Friday, August 13, 2021
You'd be forgiven for letting Marvel's Avengers' Hawkeye DLCs pass you by. They offered nothing close to what the upcoming Black Panther War for Wakanda expansion is promising - what Scott Amos, Head of Studio at developer Crystal Dynamics, claims is the “most amount of content” the developer has added to the game since it launched last year. Based upon the first two missions alone, you can immediately tell that this is no half-hearted add-on – War for Wakanda looks to be a full-blooded expansion, and the perfect introduction to an iconic Marvel character, who happens to not wield a bow and arrow.
From the outset, the narrative in War for Wakanda is front and centre, as you're given a potted history of the eponymous secret nation, and how it came to be the only place in the world to be rich in Vibranium reserves (the stuff Captain America’s shield is made out of), thanks to a meteor impact that created a distinctive mound in the heart of the region, since regarded as sacred.
Being the sole repository of Vibranium and the source of its advanced technology, Wakanda has become a target for the unscrupulous, which in this particular case is Ulysees Klaue and an army of mercenaries, led by Crossbones. Fighting Klaue's forces ought to provide a welcome reprieve from smashing AIM robots, and, as King T'Challa himself, you'll use your powers as Black Panther to drive out Klaue and his men, all of whom are decked out in sonic gear that can impair your aiming and vision, should you be struck by it.
Thankfully, T'Challa is well equipped to take the fight to Klaue and his legion of mercs, his acrobatic skills complemented by kinetic swipes of his claws, cart-wheeling kicks, and a selection of handy, sharp projectiles. As well as being able to suppress enemies with flurries of kicks and slashes, Black Panther can throw kpinga daggers, and, using his 'King's Mercy' Assault Heroic ability, he's able to conjure a spear and skewer foes with it. Swift in battle, Panther has his own line in combo-based martial arts skills, able to grapple baddies to the ground, before giving them a good scratching (and not because they're itchy). He seems remarkably versatile, the closest touchstone being the graceful athletic fighting style used by Captain America or Black Widow. If anything, Panther seems even more proficient in combat than Natasha Romanoff.
As well as a spear, T'Challa's Support Heroic 'Kimoyo Beads' whizz around his head when deployed, and can seek out and stun enemies, while you've other defensive options at your disposal like a block and parry, so you can turn the tables in combat. Panther’s Kimoyo Beads can also be specialised to provide buffs, like a boost to willpower or temporary protection by absorbing damage; plus, you can turn them into small kinetic bombs to make space when you’re surrounded. Best of all, though, is Black Panther's Ultimate Heroic skill, 'Bast's Chosen', which summons a hefty spectral panther to your side for a limited time. This can also be specialised to call upon two Wakandan warriors instead, or to revive allies and self-revive in a pinch, so you've numerous combat and support options at your fingertips.
With Klaue using his sonic cannons to try and blast through Wakanda's shields, and corrupted Vibranium erupting from the ground in spiked stalagmites, you'll eventually require the aid of the other Avengers, T'Challa enlisting Captain America, Iron Man, Thor, and Black Widow to help shatter the dangerous rocky outcrops and destroy the power cores of the cannons bombarding the Golden City. From the lush jungles to temples and caves where you'll find puzzles to solve, you'll also soon rendezvous with Wakanda's Dora Milaje warriors, who'll fight alongside you to subdue Klaue's army, as well as mechanical spiders called 'scout crawlers', and those seemingly ever-present AIM robots.
Objectives we've seen so far include capturing points to protect a network of servers, in order to coax Klaue out into the open; ensuring the Dora Milaje don't fall in battle; and fighting stalwart Captain America villain Crossbones, while putting a stop to the devastating onslaught of the aforementioned sonic cannons. It's not a huge change of tack from what the base game provided in terms of mission variety, but the earlier puzzles found in the jungle caves hint at other possible activities the DLC might offer beyond the usual battering of villains using super-heroic abilities.
For Black Panther fans, the opportunity to explore Wakanda and learn more about T'Challa and his allies might be too good to pass up, regardless of the objectives on offer. The question remains, however, whether the free expansion will be enough to tempt back lapsed Marvel's Avengers players. Is the prospect of potentially more of the same, albeit with a fresh character, an adequate reason to delve back into Crystal Dynamics' loot-laden take on the Marvel universe? Black Panther is certainly a compelling Marvel icon, and enough to pique our curiosity as fans. What War for Wakanda will mean for Marvel's Avengers' overall outlook, though, remains to be seen.
War for Wakanda will be coming to Marvel's Avengers on 17th August.
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