MultiVersus Closed Alpha Just Ended And I Miss It Already

I wouldn’t normally write a post-mortem for a closed alpha, but I just can’t stop thinking about MultiVersus. I don’t usually feel a sense of loss when a technical test ends, but I’m now counting the days until open beta starts in July and I can finally start the MultiVersus grind without any more progress resets. Others have said this is the next big thing in free-to-play, and I find it hard to disagree. MultiVersus is built to last in a way that similar Smash-competitors are not, and I’m looking forward to folding it into my regular rotation next month.

Most people probably think of the platform fighter genre as Super Smash Bros. Ultimate and several games trying to be like Smash. MultiVersus borrows a lot from Smash, but it also makes some smart choices to set itself apart. The clearest sign of its long-term success is its free-to-play model, which promises frequent content updates that will keep the game fresh and alive. The Smash Ultimate hype died the moment the final character was announced, but the promise of MultiVersus is that the hype will never die. Between characters, variants, stages, and battle pass rewards, there will always be something new to see in MultiVersus, and more importantly, something new to grind for.

I was well aware that progress would be reset at the end of the closed alpha, and despite that, I grinded my battle pass to level 38 and got multiple characters to level 15, the highest level to unlock new perks and cosmetics. The daily challenges are a great incentive to log in and play a few matches every day, and as much as I hate to admit it, there’s something in my monkey brain that compels me to make numbers go up. It’s not always easy to see your skill improving in a game like MultiVersus, but the experience you earn always gives you a feeling of progress. Even when you lose, you’re always working towards something.

The entire metagame would mean nothing if the actual fighting wasn’t phenomenal, but fortunately, it is. The co-op focus makes battles decidedly different from Smash because they encourage an entirely different playstyle. Every character has support abilities for defending or buffing their teammate, and good players will find a balance between offense and defense. You can be the most competent fighter in the world, but you’ll lose if your teammate is getting beat up too badly. That may seem like a subtle difference, but it makes Multiversus a totally different game than Smash – and for me, a more interesting one to play.

I’ll admit I had a lot of reservations about MultiVersus. Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl’s low-budget presentation and lack of content left a bad taste in my mouth for Smash copycats, and in general I have an aversion to exhuming old IP for big nostalgia-filled pop culture mashups. What’s more, the perk system seemed like a bad fight for a fighting game, and there’s always a bit of hesitation when it comes to free-to-play games. After playing almost nothing but MultiVersus for a week, all of my concerns were proven to be unfounded.

From the music, to the animations, to the A-list voice acting from almost all of the original actors, MultiVersus has exceptional production value. As silly as the game is, the developers have demonstrated a high level of care and reverence for each and every character. I’ve written at length about the genius of Tom & Jerry, but every fighter on the roster feels fully realized and true to their character. They all have great interactions with each other that bring the world to life. For a silly little cartoon fighter, there’s an exceptional level of polish.

The perk system is nothing to worry about, and actually makes battles more engaging in some ways. All the perks are earned by leveling characters, and you’re free to use any perk in the game on any character you like, so there’s no restrictions that would unnecessarily give your opponent an advantage over you, except while you’re still leveling that character. The perks can help you do things like deal more damage, absorb more damage, or recover better, and they get stronger if you and your teammate use the same one. Since matches are always a best of three, I found a lot of satisfaction in countering my opponents’ picks with appropriate perks. You always get to see which character you’re facing before you choose your perks, so you can plan around their strengths or try to take advantage of their weaknesses. I find that the perks add a level of pre-planning to each fight that makes them more dynamic than Smash battles, and I’m glad they’re in the game.

As for the monetization concerns, we don’t know yet how that will work. In the alpha you could buy all of the characters with coins you earned by playing, and I had no trouble opening up the entire roster in the first couple of days. Each character earns cosmetic items by leveling up, and you earn a lot more via the paid battle pass. We don’t know how much that battle pass costs, how long each season is, or what will be in the shop, but it doesn’t seem like you’ll ever need to spend money on characters or perks. If MultiVersus is only selling cosmetics, I won’t have any complaints.

Yes, the mega-corp IP mashup is a little gross, to put it mildly. The addition of the pacifistic Iron Giant, the way-too-timely Eleven from Stranger Things, and, if the rumors are true, LeBron James from basketball, all make me bristle. I can’t deny the weaponized nostalgia has gone too far, but I also have to admit its a quality platform fighter that feels great to play. The characters are going to get fans in the door, but the strength of the combat is what will keep them there. Maybe playing MultiVersus makes me part of the problem, but I promise that for every five hours I play I’ll watch a Cassavetes movie or something in exchange, deal?

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