Marvel Contest of Champions: Fight. Win. Repeat. (review)

Forget Batman vs. Superman and Captain America: Civil War. You can create your own civil war right from your Android device thanks to Marvel Contest of Champions. Just choose your character and fight against well-known Marvel heroes and villains, using dead-easy controls that don’t require you to memorize long lists of combos. Even though the core mechanic is really simple, developer Kabam has added a huge amount of content to keep you coming for more. Combined with beautiful graphics, a great character roster, and no paywalls, Marvel Contest of Champions is one of the finest games in the Play Store, with a huge following and a broad community.

Developer: Kabam

Price: Free, with in-app purchases

Highlights:

  • Setup adds some unnecessary steps.
  • Controls are extremely easy to understand.
  • Gorgeous graphics.
  • Impressive amount of content, quests and perks.
  • Battery drainer.

Setup

Marvel Contest of Champions Setup
Nice stills featuring well-known Marvel characters introduce the game to you.

First of all, the app weighs upwards of 600 MB, so you’ll definitely want to download it on a WiFi connection. Unless you have unlimited data, then you may want to get your money’s worth. Anyways, when opening the game, you’ll notice a very weird dialogue, asking you to go to the app’s info screen and activate the Photos/Media/Files, Contacts and Phone permissions (if you’re on Android 6.0+, obviously).

There are two aspects I want to remark about this. The first one is that the process that Google suggests for asking for permissions does not involve going to your phone settings and granting them, but rather have the app show you dialogues where you can accept or deny them. The second one is that, if you don’t grant them all, the app will simply refuse to start. The functionality attached to each permission should be disabled accordingly, not have the whole app become unusable because of a disabled permission.

After going through this headache and a rather long loading screen, you are shown a little bar at the bottom asking you to create an account. You can ignore it if you wish, but I believe that the game should ask this later since the account is not mandatory and the process has been long enough already.

Features

Marvel Contest of Champions Crystals
Through crystals, you can obtain items and new champions.

After going through the initial setup, you’ll be able to see a short sequence of stills that try to depict the events that led us to this contest of champions. After these rather entertaining images, the game teaches you the basic controls. This is no Street Fighter, in which you have to memorize long sequences of attacks in order to make cool combos. A tap for light attacks, swipe for medium and long-press for strong attacks will do.

Also, after chaining several hits, you can activate a special attack that deals a lot of damage. You can even block and dodge attacks, and swiping towards your enemy will make you glide through the scenery and perform an attack immediately. The controls are pretty simple but you have a lot of things to play with during battles.

The tutorial will then take you to the crystal vault, where you will get your first heroes. Hooray! However, you can only watch as a roulette chooses a hero for you randomly. This can prove problematic if you are trying to get a specific hero and the roulette stops at a character you don’t want or know, or, even worse, getting the same ally again.

This game has an unbelievable, console-like amount of modes and things to do. The most obvious place to start is the Story Quests. In here, you will traverse several different scenarios divided into Acts and Chapters.

Chapters have different paths you can travel, each one with its own set of rewards. Each step in the path will consume energy, and, when you run out of energy, you won’t be able to continue your adventures. However, energy replenishes automatically after a certain period, but this system greatly encourages you to play for shorter periods instead of one long session.

Marvel Contest of Champions Story
Story mode will keep you entertained for a long time.

You need to choose a team at the beginning of each chapter. The difficulty of this mode comes because heroes do not replenish their health at the end of each fight, so you’ll have to analyze closely what lies ahead and plan your strategy accordingly. You can walk through the easy path to make your session more enjoyable and relaxed, or you can navigate the highway to hell and be appropriately rewarded. At the end of each battle, you’ll get potions, gold, ISO-8 (explained later), and sometimes, new crystals to enhance your current roster.

Other single-player modes include Event Quests and Versus. Event Quests are one-of-a-kind/daily quests that will give you more loot than normal events in Story Mode. They will always have a timeframe in which they can be cleared. After that, you won’t be able to access it. Each quest also has its own chapters (normally 3), and only the first one will be unlocked for you. The other ones are unlocked by completing previous chapters. This adds a level of depth to every event and increases your chances of obtaining loot and various items.

Marvel Contest of Champions Versus
Play against other players in Versus mode.

In Versus mode, you can compete with other players in online battles. There are several formats to spice things up. The first one is a simple 1 vs 1, called Quickmatch. You fight against anyone around the world in a single match.

There’s another mode, called Battle Drums, in which you choose a team of three of your heroes and fight against another team. You get points after finishing each battle, and you have to get to a certain milestone before the clock runs out in order to get huge bonuses.

