galaxy game, so speculation for that can wait for another day.

Crystal Dynamics, however, has some old job postings that plainly state some of its game’s details. Third-person, cover-based action will lay the groundwork for the “very ambitious” title, with options to use “cover and melee-based” mechanics. An AI/combat designer job post on the same page goes on to explicitly list boss fights as a core part of the gameplay equation.

In terms of the talent behind the project, Crystal Dynamics named Uncharted: The Lost Legacy director Shaun Escayg as creative director of the Avengers game. Joining him is Dead Space veteran Stephen Barry, who has taken the role of director of production.

The aforementioned names both contributed to two of gaming’s most beloved third-person adventure series, so, despite the lack of public gameplay available, the team is already on the right track.

Phrases like “third-person” and “cover-based” scream Black Widow, though this may be selling the project’s potential a bit short. Black Widow deserves a spot in whatever Crystal Dynamics is planning, though her role could be shared.

Judging by the dark themes and enigmatic voice-over, things do not seem to be looking so good for Earth’s mightiest heroes. Tasking players to “reassemble” could point to something either gameplay or narrative-related. Maybe the Avengers have disbanded, and players will be tasked with rebuilding the team. Controlling different Avengers could warrant the introductions of new, varied playstyles and environments. Maybe one chapter will put players in the shoes of the stealthy Black Widow while the next hands Mjölnir to those who are worthy.

Nothing is more important than giving these iconic characters a unique feeling. Square Enix no doubt wants to stray from the Marvel Ultimate Alliance formula as much as possible, especially considering Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is just around the corner. In other words, expecting heavy story elements, cinematic camera angles, and a mostly serious tone is a safe bet. The likelihood of more weighty, less arcadey combat is also high for this same reason.

Mjölnir and, more importantly, the Avengers are practically household names thanks to the success of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), so could the upcoming game see a tie in to the more recent Avengers movies?

IGN spoke to Marvel Games creative director Bill Rosemann in 2017 about the place that the studio has in the studio’s larger universe.

“We want to give our partners…freedom to look at all of Marvel history and to pick from what interests them. It’s a bit like we’re saying, ‘Hey you’re the chef, you’re going to make this meal. Here’s all of the ingredients. You pick the ingredients that you like and make a new meal.”

Judging by this comment, signs point to an MCU canon game being unlikely, but that does not mean the game will see no influences. The blatant usage of the Avengers logo and name at least points toward some mainstream familiarity. How closely this title will follow the story most know remains to be seen, but the possibility of a Thanos cameo or boss fight is definitely not out of the realm of possibility.

In order to cover a potential route for an MCU spin-off game, this piece will delve into spoilers from the recently released Avengers: Endgame.

So, here is your spoiler warning.

Endgame sees a shocking five-year time jump early on in the film that drastically changes the universe’s tone and setting. Of course, with passing time comes aging characters, and as the characters grow older, so do their children. By the movie’s end, Tony Stark’s funeral has plenty of MCU classics in attendance, including, but not limited to the teenage version of Iron Man 3’s Harley Keener, Peter Parker, Shuri, and the children of Ant-Man and Hawkeye. In short, who would not want a Young Avengers game? Reintroducing these characters to a gaming audience through a fresh lens could be a great way to connect to the already established MCU. Learning how to grow and use the powers alongside the young heroes could provide the perfect throughline for the game, too. In terms of story content, maybe “reassemble” refers to the Young Avengers reassembling the original team to takedown a greater threat.

Any way things go, many moons have come and gone since the initial trailer dropped. Every day that goes by without a proper announcement adds potential changes to that first (and so far only) trailer. “Reassembling” may not even play a role in the game at this point. Thankfully, Crystal Dynamics has kept its stance that it is still creating an Avengers game. Hopefully more details drop soon before the Marvel craze runs its course.

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Opinion

The Final Fantasy VII Remake Might Turn Away Fans Instead of Creating New Ones

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final fantasy vii

In 1997, Square Enix, then Square Soft, released a title that would change the role-playing genre forever. Until then, the genre only found popularity within smaller, niche communities. In January of that year, Square Soft released Final Fantasy VII,a classic that would hold a special place in gamers’s hearts for years to come.

