The first six months post launch of Disney Infinity 3.0 have been hard for Marvel fans. After three play sets and over twenty figures based on the heroes and villains of the Marvel Universe were released as part of the 2.0 edition of the toys-to-life game, the 3.0 edition until now has only saw the release of two Marvel figures: Hulkbuster Iron Man and Ultron. Even with those two figures, unless you’re a fan of playing user-created content or making your own, you can’t do a lot with them other than stare at them on a shelf. Now that the Star Wars hype has died down somewhat, Marvel has come back to Disney Infinity in a big way with the release of the Marvel Battlegrounds play set and multiple new figures including Ant-Man, a new Spider-Man and Captain America, Vision and Black Panther. If you’re a Marvel fan, it’s time to come back out of the cold and dust off your collection of figures. Marvel Battlegrounds is an incredibly fun multi-player game that changes the Infinity framework in ways that you never thought possible.
Robotic duplicates of the heroes of the Marvel Universe created by Loki and Ultron are on the loose and wreaking havoc and it’s up to the actual heroes of the Marvel Universe to put a stop to this evil plan once and for all. A game like Marvel Battlegrounds is not one you play for the story, and if you are, prepare to be let down. It’s not that engaging, only lasts around an hour and a half or so, and your reward for completion is a static image of whatever character you finished with and some text. The story mode of Battlegrounds is more of training yourself for battles against your friends and relearning how to play Disney Infinity.
The play sets of Disney Infinity are normally action/adventure platformers and the mechanics are designed to work in that context. As Marvel Battlegrounds is 3-D arena fighter in the vein of games like Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. and Capcom’s Power Stone, Vancouver based developer United Front games had to break down Infinity’s mechanics and rebuild them from the ground up to work, and they did so in a great way. The controls are fundamentally the same: you have a three hit combo with triangle, a super move and powers discs that can be triggered with the R and L1 buttons respectively and a throw, but the mechanics have been subtly altered to fight the context of a fighting game. Your dodge roll, for example, is shortened to keep the combat fast and close and the camera is zoomed out at an isometric perspective to frame the action in a way that Disney Infinity has never done before.
Combat takes place in a free roaming arena where you can run around, attack whomever you want, hit buttons to trigger traps like a train car that smashes into enemies or laser blasts that fire from Ultron’s head and deal damage, and you can throw environmental objects like boxes and containers as well. The stages, nine in total, also can change mid-battle, forcing you to stay on your toes. Marvel Battlegrounds is not EVO friendly, and it’s not trying to be. From the changing levels, environmental hazards and four-players running around, it can get very chaotic, but chaotic in a very fun way, especially if you have a friend or two along for the ride.
You can play in teams or against one another in a few modes, like a simple one where you just try to knock each other out or another where you try to rack up the most KO’s in a set amount of time. My personal favourite is the mode dubbed “Hero of the Hill” that is the Battlegrounds equivalent of King of the Hill from your favourite shooter of choice. The goal is stay within a circle and build up points by keeping the circle your colour and whoever gets fifty points wins. This mode is a great way to play with or against a friend, or even as a little brother or son game where you try to hold it while they deal with your opponents trying to make their way in.
To keep the playing field level, characters powers are no longer determined by their level, which means that if you’re expecting your level twenty Spider-Man to be able to easily topple a level one Vision, prepare to be disappointed. Every Marvel character from either Disney Infinity 2.0 as well as 3.0 is playable within Battlegrounds and all are more or less set at an ideal level twenty version of themselves. This helps to balance the potential roster of twenty-eight characters without feeling the pressure of levelling them up to be competitive. Those who are still concerned about experience and raising their characters levels and abilities for toy box play need not worry though, experience is still dealt out but in a much different way. At the conclusion of each round, you’re given experience points that you can spend immediately or keep banking. These can then be applied at any time to whatever character you wish.
Marvel Battlegrounds claim to fame is that it’s the first four-player at the same time play set for Disney Infinity. Even though the base only holds two characters, you need not buy a separate base as the way Battlegrounds brings in figures for play is also very different. Placing a figure onto a base scans them into the game and then makes them a part of a character roster like very other fighting game. The only time you ever really need to have a character on the base is when you’re playing the story mode, applying experience, or completing the games challenges. Circular Marvel Power Discs from 2.0 and 3.0 can be scanned in, six in total per match, and activated like item capsules from Super Smash Brothers to summon heroes, reign destruction, or give you and your opponents added defence in the form of shields.
Disney Infinity since its inception has always been a game that’s made or broken by your ability to afford new toys, and the same can be said of Marvel Battlegrounds, but there’s many ways to enjoy the play set even if you just have the sole Captain America figure that comes packaged with it. There’s a series of trial heroes always available to play with if you have friends over so if you want to see what a character is like before you buy them or just don’t have any toys, you can still play multiplayer. These heroes cycle out every week so you can get a pretty good feel for the roster without ever having to hunt down a character figure. Playing versus rounds also allows you to accumulate character tokens which you can exhaust to use any of the twenty-eight characters without having to wait for them to become a trial character.
As there’s no online multiplayer to speak of in Marvel Battlegrounds, sometimes you’ll find yourself simply having to play by yourself if you can’t round-up someone else to come over, or it’s too much of a challenge to bring your toys to someone else’s house. Outside of the story mode, there’s twenty-eight challenges to complete where you’ll have to beat a set number of opponents either on your own or with an AI helper. Completing these will unlock things like new arenas as well as costumes. This unfortunately is a time when having a huge collection of figures helps, as before you start a challenge, it will advise you to play with a certain character in order to claim a special bonus. For those who happen to have a lot or all the Marvel figures, there’s a silver lining in that previous costume change Power Discs from 2.0 will be unlocked as alternate outfits without you having to own that Disc. Beating the event for Falcon, for example, will allow you to change to the Captain America: Winter Soldier variant.
Marvel Battlegrounds may not take over your play time if you’re the type who loves to count frames and hit boxes, but it’s still a very polished, chaotic in a good way multiplayer brawler that shows just how diverse Disney Infinity can be. Even if you’re not in possession of shelves of Disney Infinity Marvel toys, there’s still many ways to enjoy Battlegrounds on a budget from the trial characters and consumable tokens. If you have a collection of Disney Infinity toys and were looking for something to do other than punch frost giants and symbiotes, were on the fence for the experience or simply wanting a new local co-op experience, Marvel Battlegrounds is very much worth investing into.