I tend to enjoy fighting games from afar. I haven’t missed Evo (the biggest fighting game tournament in the world) since 2013. But when it comes to actually playing, I am what might be described as a social fighting game player. I play when I’m at a gathering and I’m asked to join; otherwise, I almost never play fighting games on my own. So I was surprised to find myself really enjoying the open beta for “MultiVersus.”
On the surface, “MultiVersus” is a very polished re-skin of Super Smash Bros. with a battle pass. Replace Mario, Princess Zelda and Mega Man with Bugs Bunny, Arya Stark and Wonder Woman and you end up with something that looks like “MultiVersus.” As in the Smash games, you can pick up the basics in no time; perform special moves by using one dedicated button and picking a direction. To win a match, hit your opponent until they’re weak enough to knock off the map. Simple.
But “MultiVersus,” unlike Super Smash Bros., is built around 2v2 fights. All the characters in “MultiVersus” are divided into classes, and each has abilities designed to work in conjunction with a partner. Every character I’ve played thus far also bears a unique move set and passive abilities.
Wonder Woman is a tank character; she’s designed to whittle down enemies through attrition and protect her allies, but she doesn’t deal much damage. Finn from “Adventure Time” is an assassin type, which means he’s faster and hits harder than other heroes at the expense of being significantly squishier. Together, Wonder Woman and Finn make a dynamic duo. Wonder Woman can use her Lasso of Truth ability to pull an enemy toward her or to yank Finn away from a ring out. Finn can use his Sweet Deals! ability to passively buff his and Wonder Woman’s movement speed. Wonder Woman’s Flying Warrior ability allows her to create a platform in the air with her shield, which Finn can use as a staging point for his Backpack Attack! to send an airborne enemy hurtling into the sky.
Though this may seem heretical, learning a new hero’s playstyle and experimenting with different duo teammates has been way more fun to me than any time I’ve put into Super Smash Bros.
I’ve been playing primarily as Batman, who is classified as a bruiser — an in-your-face melee brawler somewhere between a tank and an assassin. He seemed like a flexible choice since the current 2v2 queue will pair you with a totally random partner, and indeed, it’s been quite enjoyable changing up my approach depending on who I’m partnered with. If I’m matched with Harley Quinn (an assassin), I’ll play more of an auxiliary role and set up kills for her. If I’m duoed with Velma (a support), I’ll play aggressively for kills while she heals me and incapacitates our foes.
“MultiVersus” is free-to-play, and like many other free-to-play titles, most of its heroes are locked behind paywalls. But the game maintains a rotating roster of unlocked heroes (the free heroes change on a monthly schedule) to get you started. As of Aug. 2, the freely available heroes are Finn, “Steven Universe’s” Garnet, Superman and Reindog, an original character invented for the game. The rest of the cast is unlocked using the game’s two currencies, gold (which is earned through grinding) and gleanium (which is bought with real money). Each hero can be bought with 700 gleanium or anywhere from 1,500 to 3,000 gold.
Completing the tutorial unlocks Wonder Woman, and finishing the seven starter missions will get you 2,000 gold, which is enough to unlock a hero. There’s a practice mode called The Lab if you want to test out a hero before purchasing them.
Keep in mind, this game is still in its open beta phase, which means things are a bit wonky. Players have been reporting intermittent instances of lag, dodgy input and a hilarious bug tied to Batman’s Grappling Hook which causes an instant self-knockout. In the emerging meta, five of the Top 10 “MultiVersus” 2v2 players in the world primarily play Bugs Bunny (and in response, the developers have repeatedly nerfed him) and Finn’s Backpack Attack! move has been crushing players in the lower skill brackets.
But none of that keeps “MultiVersus” from being a blast. It’s got something for everyone. If you’re a hardcore player looking for an alternate to Super Smash Bros., “MultiVersus” studio First Player Games have repeatedly committed to fostering a healthy competitive scene. The developer launched a separate Twitter account to promote esports endeavors and also announced a $100,000 “MultiVersus” tournament at Evo 2022. The game is also free and cross-platform (PlayStation, Xbox, PC), making it considerably more accessible than other platform fighters.
And if you’re a fellow average joe fighting gamer like myself, “MultiVersus” is still a smooth, polished experience with beautiful art direction, zany characters and chaotic but deep gameplay. Grab three friends and give it a whirl. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday night.
And besides, where else are you going to see LeBron James dunking a basketball into Superman’s face?