June 17, 2024
Marvel's Midnight Suns without the licence? Capes is more than just an imitator. The Finger Guns review:

Back in 2022 I played about 25 hours of Marvel’s Midnight Suns. I was having a good time, rollicking every goon between here and NYC with Spiderman and the gang. Despite my fond time with the game however, I never booted it back up again. Unfinished and relegated to the uncompleted backlog, I didn’t quite register what it was that made me drop what should have been a slam dunk of a game for me.

Capes has answered that particular cognitive quandary for me. What was missing, was challenge. Moreover, brevity. Capes is Midnight Suns without the fluff or the filler. It’s Homelander behind the scenes (yes, I’ve just started watching The Boys), all power-thrill; yet laced with a menacing undertone of everything going wrong, at all times.

It’s superhero XCOM for the second time out, only without the licence. Turns out, Capes doesn’t really need the big names to impress.

With Great Power, Comes A Great Cape

Remove the home base, relationships, morality guff and the deckbuilding from Midnight Suns and what are you left with? Pure tactical XCOM-like strategy. Capes is all about the thrill of overcoming increasingly brutal challenges in the shape of its missions. You have a raft of superhero characters to choose from, each with their own unique abilities, specialties and damage outputs. Everyone is feasible, but making them cohesive is what matters.

Every Patrol or Campaign scenario you embark on will throw a veritable legion of foes after you. Massive bruisers, goons with pipes, commandos with guns, robots sporting lasers and rockets. You name a superhero enemy, it’ll be in here. I’m at the same amount of time in Capes as I was in Midnight Suns, but I’m losing, a lot. Probably 600% more than I ever did in Marvel’s edition.

Missions have phases, some of which you’ll barely scrape through, desperate and relieved. Only to find there’s another gang of mobsters waiting to kick your depleted party to the curb. But the difficulty is here to keep the game interesting. I’m at the same time played, but I’m in no hurry to put Capes down. You need to not only understand your party of up-to-four, you have to know how to synchronise their talents.

Rebound for example, is fantastic at dealing damage and disarming enemies, but she’s fragile. Pair her up with Mindhunter, who can make enemies turn their backs to her, and she’ll fell most in one swoop. Trying to keep your party compact to optimise their abilities is essential, but doing so runs the risk of one bad turn causing your entire group to fall. It’s a delicate but ludicrously engrossing balance, every mission.

Capes review

Real Heroes Wait Their Turn

Capes plays as is fairly typical of an XCOM-esque strategy title. Every friend and foe is placed in a turn order. You have movement points and actions points, dictating and limiting your opportunities. There’s no full or half cover (owing to how it almost always gets smashed, cause you know, superpowers) to worry about. It’s your squad and the mob of muscle heads with guns to duke it out, turn by turn.

What separates Capes is the focus on using abilities both efficiently and effectively. Combine Facet’s defence-orientated crystal growth with Mercurial’s dash and you can create a wall to limit movement, or act as conduits for Weathervane’s lightning to chain across the whole map. I quickly found my favourites, but luckily, Capes accounts for this too, and prevents you getting too comfortable with one setup.

For one, certain characters will be pre-selected on some missions as part of the story. For two, different scenarios require different approaches. An enclosed space with a cubic ton of grunts is far better suited for Weathervane than Mercurial, for example. Additionally, Capes has a variety of side objective tasks to complete in every level, the accomplishing of which provides essential skill points for your heroes.

This part I’m more torn with. On one hand, making me use my brain to figure out how to not let any hostage be hit, or knock ten dudes off of ledges is a great means of testing my ability. On the other, getting “all in one” bonuses without any hero KO or disarming 50 thousand (slight exaggeration) opponents made me want to be the one going off of said ledge. 50% of the time they’re a great inclusion, the other 50% is the path to anger, hate and suffering.

Capes review

Cape It To Yourself

Speaking of skill points (SP), you’re going to want to try and acquire them, come Hell or highwater. Hitting that elusive “all in one” bonus rewards a mass of SP you can then spend on your supes to improve their abilities. Most are fairly standard, such as increased damage, or further range. However, some can radically improve your chances in harder battles.

