With all the action-oriented games under the Marvel umbrella (e.g. The Avengers, GOTG, and Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3) that have been released these past few years, the announcement of Midnight Suns in 2021 came as a pleasant surprise. Developed by Firaxis, who are best known for their work in franchises such as XCOM and Civilization, it’s a turn-based tactical RPG that mixes strategic deckbuilding mechanics with impactful social interactions that you’d typically find in a BioWare game.


Loosely based on the Midnight Sons comics, the game features an unlikely team of both popular and lesser-known Marvel superheroes facing off against the forces of Lilith, an evil sorceress brought back to life by Hydra. Things get awkward when you immediately learn that she’s the player character’s mother, who serves an even bigger bad in the form of an elder god known as Chthon.

The protagonist, known only as The Hunter, is a blank slate who’s lost most of their memory and was instrumental in defeating Lilith in the past. You’ll learn more about her relationship with the game’s antagonist and other major side characters, such as the Caretaker and Agatha Harkness, through story missions and various optional side content that involves interacting with your teammates and exploring the hilariously large hub area.

Speaking of which, the Abbey is the titular team’s base of operations located in a pocket dimension somewhere in Salem, Massachusetts. The grounds surrounding the main building feature a wide range of mysteries that you can solve to uncover the region’s intriguing history (and unlock some pretty useful resources and crafting recipes), which is a fictionalized take on the Salem Witch Trials that combines real world events with elements of Marvel mythos.


While it isn’t as deep as Firaxis’ other titles, there are several mechanics that affect how each mission plays out, and you may as well start calling it XCOM-lite with all of the other hub area features that get introduced early on. For starters, you can bring up to three heroes per mission, and each of them carries a deck of eight cards.

There are three different card categories: Attacks, Skills, and Heroics. The first two are self-explanatory, while the third type are cards that require a resource called Heroism, which you mainly generate by playing attacks or skills. By default, you can only play up to three cards per turn, and you can redraw two cards to try and get a more favorable hand, so you really have to plan ahead when it comes to what abilities you bring so that you don’t end up having a turn with no productive moves.

What I really like about the deckbuilding system is that each hero has their own unique collection that thematically fits their character. For example, Captain America’s cards mainly revolve around taunting enemies and generating block (which basically acts as a second health bar), making him fill the role of a standard RPG tank whose main job is to protect his teammates. On the other hand, Iron Man benefits from having an entire hand full of his own abilities, and rather than replacing his cards, most of them get upgraded when you try to redraw them.

To prevent players from using a single team throughout the entire game, each mission (story or otherwise) has at least one required hero, with pretty much every story mission requiring the Hunter on them as well. Because of this, you have to level up each of your heroes just so you don’t run into a bit of a wall later on, especially on higher difficulties where everything hits harder and takes forever to get KO’d.

Positioning is another thing to keep in mind, as arenas have various hazards and environmental attacks scattered around them. You can move a hero once per turn, and using certain abilities can also place them elsewhere on the field. By doing this, you can either open up extra attacks that cost heroism (e.g. kicking a crate at an enemy or dropping a pole on them) or make it possible to knock enemies back into generators, explosive barrels, or even each other. Some enemies can and will do the same to you, so you can’t just move around randomly.

In most missions, reinforcements will show up after every turn, so you can’t just ignore the objective forever. There aren’t many opportunities to heal or stack up your team’s block either, especially if the RNG just refuses to give you the right cards. I personally haven’t failed a mission yet as of writing this, but there definitely have been many pyrrhic victories.


At the Abbey, you’ll get many opportunities to build up your relationships through some inconsequential requests, occasional hangouts, and group activities. Getting your friendship levels up unlocks unique passives for each hero, and you get to witness some touching or humorous (or both) moments between them and the Hunter.

Midnight Suns‘ writing team clearly did their homework, as the characters are mostly spot on, and there are tons of references to the comics sprinkled throughout the game. Honestly, my only complaint would probably be that characters tend to joke around a little too much, kinda like in the MCU. Unfortunately, to get to the more intriguing character moments, you have to get through a bunch of “MCU-ish” exchanges first. Later on, though, you get stuff like Magik opening up about her traumas, Blade slowly warming up to the Hunter, and even Tony Stark surprisingly being vulnerable in front of other people.

Apart from the social aspects, the Abbey’s forge also lets you craft new cards and research various upgrades that enhance other features of your base. The training yard is where you can add extra effects to your cards and spar with one your teammates once a day, which grants a bonus combat passive for their next mission. Later in the game, you can also unlock a portal to Limbo where you can test out cards without hopping into a mission and potentially racking up injuries/debuffs.

Oh, and there’s a demon dog that you can pet, and doing so slowly levels her up. There’s actually a few legitimately good reasons to do this regularly, as you can build the Hunter in a way that lets you summon the dog as a somewhat permanent 4th party member.


I was hyped for Midnight Suns mainly cause I’m a huge Marvel fan, but Firaxis really did a nice job of seamlessly integrating card-based gameplay into their typical turn-based strategy formula, which I’m also very fond of. While the visuals may be a bit rough around the edges, they’ve nailed the over-the-top flashy moves you’d expect from a superhero game, as even some of the smallest moves can look very impactful.

At times, it feels like I’m playing Marvel’s version of Persona or Dragon Age, and I’m already looking forward to the upcoming DLCs, which will be adding a few more familiar names to the roster. It’s not a perfect game by any means, but it’s executed well enough that I’d probably be going through New Game+ at least once.

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