Marvel’s Midnight Suns is free right now, and you should grab it (even on Epic)


Characters in battle, with cards in the forefront, in Midnight Suns
Enlarge / All these goons are targeting Captain America, as shown in icons above their heads. Good. That’s just how he likes it. (No, really, he’s a tank, that’s his thing.)

2K/Firaxis

I fully understand why people don’t want multiple game launchers on their PC. Steam is the default and good enough for (seemingly) most people. It’s not your job to compel competition in the market. You want to launch and play games you enjoy, as do most of us.

So when I tell you that Marvel’s Midnight Suns is a game worth the hassle of registering, installing, and using the Epic Games Launcher, I am carefully picking my shot. For the price of giving Epic your email (or a proxy/relay version, like Duck), or just logging in again, you can play a fun, novel, engaging turn-based strategy game, with deckbuilding and positioning tactics, for zero dollars. Even if you feel entirely sapped by Marvel at this point, like most of us, I assure you that this slice of Marvel feels more like the comic books and less like the overexposed current films. Just ask the guy who made it.

Tactical deckbuilding is fun

The game was very well-regarded by most critics but was not a financial success upon release in December 2022, or was at least “underwhelming.” Why any game hits or doesn’t is a combination of many factors, but one of them was likely that the game was trying something new. It wasn’t just X-COM with Doctor Strange. It had some Fire Emblem relationship-building and base exploration, but it also had cards. The cards blend into the turn-based, positional, chain-building strategy, but some people apparently saw cards and turned away.

“Before, I never had an experience where people had expressed disappointment before playing, you know,” Jake Solomon, the now-departed director of Midnight Suns and XCOM, told Rock Paper Shotgun in an interview. “As we told people from the beginning, it’s not an accident, we don’t share a single mechanic with XCOM. … And so I think when people play it, they get it, it’s really fun, and you can get as addicted to this as you can to XCOM. But I also totally get it when people look at images coming out and go ‘What the f*** is that? Are those… are those cards? Cards!?’ So yeah, I can sympathise with people for that reason, I guess.”

Folks, the cards are fun. The resources you gather go into upgrading your cards, which are all your moves in combat. There are strategies inherent to each character, like chaining attacks, moving enemies through portals, area-of-effect attacks, and the like. But then you can min-max heroes’ abilities, focus on your favorite heroes, and laugh when things go horribly awry or ridiculously in your favor.

You don’t build one deck in Midnight Suns, you build a whole team of little decks. As a designer for deckbuilder Cobalt Core told Ars, deckbuilding puts you “in this space where no two turns are ever exactly the same, so players get to keep figuring out new optimal solutions. But even though the options are always huge, they’re made up of pretty simple building blocks, so it’s not overwhelming.”

The other big change from XCOM and similar games is a rich use of both a destructible environment and rag-doll enemies. Having Magik set up a portal, then Iron Man blasts a goon through it, then seeing that enemy fly through the exit portal into an overloaded battery that explodes, knocking out two more baddies—it’s a great feeling.

Even devout Marvel fans will find some characters they'd never delved into previously, like Nico Minoru of the Midnight Suns crew.

Even devout Marvel fans will find some characters they’d never delved into previously, like Nico Minoru of the Midnight Suns crew.

2K/Firaxis

Comicbook Marvel, not movie-stars Marvel

The thing that most often happens in between missions is talking. You seek out and talk to your teammates, respond to things they say, go on excursions with them. It gets to the point where you can join a book club with Captain America, Blade, Captain Marvel, and, reluctantly, Wolverine.

It can be a bit much, but the dialogue and voice acting is well-done, in my estimation. In some comic-book-but-also-movie games, the lack of rights to an actor’s face can be hard to get past, if you’re used to seeing them in that superhero getup. Midnight Suns has both pretty close approximations of various heroes, or alternate faces that didn’t bug me after the first few sightings. And if none of the world-building/friend-making stuff is for you, you can hold a button and skip through toward more goon-bashing.

Solomon noted in that same RPS interview that he is a “really, really, like, super Marvel Comics nerd.” That comes through in how each character is framed, how they interact, and their motivations. There’s still a good bit of the modern Marvel quip quotient, but it’s palatable. Going on friend dates with the Scarlet Witch may not be something you seek out in your turn-based tactics, but give it a try. It gives you some motivation to see your heroes succeed and work together.

Epic has the base Midnight Suns game free through June 13 at 11 am. You could add on some DLC if you like, with new characters like Storm, Venom, Morbius, and Deadpool (if you’re _really_ okay with quipping). You’ll see various costumes and in-game currencies available for sale, too, but none of them are at all necessary to play and succeed at the game. If you’re enjoying the game, and wish it ran a bit faster, consider disabling the 2K launcher in the Epic Games version.

A lot of games release every day, and some of them end up being games I wish I could have written about and recommended. Midnight Suns has long resided in that mental space for me. For the price of zero dollars, plus whatever level of commitment is required for an Epic Store download, it’s an easy game to recommend.



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