Marvel's XCOM...I mean Midnight Suns

I'll be honest, when I first saw things about Midnight Suns I was like “okay, sure, another Marvel game” and paid it no more attention.

Until I saw it was created by Firaxis. And was a turn-based tactics game. In other words, it's the next XCOM.

And I loooove XCOM. I love the first (new) XCOM. I love XCOM 2. I even love Chimera Squad. (We don't talk about Bruno The Bureau.)

I have seen people compare Midnight Suns to Fire Emblem and I can see that, but it's a Firaxis game! So I'm going to just dive into my review and what I love about the game.


As mentioned, I'm coming to this from a deep XCOM background; so at first the combat system felt a lot less tactical than I'm used to. The way I generally play XCOM combat is:

  1. Move/Find Cover
  2. Hit enemies if I can
  3. Go into overwatch if I can't hit anyone
  4. Repeat for each soldier in my squad

The standard turn style. But Midnight Suns doesn't do...any of that. Instead of having an individual turn for each unit on your squad you have a certain number of card plays for your entire team, and a few ways to do other things on your turn. Which means that you can have turns where Ghost Rider™ and Spider Man™ are doing everything and Blade™ is just standing there. (I'll stop. I just like the ™ glyph.)

And combat style bugged me for about an hour. But it makes sense in context. This is a superhero game, not a soldier game. Superheroes don't find cover. They don't have limits on how far they can move in one turn. Some actions involve moving as part of the action, in fact most of them do. The combat is more cinematic than soldierly. Instead of using the environment for cover you generally use it to beat people up. One of the funniest things you can do in the game is move a character right up next to a baddie and smash them in the face with a crate. I don't know why that's funny to me, but it is funny every time. So now that I'm getting into the combat it's still very different from XCOM, but it's got a lot going for it. When you find a way to throw a baddie into another baddie and K.O. both of them it's very satisfying, and then you realize there are so many combos like that in the game if you spend some time lining up your actions.

The Loop

The XCOM loop is:

The Midnight Suns loop is a little different:

Under the hood, it's fairly similar to the XCOM loop, but more structured. You still have people helping you research upgrades, but the “chrome” around this is different, again, because these are superheroes. In XCOM you upgrade through three levels of weapons and three levels of armor. This doesn't make sense when you've got magic users and mutants and tech bros all commingling. Blade and Spider Man will never use the same upgrades.

So the “card” system works here. You can upgrade abilities for each hero individually, which makes more sense, ludo-narratively. The focus on building relations on the team is where this game gets its “Persona-like” or “Fire Emblem-like” moniker, I'm guessing.


The tone of the game is just this side of goofy. There are plenty of jokes, and plenty of heartwarming moments between characters if you're looking for those. The bar in your HQ only serves soft drinks. That fact is lampshaded by a single line from Iron Man, where he says he asked them to keep the booze out of sight while he's around.

The over-talkative Marvel characters are definitely in full force; so you need to decide how you want to engage with them. Tony Stark, Dr. Strange, and Peter Parker are all as wordy as you would expect, but so far they haven't gotten on my nerves too much. Somewhat amusingly they have gotten on the nerves of the quieter characters in the lineup. The writing is pretty good about that.

Oh, and Tony Stark makes at least one dig at Elon Musk. I enjoyed that as well.

Even though you're facing down a big bad threat that could end the world, your team still finds time to hang out and play video games and whatnot. There are even gameplay rewards for doing so! But if none of that is for you the game points out that you really don't need to do any of that. All the exploration and inter-personal stuff is optional. I'm a softie, I'm all in on the interpersonal stuff.

My main problem is that I know very little about the MCU or Marvel comics in general. I know enough to get by, but I feel like I'm catching maybe 35% of the references that go past. Fortunately the game gives you a genuinely new character as your POV, who has conveniently been dead but dreaming for three centuries, thus allowing the established characters to explain things to you. You don't need to know all things Marvel to enjoy the game.


I like it. It's tactical enough, it doesn't (so far) seem to be interested in forcing a quick-march timeline like the XCOM games, it looks gorgeous, the dialog ranges from “meh” to “pretty good” but has stayed north of the “cringe” line. There are in app purchases, but they seem to be centered on cosmetics and are easy to ignore, and even without them cosmetics are easy to come by. If you like XCOM games and are willing to try something a little different, give it a shot. Throw a box at a Hydra operative. Right in their face. It's therapeutic.