Imagine yourself as Iron Man beaming repulsor rays at your enemies while the Hulk holds off the assault. That’s an experience you can finally have in a MOBA game thanks to NetEase’s new Marvel Super War.

The free-to-play game has so far launched in six countries in Southeast Asia and is also available in Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan.

While the game might seem like just yet another reskin of a typical MOBA game, NetEase has really succeeded in applying the MOBA formula to the Marvel Universe. After all, who doesn’t want to be in a teamfight sparring with other superheroes?

The most important aspect of the game is that the roles and abilities of the characters make sense. The Hulk and the Thing are your rock-ripped tanks, Hawkeye and Star-Lord your nimble marksmen, Groot and Mantis your support, Black Panther and Black Widow your assassins sneaking out of the jungle for an unexpected kill. Nothing feels out of place, making it a very immersive experience.

When fighting as Iron Man against Storm, I first shot missiles. Then I used the electromagnetic shock to slow her down and finished her off with the unibeam. (Picture: NetEase)

It is a feat easier said than done. Tencent previously brought superheroes into a MOBA game by introducing DC characters to Arena of Valor, the international version of Honor of Kings. But the experience doesn’t translate as well. Each Justice League member sticks out like a sore thumb among a bunch of medieval knights and mages, who are the game’s original characters. Worse, the characters’ abilities in the game don’t feel reflective of their strengths and weaknesses as portrayed in the comics.

NetEase’s Super War is definitely a step-up from that. Not only do the graphics look great, with character designs true to form, the game also effectively leverages much of Marvel’s fascinating lore.

But like any other competitive multiplayer game, there isn’t really much of a story to Marvel Super War. 

The rules of the game are simple: Play as a hero in a team of five going up against another team of five, try to wipe out all the defense towers in your way and tear down your enemy's team base to achieve final victory.

The art and graphics of this game are pretty impressive. (Picture: NetEase)

The setting of the arena is also full of Easter eggs that Marvel fans can feast on. For example, all the defense towers in the arena are Wakandan tech. Around the towers are jungles that house various Wakandan animal spirits or grotesque monsters like the Man-Thing.

The two main objectives in the arena are capturing the Black Panther spirit and defeating the fire giant Surtur. Capturing the spirit rewards you with a stats boost across your team, and defeating Surtur gets you his crown, allowing you to resurrect Surtur to mow down towers at will.

Towers, jungles and map objectives are all common MOBA features. In this respect, it’s fair to say that Marvel Super War has very little innovation in the genre. But the integration of the superhero world into the MOBA formula is well-implemented enough to capitalize on the best of both worlds.

Just Star Lord frolicking right past Surtur while listening to his Walkman. (Picture: NetEase)

So if you’re looking for a competent MOBA in which you get to play as your favorite Marvel characters, this game accomplishes that. It has a total of 42 characters at launch, ranging from Avengers characters like Captain America and Iron Man to Spider-Man. You can play as X-Men members like Storm and Iceman, too, although Wolverine is still noticeably absent (he's featured in the latest trailer, which might be a hint). If you’re the more villainous type, you can play as Magneto, Thanos and Ronan, among others.

Many characters have to be unlocked by either grinding through the game or paying. But characters who are free to play from the get-go, including Iron Man and Quicksilver, offer plenty of value for beginning players.

The game also has some awesome skins for Marvel fans. You can play as an armored Hulk, for example, as he appeared in the film Thor: Ragnarok or use Spider-Man’s Iron Spider armor from Avengers: Infinity War. Based on what the shop has to offer, I’d bet the game will rake in a lot of revenue just from selling cosmetics.

The game has a lot of tie-in clothing items from the movies. (Picture: NetEase)

But even with all these great nods to Marvel fandom, the game itself needs a lot more fine-tuning before it’s balanced enough to compete with the top MOBAs on the market. 

For me, as a casual MOBA gamer, Marvel Super War is a well-polished MOBA game that had no problems running on my iPhone XS over the 10 hours I spent on it. Although it seems like everybody is making Avengers games nowadays, my experience with Marvel Super War has convinced me that, if done well, the MOBA genre does have something unique to offer in the world of superhero games.