During my demo of “Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2” at GDC, developer Vicarious Visions showed me one of the new features of the game, the “Power Fusion” system. It allows every player-character to combine their special powers with other party members. Since there are 24 playable characters in the game, that means there’s over 250 combinations between the different characters.
There can be more than dozen enemies at a time, an onslaught of enemies,” said Vicarious Visions president Guha Bala. “And when we look at superheroes’ history, when they face overwhelming odds, they combine their powers to overcome them.”
Examples we saw during the first level of the game included Thor “fusing” with Captain America, where the Norse god’s lightning powers reflected from Cap’s shield, which formed sort of a clothes-line effect and caused electricity damage to the surrounding robot enemies. Then there was Iron Fist and Human Torch: the martial artist kicked the robots into the air and then the Torch set them on fire (natch). We were also able to see Wolverine and Iron Man work together: Iron Man shot his energy beam into Weapon X, which was reflected from his Adamantium claws to create an area-of-effect attack.
“Players are really going to be able to fuse every character with every other character to have many, many of these types of combinations that they can explore through the course of the game that they can then technically master,” Bala said.
He also revealed that there are plans to have DLC for the game. He couldn’t say whether or not the DLC will include new missions yet, but he definitely said to expect new characters in the game. But I wondered how that would effect the existing Power Fusions with all the in-box characters.
“That’s one of the things that makes DLC potentially challenging but also really rewarding for players,” Bala said. “Every character on DLC will be able to have unique Fusions with every other character in the game. So when we ship one character we also have to ship it to work with all the other Fusion Powers as well.”
He explained that the way they do this is to divide the Fusions into certain archetypes. “There are little over a dozen archetypes and different fusion modes but all of them will have unique attributes to the attacks,” he said. “For example, you’ve seen Captain America and Thor do a clothes-line type of thing with lightning and it has unique properties. But Human Torch can also do the same thing with Invisible Woman, but it’s slightly different in that he’ll apply fire damage.”
Two hundred-fifty, plus whatever Fusion Powers will come with the DLC, is a lot. I wondered how they thought of different ideas for each superhero. “There ar so many but we have to make it so none of the combinations are kind of lame,” Bala said. “so the design challenge of this was pretty substantial. How do we make 250 combinations that are very dramatic? How we do we make 250 combinations so that you’re making meaningful, tactical choices? How’s the player control going to be intuitive and effective? What kind of rewards system you can build around it? Is it contextual to the universe? Does it make sense with this character to do this? So that’s where the archetypes come in.”
One Power Fusion combo that had them stumped was how to make big characters like Hulk and Thing work together in an interesting way, since they have similar powers. “They can both punch and kick and pick up objects, so what are they going to do together?” he asked. “Well, they actually jump up and down and create a giant piledriver effect and earthquake effect where they destroy all the objects around them. So those classic heros have a certain type of Fusion. But then hulk can also combine with Invisible Woman.”
Bala was cut off before he could tell me what that Power Fusion would be like, since it hasn’t been announced. Producer Evan Skolnick added, “The Hulk and the Invisible Woman is really one of the more fun ones.”
Skolnick also said that the ideas for Power Fusion came from everywhere. “It would become a giant list of ideas because there was so many to do,” he said. “The whole team contributed to that and brainstormed either in person or electronically to help in this huge creative challenge. And the Hulk and the Invisible Woman is really one of the more fun ones.”
Bala assured that Power Fusions would be fun for everyone. “While players can have fun right out of the box just doing the different Fusions, we really reward good, tactical choices of Fusions as well.”