Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 23.07.2019

Review for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order on Nintendo Switch

There have been almost 10 years between instalments for Ultimate Alliance, and in that time Marvel has exploded to an unbelievable level of popularity. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2 launched September 2009. The first Iron Man film had caught the populous' attention a year before, and the Disney deal loomed. The MCU has given a bigger than ever audience to Marvel games, and recently they have lived up to the hope when Marvel finally had its… Arkham City moment last year with Insomniac's Spider-Man. The bar has been set, though. Can this return live up to it? Cubed3 finds out.

While next year's Avengers title from Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics is taking the MCU as its inspiration, Ultimate Alliance 3 is keeping its focus on the source material, fully embracing the style, designs, and characters of the comics - with a little of the cinematic and Netflix style mixed in here and there… although the Black Order taking the stage is certainly thanks to the popularity of Thanos' children in their MCU incarnation in Infinity War.

Opening on the Guardians of the Galaxy, the famous jerks are checking out a strange power signature in an asteroid belt, and end up throwing themselves into the centre of a familiar set of threats. The power signature is within a Kree ship, and it's stuffed to bursting with Kree warriors, led by Ronan and Nebula. These blue meanies have got themselves a few glowing rocks, and have even attracted the attention of Nebula's dear old dad. In a showdown between the Guardians, the Kree corps, and one of the titular Black Order - Proxima Midnight - the stones are scattered like the seven Dragon Balls after Shenron is done granting a wish.

The Guardians are whisked away, too, and find themselves back on the most dangerous place in the Universe: Earth. The Raft, specifically, a S.H.I.E.L.D. prison holding a myriad of Marvel Monstrosities. Of particular note, here, are the Spider-Man villains; Electro, Mysterio, Venom, and Sandman are breaking out of their cells, along with countless faceless goons. Luckily, the Web-Crawler is on-hand to help out, especially since at the head of the villains is Norman Osborne, and he managed to get his hand on one of the stones - the Time Stone, fitting with his greenish glow.

This pattern continues throughout the game. Originally just the Guardians - Star-Lord, Rocket & Groot, Drax, and Gamora - are playable, but after meeting up with Spidey, he is added to the Alliance as a selectable and playable character. A team can be made of any four characters at a time, and making a team-up of characters known for grouping together gives various stat bonuses.

Screenshot for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order on Nintendo Switch

That selectable roster of characters expands massively after the Raft is completed, as Nick Fury arrives with a host of heroes to join the cause. Suddenly, Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Wolverine, and many, many more appear. The big guns are needed as the stones can give godly powers to any who hold them, and they are, of course, attracting all the worst kind of attention. The Mad Titan is inevitable, as are his children, so finding where the stones have ended up on Earth before the Black Order arrive is essential.

The only thing is, they have already found their way into the hands of plenty of other iconic Marvel villains. Each chapter is centred around tracking down one of the stones in a whole new environment, with new allies to recruit, and new enemies to defeat. After the Raft, things go street level as The Defenders are up. Netflix fans will be happy to see Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and Daredevil all showing up for a hunt through the ninja-infested Shadowland - although sadly, Jessica is not playable. For the uninitiated, Shadowland is a Japanese castle filled with Immortal Ninja, bang in the heart of NYC, and sitting inside is one Wilson Fisk.

After NYC, the story jumps through many iconic locations from franchise history. There are 10 chapters in all, each set in a unique environment, with themed foes and allies. Avengers Tower becomes a battleground against Ultron and his drones, requiring the aid of Avengers like the Wasp and Hawkeye.

For those looking forward to the upcoming "Powers of X" and "House of X," and seeing Hickman set the blueprints for Mutants for years to come (and possibly their inevitable integration into the MCU), the X-Mansion plays home to another stage, with Betsy and Kurt joining the team, while the Merc with a Mouth is cooking up a Taco feast - until a certain unstoppable juggernaut literally drops in. The dreaded Dark Dimension of Dormammu is on-hand, introducing the mystical parts of the MCU, like Doctor Strange, Elsa Bloodstone, and Ghost Rider, as well as Attilan on the Moon, the spires of Asgard, the forests of Wakanda.