Struggling with a particularly devastating mission? You can simulate old missions to grind XP to level up, and have another go at side objectives you failed to gain more SP. Then come back, with a squad who can infinitely delay opponent’s turns, or have ultimate attacks that now hit an extra four times, charging up twice as quick. It’s staggering how much of a difference levels and upgrades make in Capes.

Which, in case you’re wondering, is really good. Progression is tied to your knowledge of the game and mastering each level. Doing so then rewards you with the means to have a fighting chance from Act II onwards. Seriously, past Act I, Capes became a death trap for my strategy game ego. However, this only elevated the sense of elation and fulfillment when I was finally able to overcome that impossible scenario.

Having said that, occasionally this balance is tipped far too strongly into obnoxious and annoying. One mission involving Mindhunter and Doctrine was maddening, owing to the ludicrous numbers of enemies. Doctrine repeats the same line every goddamn time he gets downed and due to the types of enemies you face, the fight dragged on for 20+ minutes, only for me to lose, have to restart, and do it all over again. The level took me two hours to finish and my head meeting Wolverine’s claws would have been preferable.

Capes review

Cape Blah-di

So gameplay wise, Capes is very strong, for the most part. Story wise, it’s not quite up to the same standard. Everything is delivered in a comic book style, with speech bubbles, low texture figurine graphics and a fairly typical tale of the struggle against tyranny. If anything, I was taken aback by how much Capes takes itself seriously, attempting to dole out melodrama and high stakes, without really having the chops to achieve it.

A bit like the “Martha” moment in Batman vs Superman, the idea is okay, but the execution leaves something to be desired. Voices for the cast do their best to sell their personalities, especially for the main villain, but some of lines, plot threads and quote-on-quote emotional moments are comical. It doesn’t help that character’s faces don’t really animate in cutscenes. Probably a case of budget restraint, in fairness.

It would be very unfair to say it’s bad, as the earnest attempt to deliver an elongated story over 20+ hours of content is laudable. Sometimes it hits, sometimes it doesn’t. Visually, the powers each character has looks great. From Facet’s glowing green crystals to a nano-titan pulsing with mechanical life, Capes can look superb when it focuses on overall style.

Every now and then, some things can look blocky, like how certain units turn to initiate actions, but again, this is more due to budget than lack of effort. Given the amount of action on screen, it also runs brilliantly. At one point, I had almost an entire map on fire (blame Ignis, not me). Capes didn’t mind a jot, its engine running more smoothly than Quicksilver.

Capes review

Our Capes Will Blot Out The (Midnight) Sun(s)

Truth be told, while I had issues with the story and noticed some of the graphical roughness, I didn’t truly care. Capes delivers on the part of XCOM that matters the most – tactical decision making, understanding the mechanics and an actual challenge to overcome. That alone took me to 20 hours and counting fully enthralled. Where I stopped with Midnight Suns due to being in a malaise, I feel like I’ve only just begun here.

Sometimes, bigger really isn’t better, and I think Capes encapsulates this perfectly. Outside of missions, it’s literally just a screen with a few tabs to click through. No massive hub area, no massive exposition dumps disguised as dialogue. You’re encouraged to be out doing what you should be – kicking the bad guys asses after they’ve pulverised your squad six times already.

There are some considerable difficulty spikes and it can veer into unfair territory at times, but overall, I can’t recommend Capes enough. If you liked Midnight Suns, you’ll like Capes. If you grew disillusioned with Midnight Suns, perhaps like me, this may be the tonic to satiate that XCOM thirst.

Flying into battle with a strong but satisfying difficulty curve, Capes sheds the fluff of more expansive titles to double down on the tactical acumen of an XCOM title. Missions are tough, thrilling and ultimately rewarding. Even if the story behind the carnage is lackluster and the spikes in difficulty can be positively mountainous, Capes proves you don’t need a popular licence to make a grand superhero worthy of acclaim.

Capes is available now on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4/5 (review platform), Xbox Series X|S and Xbox One.

Developer: Spitfire Interactive
Publisher: Daedalic Entertainment

Disclaimer: In order to complete this review, we were provided with a promotional copy of the game. For our full review policy, please go here.

If you enjoyed this article or any more of our content, please consider our Patreon.

Make sure to follow Finger Guns on our social channels –TwitterFacebookTwitchSpotify or Apple Podcasts – to keep up to date on our news, reviews and features.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.