ComingSoon’s Tyler Treese and Spencer Legacy both spent plenty of time with the MultiVersus closed alpha on PlayStation 5. The Warner Bros. brawler is a ridiculous fighting game filled with a wild mixture of characters from franchises ranging from Batman to Game of Thrones. While it’s a bit absurd to see Tom and Jerry beating up poor Velma, the fighter is a polished love letter to the characters.
To fit the spirit of the game, below is a conversational preview with our thoughts on MultiVersus.
Tyler Treese: We’ve both been able to check out the MultiVersus closed alpha. I walked away pretty impressed, even if the game wasn’t exactly what I expected. I always have a bit of a hard time getting into some of these platform fighters when they’re so much like Super Smash Bros. but don’t really copy the formula exactly. MultiVersus is in a strange sort of middle ground. It has the damage meters, you get sent farther the higher your damage meter is, and it has a similar special attack system. But there are enough differences, from the lack of items to the charge attacks being pretty different from the smash attacks that use the right analog stick in Smash Bros.
How was your experience in getting used to the flow of gameplay?
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Spencer Legacy: I was surprised at how smooth the overall flow was, given most platform fighters tend to feel more than a bit awkward. Having played both the Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon fighters, I found that combos and dodges feel far more natural in MultiVersus than in any other similar game I’ve played. You can also tell that a lot of work went into the mechanics behind combat, as there are in-depth advanced tutorials that properly explain the somewhat complicated fighting game terms that are present in MultiVersus.
Yeah, I definitely dug the ability to combo together the light attacks and clearly a lot of care has gone into the combo and combat systems. Really, that’s what surprised me the most in general, just the surprising amount of care that went into every element. Like you explained in your feature, the visual design and little touches really go a long way toward making it a celebration of the included series.
Another major difference from Smash Bros. is that there is a real focus on two-on-two matches rather than going mano a mano being the default and featured setting (although you can obviously do free-for-all battles). Team matches are a thing in Smash, but there are actually skills tailored toward supporting your teammate. It’s a really interesting idea that I haven’t seen a ton in platform fighters.
These games always need a core differentiator, so that they don’t feel like a blatant rip-off. Do you feel that two-on-two combat was the right area to focus on?
Yeah, I’d say that’s a solid way to go. While in games like Smash Bros., you can fight two-on-two, more recent entries seem to have made one-on-one more of a priority. Since MultiVersus emphasizes two-on-two, it’ll be interesting to see how they make it feel different from any of the other platform fighters. So far, there are character moves that are based on helping out a teammate when they’re falling or buffing them, which is a good way to make team-based fighting less of an arbitrary addition.
I also do like that two-on-two in the alpha isn’t too hard to follow visually, as it would have been easy to fall into the trap of having too much happening on the screen with so many moving (and visually dynamic) characters and stage elements. If the full game keeps it looking clean with all the different characters and stages, I think the focus on two-on-two could really pay off.
My only concern is that they may neglect one-on-one to focus on two-on-two when you just want to play on your own sometimes. What do you think of one-on-one so far?
I’ve enjoyed my solo battles so far, but of course, I’m still in the honeymoon phase of getting to learn these characters. Some of them are pretty complex, such as Scooby Doo’s Velma having to find clues to power-up her attacks. However, some of the more straightforward characters, such as Bugs Bunny, feel a bit plain due to a lack of spectacle revolving around the action.
When I think about why I love Super Smash Bros., it is the thrill of reacting to a constantly changing battle. The items are popping up all over the screen, I’m having to deal with three characters that play very differently (unless everyone picked Marth derivatives from Fire Emblem), and the stage always adds to the experience. I think two areas — the stages and the lack of any items — might limit MultiVersus a bit from a casual perspective. It all seems very much tailored toward competitive play, which will be an overwhelming minority of people checking out a free-to-play fighter.
Other concerns I have are over balance and monetization. No big red flags came from this alpha, but it’s worth noting that characters can earn equippable perks. I basically always get flashbacks to Street Fighter X Tekken and its DLC gems as a way to just break a competent fighter. That’s not to say this will go down the pay-to-win route, instead it looks to be focusing on currency to unlock more fighters and a battle pass system similar to Pokémon Unite, but the potential is there to go awry.
I’m always a bit of a worrywart, though. All my hands-on time was very positive, but these are conversations to be had. What sort of features do you want to see in the final product? I am hoping for a proper arcade mode and some solid single-player offerings rather than it purely focusing on getting people online as much as possible, but it probably wants people to be showing off their costumes and player count as high as possible, so it’d make sense for online to be far-and-away the main focus.
I agree with you about arcade mode, and I hope there are fun arcade endings too. I think of games like Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3, which had all sorts of characters meet each other in fun little scenarios for each ending. MultiVersus has so many varied characters that there could be some neat interactions in the endings that reward those who prefer single-player.
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I don’t see it happening, but a large aspect of single-player in Smash Bros. comes from collecting things like trophies or spirits. I’d love to have a cool type of collectible that’s earned in single-player and multiplayer, as this would allow players to view unique character models and feel like they’re always accomplishing something.
Finally, I hope the roster gets really weird. I want stuff like Osmosis Jones characters, and Gollum from The Lord of the Rings alongside fun staples like the Animaniacs and Samurai Jack. Are there any characters you’re really hoping for?
I’m not that imaginative, but I like your suggestions. Maybe they could get ultra-specific and have Ezra Miller’s The Flash throw some chairs or something. That’d be quite the move set. In a more realistic suggestion, I’d love to see multiple versions of Batman, throw in a live-action version (ideally not Batfleck) to counteract the Kevin Conroy. Whether it is through alternate costumes or other character slots, there are a lot of wild ways to play with the multiverse idea. Also, I’d love to see some classic Midway characters since WB owns that library.
I really like that there are already some out-there choices for the roster, although I was a bit bummed to see an original character in this roster. It really goes against the whole theme of a giant crossover and hopefully they don’t do more original ones. C’mon WB, you already own the properties, so use them.
While I still have some reservations, MultiVersus’ closed alpha wound up really impressing and looks highly promising. I can’t wait to see what else Player First Games adds to the package going forward.