Screenshot for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order on Nintendo Switch

This latest instalment is coming from Team Ninja, a group that has shown time and again that it knows exactly what to do with these types of games and the combat within, especially on Switch with titles like Fire Emblem Warriors and Hyrule Warriors under its belt. The usual Light and Heavy attack are present to mash through the majority of the trash mobs out there, be they beekeeper-looking AIM scientists, Hydra soldiers, or Sentinels. The attacks of each character are different enough to ensure players will want to try out many of the expansive cast. Even characters that are similar feel different; each of Miles, Peter, and Gwen have their own style. There are close range speedy slashers, ranged shooters, big brawlers, and so on. Each character also has unlockable special attacks; one when they start, and then one unlocked after every five levels. These attacks do massive damage, even more so when they are combined with allies for huge devastating AOE attacks.

Accentuating the battles are huge boss battles with unique mechanics to take on; having to take out each of Doc Ock's tentacles while he perches above the battle, a gargantuan Ultimo towers above the battlefield, and Surtur has to be removed from his place of power to be able to weaken him. Boss fights are well designed and enjoyable every time. Outside of the combat, though, there's little worth talking about. The missions are all rather linear, and the "puzzles" consist of pressing a switch or, in its most complex form, moving some statues onto coloured switches. No trick to it, no figuring out where to move the statues or difficulty in doing so.. just a few seconds and it's over. Luckily, the combat and the story make up for it.

On top of the regular story mode, there are a series of extra challenges to take on, entitled "Infinity Rifts." These replay certain stages or battles from the main story, with modifiers to make them more difficult. Powered-up enemies, modifiers where only certain types of attacks cause damage, time limits, and more, are all present and correct. Completing these challenges give items to power-up characters and their abilities, and, even better, there are special Infinity Trials that reward new outfits for some of the characters. Each of the trials has three bonus objectives to aim for, and completing enough of these unlocks even more special outfits. It's a shame, then, that the outfits are lazy recolours. There is a gargantuan range of costumes in the history of each of these characters. A Ms. Marvel instead of the same regular outfit in Star Force colours, or a Captain America in classic comic-scale mail instead of a darker "Winter Soldier" blue colour scheme would have been much better.

Screenshot for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order on Nintendo Switch

There's a critical flaw around the Infinity Trials, and that's the design. They are unlocked by finding rifts within levels or progressing through the story, but taking them on means completely exiting from the story, and upon completing them there is no way to quickly re-enter the story without going all the way back to the main menu. Similarly, there's no way to quit and retry. It's a basic flaw, but a particular annoyance - although that annoyance is nothing in comparison to the camera. This is horribly restrictive and often gets in the way of the action. It's an old complaint about these types of games, and one that has been solved before, so it's disappointing to see it reappear here.

Made for co-operative play, Switch gives plenty of options on how to do that. Couch co-op on the big screen is easiest, and by far the most enjoyable, but there's online available here, too. Each character levels up completely independently, so there are plenty of reasons to replay with friends, levelling up the huge roster, and digging into the surprisingly vast character customisation. There's a huge Sphere Grid-style map to work through unlocking nodes, along with a system based around ISO-8 crystals, which can be customised and equipped to characters.

The fanservice continues in the soundtrack. While the score is mostly forgettable, the cast is not. The cast of Earth's Mightiest Avengers is on-hand to voice Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and Hulk. The cast of Avengers Assemble are here, as are some of Telltale's Guardians. Returning from Insomniac's PS4 hit take on Spider-man is Yuri Lowenthal as Peter, and Nadji Jeter as Miles. Nolan North pulls double duty as Rocket and Deadpool. This a stellar cast and they all do a wonderful job, each firing out quips and signature lines with aplomb.

Screenshot for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

For a series that has been away for so long, it hasn't missed a step; stuffed full of fan-service for followers of whichever flavour of Marvel is present. The combat is mashy, but meaty and feels really satisfying when the synergy is just right. This is most fun in co-op, yet is also marvellous in solo. There's a mammoth amount of replayability thanks to grinding through, levelling each of the characters up, taking on the Infinity Trials, and a challenging New Game+ to overcome, not to mention the new content to come with the Season Pass. For a long time now, it's been great to be a Marvel fan, and now Ultimate Alliance 3 is another reason why.

Developer

Koei Tecmo

Publisher

Nintendo

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   

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