Marvel Strike Force: The Best and Worst Mobile Game [Review]

Admittedly, I don’t have a lot of time to sit down and play games. I enjoy them when I’m able to pay through them, but I am rarely afforded the time to play for a number of uninterrupted hours. I still need to get my gaming fix somewhere, which has caused me to get into mobile games, mainly Marvel Strike Force. There are quite a few things you need to know about me, my relationship to gaming, and my relationship to my phone that all play a part into why Marvel Strike Force is the go to game that I play the most and have consistently played since its release, despite its countless failures and cash grabs. So while this will be a general overview of Marvel Strike Force as a mobile game and how it plays, I will also be oversharing some things about myself that help provide a framework as to why I feel the way I do about the game itself. Strap in, you guys. It’s gonna be a journey.

Mobile Games and Me

Let’s start with my relationship to games and mobile gaming in general. It’s important to understand my point of view and why I choose specific games to play and why this one has kept my attention for so long. Without getting into too much detail, the things you need to know the most is I love turn based RPGs and I started my mobile gaming journey with Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes. I’m a huge fan of the turn based gaming format; it’s the perfect blend of brute strength and strategy, allowing you to over invest characters to overpower opponents or take a more nuanced approach and build a cohesive team that utilizes a range of abilities. It’s actually one of the things I miss the most about Final Fantasy games, as I grew up on the turn based model and still associate that game play with those games I played so much as a kid. As a player, I enjoy both aspects of turn based gameplay. I’m not above grinding out one characters TCP as an unstoppable force, but I also understand the importance of having a well balanced team that includes strength, magic and healing.

This love began with Final Fantasy and carried over into Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. This was one of the first mobile games I played, and played a LOT. Without getting too deep into it, I probably could’ve put a kid through college with how much money I wasted on SWGOH. I regret it now as I don’t even have the game on my phone anymore, but I was all in on the game for a long time. Most mobile games rely on micro transactions, something turn based RPGs should be no stranger to. There are always coveted resources, weapons, spells, protection, gear, etc to farm to make you a more formidable opponent and of course these games make it a point to make sure that the most precious are gated behind a wall of wallets. The benefit of a turn based, gear oriented mobile game is that you can come and go as you please and level up characters at whatever pace your free to play or whale budget will allow. By nature, RPGs are more of a long grind than a one sitting, time consuming endeavor and having that kind of access on my phone was immediately enticing. I won’t even pretend I didn’t get obsessed with it, and may have broken a phone or two in my rage quitting during some arena battles.

Ya, I’m THAT kind of gamer. I’ve gotten better at it but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you that mistakes were made.

So, I was heavily into Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes and when my friend introduced me to Marvel Strike Force. It was basically a re-skin of Star Wars, operating the same way but it exposed a number of things that were starting to go wrong with Star Wars. There are a LOT of things that made me leave Star Wars, but the two biggest were the meta team gated behind a team of characters no one wants or asked for or even enjoys playing, and its lack of meaningful character roster. You would think that with unfettered access to every character in the Star Wars canon it would be pretty hard to run out of characters, but this is sadly not the case. At any give point, you can play a full team of Han Solos, Chewbaccas or Luke Skywalkers. That means there are approximately 5 different versions of the same character, and regardless of whether or not their kits differ they’re still the same person in different costumes. The lack of diversity along with the best of the best being heavily guarded by the worst of the worst made the game incredibly stale and I decided to leave it altogether.

I replaced it with Marvel Strike Force, originally owned by Foxnet but bought out by Scopely. Scopely is also the company behind The Walking Dead Mobile Games and Star Trek Fleet Command. Their pride and joy, though, and the game that netted them $150 Million in its first year is Marvel Strike Force. The game has won a number of gaming awards in its 3 years, including the Mobile Game of the Year by SXSW Gaming Awards in 2019. There is a LOT to love about Marvel Strike Force, especially as a fan of turn based RPG games that are easily accessible as well as easy to put down for a while. The game succeeds where a number of others like it have failed, but it is still plagued by a number of developer mistakes and bugs that make it far from a perfect game.

What The Hell is Marvel Strike Force

The short version: Marvel Strike Force is a turn based RPG mobile game that allows players to build a varied roster and level up toons to battle other players and AI to achieve greater rewards and resources to become stronger. Each character is often a well known (or not so well known depending on how much you actually know about Moondragon) Marvel character, either from the MCU or Marvel Comics. Each character is assigned a class and multiple categories of style, strength and origin that determines what kind of gear they’ll need, who they can pair the best with and who they are typically countered by. Every character is given a unique and stats that all level up with increased character leveling, ability increases and gear tiers. Currently, characters can upgrade their toons’ abilities 7 times, raises their levels to player level 80, an increase their gear to level 15. There is also an Iso Class System that provides additional bonuses depending on what’s best for the character. This includes enhanced strikes, fortification and consistent healing on turn.