There are other limited-time versus modes to entertain users. For example, Catalyst Clash is basically the same as Battle Drums but with a huge focus on getting catalysts (explained later). The game will reward the best players with massive catalyst bonuses at the end of a two-day period. Making Amends is a 3 vs 3 mode in which you fight other people with Tier 3 or 4 characters for chances of getting a new hero. Crystal Cornucopia focuses on crystal gathering. These are constantly being changed, so there’s always something new for players.

The developer also added a social component called Alliances. Similar to clans in Clash of Clans, alliances are groups of people that can help each other out and go to quests together. You can even battle against other alliances in a mode called Alliance Wars.

By helping your mates, you get Loyalty points, which you can use towards Alliance crystals, which give you perks like performance boosts or champions. If you like to play your games solo, joining an Alliance is not mandatory at all, it just adds another level of depth to an already complex game.

Marvel Contest of Champions Characters
Every character looks absolutely badass.

So, after going through so many different modes, gathering resources and loot, where can it be used? That’s what the Champions screen is for. Here you will get an overview of all of the champions you have available. You will be able to see thorough stats about your hero, or upgrade him or her.

Remember the ISO-8? Combined with gold, both can be used to increase your character’s level. When champions reach level 10, they can be ranked up using catalysts.

Also, every hero in the game belongs to a class. There is a total of six classes, and their main function is to determine something that the game calls a Class Bonus. The six classes are:

  • Cosmic (strong against Tech, weak against Mystic)
  • Mutant (strong against Skill, weak against Tech)
  • Mystic (strong against Cosmic, weak against Science)
  • Science (strong against Mystic, weak against Skill)
  • Skill (strong against Science, weak against Mutant)
  • Tech (strong against Mutant, weak against Cosmic)

Too lazy to remember them all? The game identifies them with an icon and even tells you when an opponent has a class advantage against you, so there’s nothing to worry about.

This impressive amount of modes and deepness would be nothing if the core gameplay was bad. Thankfully, it isn’t. Battles are really fast paced and fluid, as in any fighting game. Controls are extremely responsive, and after a few fights, you’ll be able to master both attacking and defensive stances.

Marvel Contest of Champions Gameplay
Duel of titans.

I must say that I’m pretty terrible at normal fighting games like Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter, Guilty Gear and such, but the game’s mechanics are easy enough that even a noob like me could chain combos and have a good time.

Maybe it’s a placebo effect, but I feel Hulkbuster’s attacks are slower than Black Widow’s. However, for the most part, characters basically behave the same, except for their special attacks, which are personalized for each one. In my opinion, this diminishes the lure of getting as many characters as you can, but, combined with class bonuses, creates a more balanced gameplay in which you don’t need specific characters to succeed.

Marvel Contest of Champions Characters
Spider-Man wins. Always.

Speaking of characters and special attacks, the game is an absolute joy to watch. Characters are very detailed, their movements are fluid, special attacks are flashy, and overall the game just feels really well done, with a meticulous attention to detail. From opening a crystal to the in-app store, every element looks gorgeous. Combined with great sound effects and subtle but effective music, this game offers such a cohesive, detailed experience that you rarely see on mobile games.

All of this praise comes at a cost, however. Launching the game from zero takes an inadmissible long amount of time. Whatever it is doing when launching the app, it’s taking more time than adequate. Also, loading screens are very frequent throughout the app, even when returning to seemingly simple sections. I’ve also noticed that the app eats batteries for breakfast. It drains my Nexus 6’s battery at a rate of approximately 1% per minute of gameplay.

Conclusion

It’s easy to be overwhelmed at first with the monumental amount of content that Marvel Contest of Champions offers. There are so many quests, modes, and limited-time events that I am still discovering new stuff every day.

The first thing I thought when I downloaded the game was that it must be an ad-riddled, pay-to-win experience that I would not enjoy. However, aside from the home screen, which is almost completely dedicated to advertising new heroes and crystals, you never feel like you’re being nickel and dimed, and in-app purchases are there if you want to speed things up, primarily character upgrades. Also, since content is constantly being changed, the game offers an amazing replay value, and you could be playing it for months and probably won’t get bored.

If you like the Marvel universe and would like to see your favorite characters duking it out, then you should give this game a look. If you can get past the battery drain and little performance issues with loading screens, you’ll find one of the most complete, gorgeous and entertaining games I’ve come across in the Play Store.

Download from the Play Store.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Setup
Graphics
Sound
Fun Factor
Replay Value
Ads and Obstructions
Performance
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A very quiet person from Guayaquil, Ecuador studying in Tartu, Estonia. I'm passionate about technology since I can remember. I also develop iOS apps and write Android app reviews for a living. Barcelona Sporting Club <3
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