Earlier, we revealed the opening cinematic for Marvel Heroes 2015's upcoming raid based on Marvel Comics last crossover event, AXIS. But a cinematic doesn't tell you all that much about what you, the gamer, will actually experience.
That's where Ryan Collins, Community Manager and Creative Designer of Marvel Heroes 2015 comes in. Collins sat down with ComicBook.com to give all the details on the new raid, which becomes a permanent fixture when it launches later today. Collins fills us in on what players can expect, reveals what they can do to prepare, and of course, geeks out over the stories that inspire this latest addition. We also have exclusive screenshots from the AXIS raid (scroll down for the full gallery), and the exclusive debut of the trailer, right here.
With so many moving parts, like characters changing sides, changing costumes, and engaging in multi-stage fights, this seems like a lot to tackle. Where do you start from when building a special raid as big as AXIS?
Ryan Collins: The scope of the story in the Marvel Heroes universe is obviously a lot smaller than the Marvel Universe in comics, and that lets us feed more directly into it. In our previously released Red Skull “One-Shot,” players met Red Skull for the first time as he reclaimed HYDRA from the Mandarin, who was its leader during our story.
Shortly after the events of Red Skull's defeat, he showed his hand and was liberated from the Raft by his S-Men. From there, we’re heading straight to Genosha to deal with his newfound power – Xavier's power! – as Red Onslaught.
We wanted to focus mostly on what translates best to our game here: a big, awesome boss fight with Red Onslaught.
What exactly, can gamers do when they enter the AXIS raid?
RC: For starters, every player should go play the Red Skull One-Shot to get to see him in his classic Red Skull glory. He has a tons of ridiculous weapons and uses his classic Dust of Death. From there, if you're a well-geared, well-prepared level 60 hero, you can find a group of likeminded superheroes to kick some Red Onslaught butt!
Beast will summon you to Genosha and you'll be there with a S.H.I.E.L.D. liberation team, helping the “war” efforts against Red Onslaught. In addition to hanging out in the hub and doing missions, you can press further into Genosha with your 10-person group to battle Stark Sentinels and Red Onslaught himself.
I'll warn you, though – he's incredibly difficult.
Part of the original AXIS series' fun was how good became bad and vice versa – how far into that theme are you going here?
RC: We touch on it a bit. But, we're full speed ahead on our next part of the Marvel Heroes story, so we didn't have time to go into it too heavily.
You can definitely expect to see some Axis-inspired costumes and Team-Ups, though, with Carnage and Superior Iron Man on the way sometime this year.
With decades of Marvel events to choose from, some may find it surprising that you are adapting an event from just a few months ago – Why did you decided to use such a recent storyline?
RC: It's really important to me that we ride both waves of the Marvel Universe - classic and modern. The previous raid before this was to fight Surtur in Muspelheim, and he is obviously a fairly classic Marvel comics villain, thanks Walt Simonson. Our next story element is based on an event from many years ago, but we also have plans for more “classic” content.
There are two masters there, you know? The people who have been reading Marvel Comics for ten, twenty, thirty years and more, and the fans who are just aware of things happening at any given time. Even if you don't follow comics, if you follow the MCU, you see the comic news. You saw that Red Skull came back as Red Onslaught, and even if you didn't go read Axis, you know how crazy that is.
It's so amazing that the MCU has gotten so big, as it's really broadened the scope of what people know about comics. You no longer have to be a comic person to know who Thanos or Red Skull are, and you've probably read a wiki or two to learn more about a particular character who appeared in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Everybody knows about the Marvel Universe now - you don't have to know which issue Captain America changed to the circle shield to be considered a fan, and that's awesome.
But of course it doesn’t hurt to know it was Captain America Comics #2. RIP badge shield.
What new things are you and Gazillion trying in the AXIS Raid that either you haven’t tried before, or that you feel you’ve finally perfected?
RC: The biggest new thing we're doing with this raid is adding a faction to gain influence with, which is the Genosha Liberation Force. It's the team of S.H.I.E.L.D. men and women who are risking their lives to fight Red Onslaught S-Men and Stark Sentinels to save the lives of mutants he's captured.
Thankfully, in our universe, S.H.I.E.L.D. and the mutant community still like each other!
There's going to be a series of different tasks a player can undertake to gain “influence” with this faction, basically helping out their efforts in the fight against Red Onslaught. It's a pretty “big” system with a lot of high-level ramifications, so it'd be best for players to read the patch notes once the raid launches to get a sense of what we've added.
As for what we're getting better at, I definitely think that the three major encounters in Genosha are a testament to what we learned from the Surtur raid. In some cases we use some similar mechanics, but we've really gotten better at communicating those advanced powers to players and in general. It feels leaner and meaner -- Surtur had five total encounters whereas Axis only has three.
When building these raids, how do you make sure that any character can play them, especially now that you have close to 50, with so many variations?
RC: That is definitely tough. Internally, we try to constantly rotate in and out heroes when we playtest, just to make sure that nobody's particular mechanics have adverse effects on the fights. In addition, our Test Center is incredibly important – there, we invite players to play the content in an alpha and beta state to get their feedback, and that's where you really get the full spread of the roster.
In general, though, we're working our way through our Design Reviews, which helps a lot. The short explanation of a Design Review is that we're going back through every hero we've launched, and reviewing their powers and abilities. We have lots of new technology to make better and more interesting powers now, and in addition, we bring them within range of new heroes when it comes to survivability or damage.
Basically: our work is never complete!
Anything else you’re especially excited for fans to check out when AXIS drops this Friday?
RC: The Genosha Hub and its faction influence missions-- if I were to list something that wasn't just the GIANT RED ONSLAUGHT BOSS FIGHT WHICH IS INSANE.
AXIS is recent of course, but it’s still in the past. Right now, fans are gearing up for the crazy Secret Wars event on the way this summer. It seems to be the kind of event that could work very well in Marvel Heroes – any hints on what fans can expect in the coming months?
RC: I wouldn't be looking out for any content specifically - we find that trying to keep up with a comic event just isn't possible due to our development cycle – and we're really darn fast – but I think we have some pretty cool plans that our PR and marketing team would beat me up over if I keep talking...
So, when exactly is AXIS coming out?
RC: It launches TODAY and may even be available as you read this!