The roster includes everyone from Captain America to Loki to Scientist Supreme. There are 171 characters in the game, classified by things like Legendary and Minion and everything in between. Almost every toon in the game has a team that provides synergy and is enhanced by playing them altogether. For example, you can run a Black Order team with Thanos that allows The Mad Titan to become empowered by the infinity stones and boost all of his attacks. Or you can run the Symbiotes, who gain speed by killing enemies and adding a ton of debuffs on every turn. The combinations are endless, and people are constantly creating new hybrids and strange synergies to enhance their gameplay. Scopley has been going all in on character releases recently, power creeping the current meta and changing every facet of the game rapidly. As it stands, there have been about 12 new toons released in the last 3 months, two of which are instant meta toons and two full teams have been reworked and change a number of game modes.

You can use this vast roster to fight in Arena, Blitz, Raids, Dark Dimension, Alliance War and Campaigns. There are quite a few different ways to apply your roster and it is one of the strengths of the game. You can battle against other players in Arena, fight through huge waves of Dark Dimension to gain massive rewards, or help your Alliance fight and defeat other Alliances in war. Everything requires specific gear level and Iso requirements as well specific characters for specific nodes. There are countless ways to build your roster, earn rewards and use your toons in a number of ways. If you’re a fan of turn based RPG games, Marvel Strike Force is about as good as it gets. There’s no such thing as a mobile game that’s F2P friendly; that’s just not how gaming business works. But Marvel Strike Force does do a lot to give you a fun experience even if you’re not willing to buy it. Your experience will always been enhanced by the size of your wallet, but Marvel Strike Force is probably more Free to Play friendly that a number of other ones out there.

The Best of Marvel Strike Force

So that’s what the game is and why I enjoy playing it, but let’s run down a quick list of what it makes it such a great game. Yes, I’m starting with the good first because no game is perfect and I think there is a lot to enjoy or I wouldn’t be talking about it right now. For starters, Marvel Strike Force really does sport one of the most prolific and rather easy to obtain rosters out there. Like all mobile games, there are countless free toons you get early on that you’ll wish you never unlocked, but for the most part almost every single toon can be unlocked if you’re willing to grind it out. There are a few characters guarded behind some wallet walls, but some of the best characters in the game can be unlocked with some elbow grease and resource hoarding. The roster expands really well, with an endless combination of teams to be used across a number of game modes. There are ways to build specific teams and strange teams, and a number of places to experiment with them without any real consequence to your stats or player level. We’ll talk about the power creep later, but for now the game is doing a great job in expanding their roster regularly so the game doesn’t get too stale.

The second good thing about Marvel Strike Force is its array of game modes. Most mobile games have multiple game modes built into them, but Marvel Strike Force seems to be the most playable. For example, Blitz is a great mode that allows you to either play battle against other teams or sim them, but you can use any character in your roster in any order and winning or losing doesn’t really have consequences. It’s a great place to not only grind out new toons by ranking high, but it also allows you to try out new characters, new teams, and new skills immediately and see how they do against other teams. This is actually a pretty rare game mode, as many of the other games all restrict the free for all type playing. While blitz is often used to rank in a high percentile to gain hard to get characters, it is not required that you do that so losing doesn’t really have any effect on your overall rankings and character levels.

In addition to this, the game modes are varied enough that you can easily pick one or two and excel in it. You can build a roster that is specifically tailored to Alliance War, focusing only on teams that have high offense damage and strong defense bonuses and being one of the best in your alliance at this mode. Marvel Strike Force has a good variety of ways to utilize your resources and tailor your rosters to specific goals. There’s no endgame, so there’s no hurry to finish anything in the game as it all keeps going and going. The game does a good job in providing a mode for any time of player, be it a casual free to play or a hardcore kraken player. There are a number of goals you can set out to achieve and the gameplay is varied and the roster vast enough to not really get tired of new challenges and goals.

Lastly, once you get into an alliance that suits your play the best, the game is just damn fun and communal. There’s a lot of fun things to do in the game, and a number of great characters to enhance, and the alliance system helps you build a community of players that all work together and share their successes and failures. Yes, there are horrible alliances out there and you won’t ever find the perfect one on the first go, but overall the community of players have been some of the best I’ve played with in a long time. Even the alliances I’ve left has been more about growing with the game rather any big, racial slurred filled rant from a 13 year old in their dad’s basement that caused me to leave. I actually still talk to the captains of my last alliance despite leaving them as a leader. The community of Marvel Strike Force is a pretty welcoming, accepting, fun one that is always looking for players and usually builds some great relationships along the way. I’ll say it, Marvel Strike Force has one of the best online gaming communities out there. The Players and alliance mates really do make the game, and are much needed because the follies of Marvel Strike Force are enough to make you quit.

