Firaxis has made a name for itself thanks to its work on the XCOM reboot. Although it isn't the original creator of the XCOM IP, Firaxis has contributed a ton to both XCOM as a franchise and to the tactics genre as a whole. That's why it was so interesting to learn that Firaxis' next game, Marvel's Midnight Suns, will apply Firaxis' mastery of tactics to the Marvel superhero multiverse. In Marvel's Midnight Suns, players will assemble squads from a band of famous heroes called the Midnight Suns, then wage turn-based battle against Lilith and her horde of supernatural minions.
Midnight Suns has a solid premise at its heart, and its card-based combat system looks like a nice twist on Firaxis' usual tactical game design. However, there's a notable potential flaw in the combat system. The Midnight Suns gameplay trailer suggested that players can only make parties of three heroes at a time, and that one of those heroes will always be the Hunter, a custom superhero protagonist designed by players at the start of Midnight Suns. Small party sizes aren't inherently bad, since they allow each hero on the team to showcase their individual powers. However, Midnight Suns bills itself heavily on the merit of unique interactions between superheroes, and these small party sizes could strangle those interactions a little.
Midnight Suns is About Marvel Teamwork
A major part of Midnight Suns' appeal stems from its unique ability to provoke interactions between superheroes. Midnight Suns incorporates a social system wherein the Hunter befriends their fellow Midnight Suns and explores their relationships with each other. Building bonds between team members gives players access to team attacks that can trigger when the friendly heroes are brought into combat together. Even beyond the powerful team attacks, seeing Marvel superheroes converse casually is a rare opportunity. It's great that Midnight Suns chooses to delve into the relationships between superheroes rather than simply focusing on their powers and struggles.
Unfortunately, the three person party could make it a lot harder to see and hear unique interactions between superheroes. Parties of that size make it way harder for Midnight Suns players to see each team attack and any other unique interactions that superheroes might have in combat. Even if Midnight Suns allowed for four person parties instead, it'd mean exponentially more interactions and team attacks become possible with each mission that a player takes on. That'd really bolster Midnight Suns' notion of a big superhero team fighting, working, and living together, so it's a little strange that Firaxis has opted to restrict players to teams of three.
Midnight Suns Has the Right Idea
Hopefully, the social elements in Midnight Suns that take place at the Abbey are extensive. The more in-depth they are, the better they'll make up for the inconvenience of Midnight Suns' small party sizes. If players can't interact with large groups of heroes in combat, then at the very least, it'd be nice to interact with them in rewarding ways outside of combat on the regular. The Hunter's opportunity to simply chat with and get to know Marvel superheroes is pretty rare, so one hopes Firaxis goes the extra mile and makes the most of that idea.
Midnight Suns could still have a surprise in store for fans; maybe there'll be select story beats that require bigger superhero teams and give opportunities for more interactions and character engagement. Even if that's not the case, though, Midnight Suns is a good starting point for similar games going forward. If Midnight Suns gets a sequel or a spiritual successor, or even if Firaxis starts an original franchise with new characters but similar mechanics, it can build on the card combat system and the social simulation by opening up team sizes. If it does that, then fans will get to see their friendships in action more often, which would be very satisfying.
Marvel's Midnight Suns releases in March 2022 for PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One, and Xbox Series X/S.