Have you ever looked at a game and thought "it's like they know me, I'm the target market"? That's how I reckon Crystal Dynamics and Square Enix see me when it comes to Marvel's Avengers.
Comic book and MCU fan? Yep. Inexplicably enjoys long, grindy gameplay loops which help a number tick up? Oh yes. A sucker for a skill tree or three? Look, you had me at comic books.
Marvel's Avengers was not considered for Game of the Year last year for many reasons, but chief among them was its inability to decide whether it wanted to be a bombastic single-player experience or a Destiny 2 style loot-athon.
And yet, despite awarding it a respectable 3/5 in our review, I've been playing it almost non-stop for the last month in the run-up to War for Wakanda.
Having hit the game's approximation of endgame content (come on, give us a raid!) with Thor, I've been pleasantly surprised by the build diversity I've achieved with a single hero.
Depending on my mood, I can focus on a ranged build, pinning enemies with Mjolnir and recalling it, creating a sort of anti-gravitational field that keeps enemies locked in place. Or I can focus on buffing God Blast, one of the God of Thunder's most useful abilities when it comes to crowd control.
With Hulk, Iron Man and Captain America approaching power level 100 (150 is the max), I'm excited to do much of it again.
The two characters I've not made much of an effort with, Black Widow and Ms Marvel, are fun to play as – I just prefer playing as others.
Even Hawkeye and Kate Bishop, ostensibly two characters armed with a bow, play so differently that I'm tempted to go back and drag them to level cap.
Read More: Marvel's Avengers Tier List
It's indicative of Crystal Dynamics approach to Marvel's Avengers. Sure, "games as a service" can be a dirty word for many, but it has its advantages. For one, spreading the game's narrative out across each new content drop has me more interested than I would've been playing through in one huge campaign.
The other advantage is that it feels like the developer is building a Marvel toybox of sorts. Sure, at its core Marvel's Avengers is very much a co-op brawler, but it's also gorgeous, features incredible voice talent (with more to come) and will, after War for Wakanda, offer playable versions of nine Marvel heroes.
Each of those heroes then has a wealth of unlockable moves, skills, loot, cosmetics, and more, and we'll be able to go toe-to-toe with a growing collection of villains, too.
I re-reviewed Marvel's Avengers earlier this year because I felt it still held some promise, and now that we're hours away from the Black Panther expansion, I think what I said here is true:
I feel for Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics because they've launched a live-service game in the middle of a pandemic, and I think things would be different with a shorter development pipeline.
In a world where next-gen enhancements hit a few months ago and Black Panther drops this month, I think it'd be a different story. For now, though, it feels like a game treading water – and it'll be fascinating to see if Marvel's Avengers sinks or swims.
It does feel like now that we're getting to the good stuff, the next roadmap update for Marvel's Avengers is crucial – but I'll be playing it anyway.