If you've been curious about XCOM developer Firaxis' foray into superhero-themed strategy following the formal unveiling of Marvel's Midnight Suns last month, some of your questions may now have answers, courtesy of an official first look at the game in action.
Marvel's Midnight Suns takes inspiration from the Midnight Sons comic book run of the mid-90s, which told the story of a band of supernatural superheroes as they battled against Lilith, Mother of All Demons. In Firaxis' game, Lilith has been resurrected by Hydra and will stop at nothing to fulfil a prophecy and bring back her master using the full force of her demonic army. In response to this hellish threat, the Caretaker chooses to reform the Midnight Sons with a few new heroes in tow - including the Avengers, who decide to revive legendary hero The Hunter, the child of Lilith and the only one known to have defeated her before.
That's the basic premise of Midnight Suns, with the ensuing action - which promises a "deeply customisable tactical battle system that rewards clever thinking with superhero flair" - sounding like a blend of card-battling turn-based combat and Fire-Emblem-style relationship building.
Midnight Suns will feature 12 playable heroes "at launch", ranging from the immediately familiar - think the Avengers and X-Men - to perhaps lesser-known characters from the likes of the Runaways. Each has their own unique abilities - "from damage-dealing attacks to life-saving skills" - alongside a finisher, and any combination of three heroes can be taken into battle. That's in addition to the player character - the fully customisable Hunter - who can channel either light powers (described as being support/healing focussed) or dark powers, which are a lot more destructive and incur a cost on the Hunter and their allies.
Abilities manifest as cards which can be expanded upon and upgraded as play goes on, and a random selection of these are dealt at the start of combat, offering, as Firaxis puts it, a "vast array" of tactical choices when used strategically with the environment - smashing enemies into walls or off ledges, for instance. Environments, incidentally, draw from "iconic" Marvel locations, including the Avengers Tower, Doctor Strange's Sanctum Sanctorum, underground Hydra installations, even a hellscape dimension "far beyond our own".
That's pretty much all we know about combat so far, but, as we learned previously, battling is only one portion of the game. Between demonic skirmishes, players will retreat to a "living hub" known as the Abbey for a bit of recreational downtime.
Firaxis says the Abbey offers "hours of rewarding exploration, gameplay, and story" (there's a quick shot of the Hunter discovering a Word of Power artefact that grants access to new areas of the hub during the trailer), and it's here that players can unlock new costumes, gain access to new abilities in the forge using spoils of war, upgrade current abilities under Blade's watchful eye in the yard, and find new hero ops and missions in the war room with Captain Marvel.
Perhaps most importantly, however, the Abbey is where players can build relationships with their favourite heroes and strengthen personal bonds to unlock combat benefits. Romancing seems to be off the table (although Firaxis says it's possible to become "very, very, very" close friends, whatever that means), but players can engage in various bonding exercises away from the battlefield - perhaps meditating with Doctor Strange, playing video games with Ghost Rider, or taking a stroll with Tony Stark.
While most of the details shared so far are pretty top-level, there's still a decent amount of gameplay footage on display in the newly released trailer and accompany IGN livestream above. Expect plenty more to be revealed in the run-up to the PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, and PC release of Marvel's Midnight Suns next March.