Simplicity that Works: Multiversus Alpha Review

Thanks to an old friend, I managed to get into the Multiversus alpha. As a long-time fan of Smash Bros. and someone with a general interest in platform fighters, this new Warner Bros. crossover had me reasonably intrigued by its level of polish and its emphasis on 2v2 battle. While a lack of free time meant that I could only play briefly, I came away from the game with a positive impression, albeit somewhat tempered by its free-to-play (i.e. inevitably loot-based) model.

Gameplay-wise, two things stick out to me. First, is that it feels like the developers put a lot of thought as to how each character’s gameplay would reflect their identity. Second, the simplicity of the controls make Multiversus quite accessible and might even be a boon to its team focus.

The signature character flourishes are indeed all there, but it’s even baked into the mechanics. Of course Bugs Bunny would dig holes and generate objects out of thin air to complement his slapstick nature. Of course Velma from Scooby-Doo would act as range-focused support, and also gather clues like Phoenix Wright in Marvel vs. Capcom 3. Arya Stark has her sword, but also a “pie-making” mechanic that occurs when she KOs someone—which implies that she turned them into pie. The game successfully celebrates its crossover nature visually and through its controls.

The only exceptions might be Shaggy and Reindog. The former leans completely into the Ultra Instinct Shaggy meme and winds up being like a mix between Goku, Captain Falcon. The latter is an original character (in the same crossover-universe vein as Ruby Heart and Cybaster), and thus has no basis.

In terms of the controls, Multiversus does not have shields or grabs. It also does not rely on analog movement. Unlike Smash Bros., there are no distinctions between walking vs. running, or tilts vs. smash attacks. Simple as controls are in Smash, I’ve seen this granularity be a sticking point for less experienced players, and I think this move helps accessibility. The leniency of aerial movement also makes me think of a more refined and varied Brawlhalla: another free-to-play platform fighter that, unlike Multviersus, suffers a bit from feeling samey across its cast.

While there’s an argument to be made that this might oversimplify things in the competitive realm, I think this won’t be the case. In fact, the pared-down controls actually feel more conducive towards the chaotic environment of a 2v2 match. They give both players and spectators potentially less to concentrate on so they can pay attention to the match as a whole.

I can easily see the competitive scenes for Smash Bros. and Multiversus coexisting, if only because they have different emphases. Smashers overwhelmingly prefer singles over doubles, while the developers of Multiversus specifically designed it for 2v2. To wit, some of the biggest proponents of the game are those who have great love for doubles Smash, and I hope they end up having a game that can reward that passion. 

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