Many games have tried to provide a legit alternative to Super Smash Brothers, but none have been able to come close to Smash’s level of mainstream popularity or broad mass appeal. Enter MultiVersus: A free-to-play crossover platform fighter that brings together the worlds of WB-owned properties like Looney Tunes, the DC Universe, Scooby-Doo, and Game of Thrones, just to name a few. That alone is enough to grab my attention, but the big question is whether MultiVersus will be able to hold its own with its core gameplay, progression mechanics, and free-to-play monetization plans.
After spending more than 12 hours with an alpha build, consider my attention firmly held. MultiVersus is a blast, with several unique spins on tried and true platform fighting mechanics, a smart focus on 2v2 combat, and an absolutely wild roster full of beloved characters that are all brought to life by their actual voice actors. It all adds up to a game that, upon first impression, seems primed to become the next big thing in free-to-play gaming, and could potentially be a blueprint for future fighting games to follow.
On the surface level, MultiVersus is quite a bit like Smash Bros. There are damage percentages, simple one-button-and-a-direction inputs for moves, and even Shaggy has a Captain Falcon-style knee of justice move. But there are a number of key differences in MultiVersus that make it play very differently. For one, there’s no blocking. You can only spot dodge, roll, or air dodge to avoid attacks, and the more you do so in quick succession, the less invulnerability you have during them. For two, every character is able to use a double jump, two air dodges, and two special moves in the air before they hit the ground.
Not to mention the fact that every character can also wall jump infinitely to quickly climb up from the bottom of the stage back up to the top. What this means is that aerial mobility is huge in MultiVersus. There’s no such thing as a character with a bad recovery, because every character has generally the same powerful tools to get back to the stage, and on the flip side of that, every character is also able to be super aggressive off-stage.
But the big thing that separates MultiVersus from the rest of the crowd of platform fighters is its 2v2 focus. Every character has some sort of aspect to them that encourages cooperation between teammates. Whether it’s as small as Taz’s whirlwind special granting a speed boost to his partner if he passes through it; or as game changing as Wonder Woman’s ability to instantly dive to her partner and protect both of them with a strike-absorbing shield.
My own personal favorite character is Steven Universe, and it’s purely because of how he’s able to subtly help out his team while also being able to hold his own. I know I said that there’s no blocking in MultiVersus, but Steven is the exception. Instead of using a spot dodge, he can call up a shield that can absorb three hits, and the kicker is that it not only protects him, but it also protects his partner as well, from any distance. In addition to that, Steven can also place a healing zone on the ground that heals both him and his partner, he can put out a bomb that can be picked up by his teammate and delivered to the opponents, and he can shoot out a shield projectile that can grant a teammate armor if it passes through them.
Beyond every character being built to offer some sort of team support, every character also just feels incredibly distinct, while still feeling true to their source material. Tom and Jerry is one of the most interesting examples, with the player only being in direct control of Tom, but using Jerry as both a projectile and a tool that can be called upon for a variety of other projectiles that can hit from unexpected angles. Velma from Scooby-Doo, meanwhile, is a support character that can buff her teammate and debuff the opposition, but also has her own side-goal involving solving a mystery. By hitting opponents with specific attacks, she can get them to drop evidence. Once enough evidence is collected, she can call a cop car, which will lock up an opponent for a small amount of time, sometimes even catching them in the air and causing them to helplessly fall off stage. There’s an unbelievable amount of creative energy thrown into these characters, and it makes for a roster that is a ton of fun to play from top to bottom.
The big question mark up to this point has been how MultiVersus will ultimately monetize its content as a free-to-play fighting game. We get a little glimpse of it in this alpha: A traditional battle pass with both a free track and a paid track that drip-feeds rewards such as new skins, emotes, banners, etc; a selection of characters that are locked at the start and require a substantial amount of in-game currency in order to make them a permanent fixture in your roster; and a variety of daily and and seasonal challenges that help make affording new characters and moving along the battle pass a bit easier.
I got to speak to Game Director Tony Huynh with regards to the monetization strategy of MultiVersus and he was very clear up front that Multiversus is not a pay-to-win game. There are perks that can be equipped to characters that can slightly bolster their stats and add new properties to moves, but those can only be earned by playing with those characters and leveling up their character specific progression track. The vast majority of things you can buy with real money in MultiVersus will be cosmetic items, ranging from skins, to banners, to announcer packs with the actual voice actors for the characters, and my personal favorite, unique ring-out animations. There’s something special about knocking Arya Stark off screen and seeing a giant “That’s All Folks!” shoot out from off screen in place of a standard cartoony explosion.
MultiVersus – First Trailer Screenshots
Characters themselves will be purchasable with real money, but Huynh emphasized that characters can be earned with in-game currency as well. In my experience playing the alpha, I was able to unlock four new characters in my 12 hours playing, and the feeling of progression felt like it was in a pretty good place.
I came away from my time with the Multiversus alpha extraordinarily impressed. Gameplay-wise, it’s not as tight as any of the Smash Brothers games, but to be fair, it’s also aiming to provide a type of experience that’s very different from Smash Brothers, or any other platform fighter for that matter. Its 2v2 mechanics are well designed and add new wrinkles to a familiar formula, its roster of characters is a wonderful mix of the new and the nostalgic, and its gameplay is immediately pick up and play friendly while still having plenty of tech for the more hardcore to dig into. If you’re looking for a new free-to-play game to play with your buddy, make sure to keep MultiVersus on your radar.