Marvel Heroes sounds like an absolute genius idea on paper – take superheroes from the increasingly popular Marvel comic book universe, combine it with the addictive RPG action of a game like Diablo, and walla, instant success.

That isn't exactly what developer Gazillion delivered, but there is still enjoyment to be had in Marvel Heroes. And oh yeah, it's free.

Plenty of people probably rolled their eyes at that. Free to play has a certain negative connotation attached to it for many gamers. Some free to play games are actually anything but, nickel and dimeing you to progress or making it near impossible to do so without forking over real cash, and while Marvel Heroes doesn't commit some of the gravest sins a free to play title can commit, it does come close.

Players have five heroes at the start of the game to choose from: the blind, melee warrior Daredevil, the archer extraordinaire Hawkeye, the thunder goddess Storm, the evil mutant turned Avenger Scartlet Witch, and the Thing, everybody's favorite rock man. None of these heroes are probably among your favorites; I know they aren't mine. Players need to choose carefully as well, once chosen you are locked into playing that hero until you either purchase another or have another character unlock drops for you in game. However, a good variety of playstyles are presented with the opening roster, from melee to ranged physical damage in the form of Daredevil and Hawkeye to magical, AOE spellcasters in the form of Storm and Scarlet Witch. Oh, and the Thing. You can probably guess what class he falls into.

Just like similar overhead action RPGs like Diablo or Torchlight, the games sends large swarms of enemies and the occasional boss battle for you to dispose of using a variety of skills, which can all be upgraded and modified through talent points and gear dropped by defeated enemies. The combat is beyond fast paced, in part because new groups of enemies respawn at a perhaps too fast rate. You will almost always be fighting, even as you trek through zones you cleared out two minutes prior.

That being said, a comic fan can't help but smile as you come across familiar evil comic book organizations such as Hydra or A.I.M. Super villians roam Marvel Heroes aplenty, as you will come across everyone from Doc Ock, Venom, M.O.D.O.K., the Mandarin, and many more. The entire game is essentially a giant love letter to the Marvel universe, specifically the Marvel comics. The games art style and all of the characters starter costumes all stay true to the comic book universe as opposed to some of the heroes looks from the popular films. Story is delivered in beautifully drawn motion-comics that drive the point home even further - this is a comic book fans dream.

So, great comic book inspired visuals, alongside fun, fast paced combat you say? What is there to dislike about Marvel Heroes. Well, remember when I mentioned that Diablo with Marvel characters was a great idea, except Gazillion didn't fully deliver on it? For whatever reason the developer decided to add one more ingredient to the formula: MMO.

The result only serves to dilute an otherwise perfectly enjoyable game, mostly because Gazillion fails to incorporate the elements properly. Swarms of players fill every moment of the open game world, bringing my computer to tears during community boss fights as 50 characters spawn giant explosions at a near constant rate. In private instance you are randomly dropped into a party that could have already completed quests objectives and cleared the dungeon, resulting in you having to stand around and wait against your will. The game seems to just have shoehorned in MMO elements just for the sake of it. There is a reason Diablo doesn't allow for more than few people in a game.

At any given moment running around in a particular zone you will encounter 10 characters that look exactly like you. This is because (I'm assuming because of either an agreement with Marvel that prevents characters from straying from their original look or just to make money) gear in the game lacks any cosmetic differences. No matter whether it be a throwaway, trash item or an epic, end game rare, your character will look exactly like the Thing or Scarlet Witch are supposed to look. The loot game is there, but eliminating the ability to visually see your status and power grow rob the dynamic of one of its most appealing features.

Unless you fork over some cash to purchase an overpriced skin. This is where Marvel Heroes free to play dynamic comes in. Drops people most desire drop an abysmally low percentage of the time. This is to some extent expected, Gazillion has to make money off of a "free" game somehow. But when I play the game for more than 13 hours and only receive two additional characters, and both of them starter characters, there is a problem. Everything from the costumes to additional characters are near impossible to get without paying money. Just a new character alone can cost close to $20 in the game store.

End game content suffers from this as well. Replaying various missions on a harder difficulty unlocks better loot, but in order to continue to playing harder instances rare keys are needed. These, of course, can simply be purchased in the store. There is still some fun to be had at the end game, with both PVP and survival modes, but it may not hold your attention for long.

Marvel Heroes is not deserving of many of the negative reviews it has received. It features fast paced and addictive gameplay alongside a great comic book inspired look that makes exploring the game world a joy for comic geeks. While unneeded MMO elements and an annoying drop rate hold the game back, it is important to remember the game is free. It costs nothing to jump in, pick a hero and play through the 7-10 hour long main storyline. For that alone it's worth checking out. Whether you choose to stay for much longer is determined by how much you are willing to spend.