Multiversus is an Imaginative Fighter Drenched in Trademarks

This is my Multiverse of Madness…

When I first saw the trailer for Multiversus in November, my brain almost combusted due to the sheer overload of brands involved. “Why does Warner Bros. own all of these things?” I thought to myself. I can’t stress this enough: Multiversus looks like a fake video game I would hallucinate while floating away on a cloud of laughing gas at the dentist’s office. So when I saw that a closed alpha was happening, I absolutely had to check it out. 

I signed into my PS5, picked Finn the Human, the G.O.A.T. from Adventure Time, and got swiftly clobbered by a Steven Universe main who was too saucy with it. It was a humbling fight, and I lost the salty rematch, but I walked away giddy thinking of the shocking depth that Player First Games’ Multiversus possesses. 

The motley crew of comic book and cartoon characters have playful, imaginative kits that are bursting with potential. The tutorial system is robust, dishing out basic and advanced techniques in an easily absorbable way. And it has such a strong focus on competitive teamwork, even hosting crossplay between Xbox, PlayStation, and PC  – a feature seldom seen in the biggest fighting games. Multiversus is only in alpha, and definitely has some kinks to work out regarding server connections and unfair advantages. But so far, it is a ridiculously fun official amalgam of the most random IPs I’ve ever seen together, and I cannot wait to play more of this game with friends.

Multiversus is the first game from developers Player First Games, and has been attracting a fair bit of attention online thanks to its cast of Warner Bros. owned fighters. The roster includes the likes of: archenemies Tom and Jerry, demigod Wonder Woman, and an original creature named Reindog. It also hosts a lot of the iconic voice actors like Estelle, Tara Strong, Eric Bauza, Kevin Conroy, and Maisie Williams. 

In the same vein as Super Smash Bros. and the recent Nickelodeon All-Star Brawl, Multiversus plays as a platform fighter, but it does a decent job of setting itself apart with its dedication to team composition and co-op in 2v2 matches. Similar to MOBAs, characters have classes like bruiser, assassin, and support that define your playstyle. For example: the support Reindog can tether to a teammate and pull them back on stage if they fumble a combo, and the tank Wonder Woman can dash to her ally, cleansing them of debuffs and granting them a shield buff. It’s thrilling to see characters in a fighting game who aren’t designed solely to fight; and with mechanics like this, that synergy is smartly embedded into Multiversus.

The developers definitely learned a lot from the competitive Smash Bros. community, which serves as the blueprint for a lot of the branded fighters that have been popping up. While Nintendo has historically despised the competitive community, Multiversus is clearly aiming to be competitive, even landing a spot at Evolution Championship Series (EVO) 2022 later this summer. Combat is co-operative and brisk, without shielding or grabs, so I could definitely see crowds getting intoxicatingly hype off of plays. 

I’d be so excited to see this game shine competitively, but the Perks system creates uneven ground for new players. When you practice a character, you level up their progress bar, and are awarded Perks that give you in-game buffs. You can choose not to use them, but Perks cannot be turned off in the settings, not even in custom modes. This creates many matchmaking scenarios where a player who’s sunk hours and hours into Multiversus has an innate advantage over a player who has just started, and that leaves an incredibly sour taste in my mouth. I was finally starting to get good as a Finn main with no Perks when I fought a level 8 Taz who had Perks that gave him +15% knockback on moves, +10% damage boost, and +10% move cooldown. It may seem small, but those augments add up and fester into a forest of unfairness. Fighting games appeal to people because they are tests of skill on even playing fields, if players in Multiversus are allowed to get a leg up before the match even starts, it’s hard to take the game’s competitive ambitions seriously right now. We did only have access to “Normal” and “Custom” game modes, so hopefully there are options to toggle and omit Perks in the upcoming ranked mode. 

Even though it isn’t the most serious, competition-focused time, I am obsessed with how zany the moves are in Multiversus. They’ve gotta be my favorite part. The abilities feel true to the source material, while also translating into silly and inventive combat systems. Bugs Bunny can miss the left turn at Albuquerque and burrow underground, creating multiple tunnel passageways on the stage. Velma can lose her glasses and dash swiftly across the stage, command grabbing anyone in her path. And Finn makes coins appear when he hits opponents, which he can use in a shop to acquire adventurer’s equipment (or even BMO!). All of these playable gags interact and coalesce into a chaotic, forever goofy time. 

It’s only the early days, but Multiversus is shaping up to be a memorable mash-up of a brawler. It just needs to shed off some systems to make duels odds more even and enticing.