Until my early teens, I had only heard of the marvel known as Final Fantasy VII. Before that point, I had never experienced the game or seen much of its offerings. For years, I searched stores for a copy until finally locating a version that broke my juvenile bank. I had finally earned a chance to experience a game I had, until then, only known through word of mouth and, after my first few hours with it, found love.

Final Fantasy VII gave me characters to care about and a cause worth fighting for. With a protagonist as gloomy as Cloud Strife, Final Fantasy VII’s extended cast of misfits needed to outshine the leading man and give players a reason to care. The lovable Aerith/Aeris, adamant Tifa, and strong-headed Barret are some examples of FFVII’s supporting cast that remains iconic into modern gaming.

At E3 2015, Square Enix surprised audiences with the announcement that Final Fantasy VII would be getting a full-fledged remake. Fans would ride an emotional high for a while before the title was announced to be broken into multiple parts. A multi-part release, along with some questionable visuals and character design, was enough to shift fan excitement to worry, until both the game and conversation faded out of the limelight.

During Sony’s State of Play stream, audiences were shown new gameplay for the Remake, which featured adjusted character models and the inclusion of more beloved characters. Once again, fans were left on an emotional high after the stream until confirmation came later that the title would still be chopped up into multiple releases.

Square Enix is advertising this game as being too large for a single launch window. For reference sake, the single-player experience of Red Dead Redemption 2 launched in full in October 2018. Given how grand the narrative is for Red Dead Redemption 2, the title still needed a separate disc for installation. Nonetheless this did not encourage Rockstar to split the title into multiple launches. What Square Enix is effectively stating here, is that the Final Fantasy VII Remake will be more expansive than Red Dead Redemption 2 – a title that is already one of the largest games to date. Either the Final Fantasy VII Remake will be groundbreaking for the industry, or this is an attempt by Square Enix to capitalize on the fandom surrounding this beloved title.

As a primary curiosity, fans want to know how the game will be divided. For now, all that is known around this subject is just rumors and speculation, but that does not eliminate the need to discuss such possibilities. For example, will the game be split into two parts or will the division be more akin to the three-disc original version? This version of the split would be more faithful to the original, but then creates a new issue for fans.

The more parts Final Fantasy VII Remake finds itself in, the more expensive the overall experience will be for the players. Square Enix has not yet explained how it will charge for this remake. Given past trends within the industry, the potential for monetization comes via DLCs, expansions, or season passes. For example, Square’s previous entry into the Final Fantasy series – Final Fantasy XV – saw numerous added content post launch, including a second season pass before being cancelled. Additionally, the title received mobile spin-offs and tie-ins full of micro-transactions. In a perfect world, Square Enix would release each part at a lower price point than a full title, allowing the consumer to experience the full game at a ‘normal’ price. Fans will have to wait a little longer to get details on the pricing models, seeing as a release window for the first part is still nonexistent.

One aspect Square Enix should keep in mind, however, is player retention. As with past episodic titles, the possibility always exists for the playerbase to die off during the down time between releases. A large player-base exists that wait until the full title is released before purchasing and playing the game. Since Final Fantasy fans are not used to this kind of launch, many of them may purchase the first part out of excitement and anticipation and become turned off by the required indefinite wait afterwards.

For Final Fantasy VII Remake, Square’s decision to release the game in parts may not be as beneficial as it initially believes. Since the game is a remake, fans will have a certain expectation for the quality of its execution and development. The expectation towards the Final Fantasy VII Remake will be exceedingly high due to the fact that a Final Fantasy VII revered by many already exists. Ultimately, some fans will be disappointed by the remake depending on how faithful the content is to the original, already placing Square at a disadvantage with this beloved IP.

Despite the negativity surrounding Square’s insistence on breaking up the title, excitement for the Final Fantasy VII Remake remains high as fans are once again discussing what it may have to offer. Despite the confirmation of an episodic release, the community will not have any concrete facts until the game’s next showing later this year. Until then, all one can do is speculate based on trends within the gaming industry. I am genuinely excited to see a title loved by many re-imagined for modern technology, but the potential of it turning away die-hard fans due to business decisions leaves me worried for the worst.

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