When I first heard about the concept of Multiversus, I was convinced it wasn’t real. Such a strange marriage of properties had me questioning how well it’d come together, but as I head more I found it more exciting. Exciting because of the sheer breadth of properties that Warner Bros. has to pull from. Exciting because barely anyone has attempted to challenge the standard that platformer fighters like Super Smash Bros have set and remained king of for over twenty years. Exciting because after considerable time with the upcoming closed alpha, Multiversus is shaping up to be something well worth your time, especially due to the fact that it’s free to play.
The game’s premise is simple – up to four players enter an arena and battle it out until nobody is left. Its structure is similar to Smash Bros. – your “health” or percentage increases when you take damage, and the higher percentage means that you’ll fly further when hit. Flying out of bounds means you’ve been knocked out, and a point is scored to the other team. The crux of Multiversus is designed around 2v2 combat, which I’ll come back to later. Free for all, and a 1v1 option is also included for those looking to mess around. They’re quite a few different ways to play, and the mechanics are robust enough to support them.
When you first boot the game, it’s clear that the developers are trying to go after the same market that made games like Fortnite and Apex Legends so popular and so prominent. There are many progression meters on the screen, currency to earn, and cosmetics to unlock. I’ll admit that, at first, I was a bit wary as to whether I was ready for something like this again, but thankfully everything is awarded at such a reasonable pace that it never felt grindy. Of course, this might change as Multiversus begins to materialise properly and exits out of its testing stage, but for now, it feels just right.
Each of the games fourteen characters I had access to in this preview all played remarkably different, too; I was surprised at just how much was on offer here. So many moves have been wholesale lifted from other fighting games, but it’s done with so much charm that I find it hard to be too mad. My personal favourite, Velma from Scooby-Doo, plays like a mix of Phoenix Wright from Marvel vs. Capcom – collecting evidence to work towards a powerful super attack where she unmasks a culprit. Tom and Jerry are also standouts here – they’re actually fighting each other during each match, with each attack damaging anyone who gets in the way.
I think that’s what really makes Multiversus stand out from the get-go. There’s so much reverence for these characters and the properties that they come from that I can’t help but be excited to see just who else they’ll introduce. Whether it’s the more realistic characters like Arya Stark, Batman, Wonder Woman or the kookier playing ones like Bugs Bunny or the aforementioned Tom and Jerry, every character looks and sounds like how you remembered them in their respective media appearances. It’s incredibly authentic, and while this is a slight knock against last year’s Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, the inclusion of official voice work really helps bring this frenetic experience to life.
What’s even better is that Multiversus is fun and plays well. It’s fast and frantic but responsive and doesn’t have that floaty feeling that so many of these lower rent platformer fighters tend to have. Every hit and every special move has actual weight to it too, and it just feels notably better than anything else in this genre, and that’s half the battle with a game like this.
I eluded to this earlier, but the real thing setting Multiversus apart from its contemporaries is the 2v2 mode. While it might not seem like much at first, most of the characters have moves designed to interact with the other player on your team. The new original character, Reindog and Wonder Woman, can use their abilities to pull their teammate out of anger towards them. Wonder Woman can shield them from attacks too. Jake from Adventure Time can turn into a platform that allows his teammate to jump on him to reach greater heights. Shaggy can drop healing Scooby Snacks with each successful power-up he carries out on himself. It’s a great little mechanic, and one that I hope will continue to be explored as more and more characters are released.
Of course, there are some reasons to be potentially concerned Multiversus plays fantastically and is one of the most well-polished free-to-play games I’ve ever had my hands on. But everything surrounding it has to be just right too. There are battle passes, both free and premium. There are unlockable cosmetics. There are daily challenges, and there’s even currency to earn (or presumably buy). While it took me no time to unlock characters with currency – as matches are quick and I was constantly winning – it remains to be seen if this will be adjusted for the final release. It feels just right, but I am wary of whether this will remain the same for the final release.
Putting that cynical thought aside, Multiversus is becoming one of my biggest surprises for 2022. The roster is already well varied and can only get better. At the same time, the core gameplay is incredibly polished and a joy to play. It’s quick (and easy) to play a match and the 2v2 mechanics that encourage team synergy are something that feels truly unique. While there is a lot to prove in the coming months, I’m beyond excited about Multiversus and what its future will bring.
Multiversus is a free-to-play game launching later this year for PS5, PS4, Xbox Series X|S, Xbox One and PC.