The Worst of Marvel Strike Force

While Scopely may have gotten a lot right with Marvel Strike Force, there are some things that they have done that could potentially be unforgivable faux pas for a lot of players or people wanting to check the game out. For starters, the bugs are some of the worst I’ve ever experienced with any game, console or mobile. There are too many big ones to name, the most recent of which was so bad the game got shut down for close to 8 hours shortly after a new update. The bug included massive, unlimited resources being give to players which provided a free for all of upgrading and leveling unfettered. It was a wild 30 minutes, but it wasn’t even the first time something like that happened. There is no reason a game that has generated millions and millions of dollars in micro transactions from their player base should have such an untested release that the game crashes so hard it has to physically be shut down for emergency maintenance. It was just another failed attempt at releasing something in the game without it bugging out, and Marvel Strike Force has gained a lot of notoriety within the community for not have any kind of Quality Assurance department to test launches before launching.

The release bugs should be enough, but the game doesn’t stop there. The power creep has been instant and drastic. Marvel Strike Force seems to be dead set on changing up the meta, but they aren’t doing it in a tapered, burst release format. They’re literally assaulting players with new toons and reworked teams, all of which change numerous game modes and nullify current meta teams. This would be fine if they were just simply adding these things to game, but while some of them have been accessible in a free to play release, people not willing to shell out money for offers are being left in the dust. The game is shifting to a new team and new toons, all of which are guarded behind a multitude of spending budgets and character requirements. Newcomers to Marvel Strike Force are going to find it hard to keep up with all of the changes, and won’t be able to be all that competitive without playing the very long game or spending money. I get that Marvel Strike Force relies on in app purchases, but they are unapologetically demanding you shell out regularly to stay relevant and they’re doing it way too fast.

Lastly, the resource bottlenecks are some of the dumbest safeguards in the entire game. Turn based RPGs are of course known for gathering and hoarding resources, with the goal being to play the game a lot and often to unlock and stash rare resources to make your toons more powerful. The problem is that ALL of the resources in the game are rare. It requires a ton of resource management and restraint, which would be fine but the insult to injury is that some of the much needed gear and items can’t even be farmed. Hell, sometimes they can’t even be bought. This stops your toons dead in their tracks on a regular basis, even if you stacked all of the needed resources available you still may not be able to get that toon up for some time. It’s pretty ridiculous, and can be really disheartening as these same resource bottlenecks stop you from accessing higher tiered gameplay.

And Scopely seems intent on not only keeping these incredibly silly bottlenecks in place, they’ve decided to guard some of the more difficult but rewarding raids behind some of them. Recently, Marvel Strike Force changed the raid requirements to be guarded behind Iso Levels. Iso energy and drop rates are already low enough, and it is rather difficult to get enough shards and credit to get even one toon to the required level. So instead making it more available, they devs have now hidden them behind a leveling wall. It has the community in an uproar, and while they may roll it back there is a sense that they aren’t really listening to the outcries of their players. By nature mobile games like Marvel Strike Force are made to extort their players through in app purchases, but Scopely seems set on making sure the game is inoperable without paying for it, and have alienated a number of players who have quit the game altogether.

So, Should I Play Marvel Strike Force?

There’s a lot to do in Marvel Strike Force, and the extensive roster and solid animation make the game really fun. I’ve played a number of these kinds of games, and for all of problems the game has it still manages to be one of the best of its kind. There is a good community of players and a good number of game modes that enhance the game play. Taking out a strong team, defeating a difficult node, ousting a big player in arena, or using your ultimate to wipe a team in one go feels really good and there are a number of different ways to achieve it. The game wants to be played regularly, but can also be put down for long periods of time.

Marvel Strike Force has a LOT of issues, many of which are uncontrollable and a fault of the devs at Scopely making poor, greedy decisions that have the potential to crash the game. You can play the game without spending a dime, but the game is heavily enhanced by spending money on it. I don’t advise that as even if you can afford it’s a waste of money, and the game has become very heavy on pay to play recently where even if you’re willing to spend it’s never enough. They have some things I believe they need to roll back and fix a number of requirements or they’re going to lose a lot of players.

If you like turn based RPG games and are looking for a free to download mobile game, I would still recommend Marvel Strike Force. I think the good outweighs the bad most of the time, and there’s just enough content in the game to keep you entertained and hooked despite the game bugging out from time to time. Building a roster is a lot of fun, and there are a lot of great characters that are worth playing. The game is very addictive, so just be ready to turn it off when you have to do other things. Apparently claiming energy isn’t a hobby.

Yes, you should play Marvel Strike Force. No, I will not be held responsible for any purchases you end up making.

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