MultiVersus is huge right now, but does it have staying power?
Image: WB Games
Multiversus is enjoying a massive open beta right now, but it still has a few kinks to work out before launch day.
WB Games’ crossover fighting game MultiVersus has had an explosive debut in open beta, peaking at over 150,000 players recently on Steam alone ahead of games like Warframe and Destiny 2. The fighter has gone through several rounds of closed beta tests this year, but this week’s global debut has made one thing very clear: WB has a hit on its hands.
MultiVersus’ appeal is very simple to understand. The fighting game leverages Warner Bros. Pictures’ wealth of IP to create a colourful roster of characters whom players can't see share a space anywhere else. That, along with its newcomer-friendly combat, makes it the most credible competitor to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate yet. Plus: it’s free-to-play, which means that everyone can easily pick it up to see what all the buzz is about, unlike Smash.
As the game nears its inevitable full launch, however, one question remains: does MultiVersus’ popularity have staying power? Will players in the open beta be impressed enough to stick with the game for the long run, one that WB Games plans to fill with new roster additions, seasonal content and cosmetics? The answer depends on how willing the developers are to tone down its grindy progression system.
This game is surprisingly fun
Multiversus ticks all the boxes you want a platformer fighting game to tick. Much like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, you’re just trying to knock people off a stage - but there are a few twists here. Its fighting gameplay emphasises dodging over blocking, and uses cooperative abilities to promote friendly teamwork in 2v2 matches. With a robust tutorial mode, this is a pretty accessible game. Easy to get into, and fun to master. There’s a big competitive potential here, and its developers are clearly keen to support the game for the long run. All of these things appeal to fighting game fans, who currently don’t have a lot of new titles besides MultiVersus to latch onto.
One thing MultiVersus doesn’t get enough credit for is its voice acting. Much like Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, the game mines nostalgia with characters like Shaggy and Jake the Dog to get players through the door. Unlike All-Star Brawl however, MultiVersus is fully voice-acted at launch, and the importance of that can’t be understated. It’s one thing seeing SpongeBob SquarePants beat up Avatar Aang, but another thing to watch it happen soundlessly. A fighting game without voice acting feels lacking, especially when its roster is filled with characters you already know and love.
Plus, have you heard the sounds Tom makes when he gets knocked out of the ring? It’s genuinely incredible:
Good netcode and crossplay also help build up a passionate fighting game community, and Multiversus’ developers are working around the clock to address other concerns players have voiced out over the course of this beta - such as the antics of a certain Tasmanian Devil. Plus, I can’t overstate how nice it is that the game’s entire roster is unlocked for local multiplayer, allowing you to test out certain characters or play a quick match on the couch without feeling limited to three or four fighters.
Stuff that needs to be improved for the long run
MultiVersus is an extremely newbie-friendly game - for now. The only thing holding it back is its frustratingly slow progression system. To unlock new playable characters, you need gold and lots of it. There are a few ways you can get gold, but things slow down palpably after the starter missions, which award you around 2,000 gold upon completion. After that, you get XP points for the battle pass for completing missions instead. You can also gain gold by winning or completing matches, and 30% more gold by partying up with a friend - but you will have to play an ungodly amount of matches to rack up just 1,000 gold in a single day. The amount you get per match is sadly negligible.
Next, you can level things up. Profiles and individual characters can be leveled up for gold, but you will cap out the latter eventually if your roster is limited. You can also advance the battle pass to gain more gold, but you need to pay real money to unlock its full slate of rewards. Reddit user Klovasos has done the math here: you will need a whopping 25,500 gold just to unlock every character in the game. The quickest way to earn that amount of gold is to play a ton of bot matches, and even then, it would take 16 days consisting of 474 matches in total - and that's with the 30% friend bonus!
Setting the math aside for a moment, it’s not like gold is solely meant to unlock characters in-game. You’re also directed to spend gold to train character perks, which are actually useful in gameplay. Additionally, you can buy toasts - which are emotes of sorts - that players can toast to in return for a tiny amount of gold. Gold is front-loaded with the starter missions, so newcomers might have a false impression of how easy it is to gain, and thus spend it on toasts and perks without realising their purchases amount to entire days of grinding for the game’s complete roster.
This isn’t a problem right now, though. Players are happy to play as Batman and Shaggy, and enjoy the game’s frequent rotations of free characters to test other fighters out. This is a fun game to get into with friends, and most importantly, it’s free - so you’re not paying for one big grind upfront. However, as Multiversus’ roster expands, it’s going to be more difficult to ignore how much grinding it’s going to take to own and master the bevy of surely popular fighters to come.
One other issue: This is a crossover game, but seeing a bunch of WB properties smushed together feels like the result of corporate mandate rather than genuine creative passion. Creative director Masahiro Sakurai went through hell and back to get Sora from Kingdom Hearts into Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, making the release of one last DLC character feel like a whole new peak in the franchise. You’ll never feel that level of excitement for new additions to Multiversus like LeBron James or Rick and Morty, because we've already seen WB pull this shtick with Space Jam 2.
MultiVersus has hit the big time, and it's not even fully out yet. Thanks to its newcomer-friendly gameplay, competitive potential and roster full of crossover characters, the fighting game is quickly becoming the biggest multiplayer debut of 2022. New characters will surely be announced over the next year at major gaming events Super Smash Bros-style, driving players back to the game at regular intervals. Hardcore players will pour hours into unlocking and mastering the game’s full roster. Casual players will just have a fun time playing one or two characters and sticking with them for the long run.
MultiVersus hits the sweet spot every mainstream fighting game hopes to find. It's attractive enough to casual and hardcore players both, with a roster of characters players are predisposed to love and lots of room to grow. That being said, unless the game has genuinely surprising new character reveals and a revamped progression system in its future, it might not get very far.