Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 is a flawed but fantastic action-brawler (read our review). One of its biggest flaws is how poorly it describes some of its underlying mechanics, such as attributes and synergies. We’ve compiled some quick tips, details, and strategies so you can spend less time staring at statistics and more time punching bad guys.
Every hero has six stats: Strength, Mastery, Resilience, Durability, Energy, and Vitality. When it comes to equipping them with ISO-8, you’re going to want to know which heroes benefit the most from which stat boosts.
Strength affects physical basic attacks as well as any power that’s listed as melee, projectile, or piercing. Heroes that benefit the most from Strength are entirely focused on physical attacks and abilities, such as Captain America, Hulk, and Ms. Marvel.
Mastery affects energy attacks and abilities. Magic and elemental heroes will benefit the most from pumping up Mastery, such as Scarlet Witch, Dr. Strange, and Crystal. Note that certain heroes’ basic attacks will also scale off Mastery instead of Strength if they shoot fireballs or bolts of energy, such as Wasp. Oddly, in what seems like an oversight, Psylocke uses Strength, not Mastery, for her basic attacks.
Durability and Resilience are your defenses against enemy physical and energy attacks respectively. The higher the defensive stat, the less damage you take from that source. It’s possible from some heroes to be great physical tanks, but fall apart against energy blasts.
Energy and Vitality determine your Energy Points (EP) and Health Points (HP). Every hero benefits from Vitality though melee heroes will need it more than their ranged counterparts. Likewise heroes that rely more on their powers will want as much Energy as possible.
Synergizing powers is incredibly important in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. There are two different radial menus for accessing your super powers. Holding down R lets you perform any of your abilities by yourself. Holding down ZR enables synergy attacks, but only if someone nearby has the right synergy trait for your powers. If some of your powers are grayed out, it means no one nearby has the right synergy trait. This can be especially painful in the early levels when each character only has one or two abilities. By level 20 everyone has four abilities, making synergies much more common.
Synergy traits are listed on the power screen, directly below the ability’s trait. The in-game tips menu only lists some of the possible combinations. When viewing powers on the Hero Select screen, these traits show up as different icons next to the powers, such as a snowflake for Freeze and a fist for Launch. You can either rely on trial and error to find the right combos, or peruse user-made graphs like this one.
Synergy attacks boost your abilities in fun new ways, such as adding fire to a tornado, or doubling the size of an explosion. You generally want to perform synergy attacks as much as possible.
Your AI controlled allies can enable synergies as well. Whenever they perform an ability and you have a corresponding synergy trait, an ‘A’ prompt will flash over your portrait in the lower left corner. Hitting ‘A’ during the brief window will activate that synergy attack.
Elementalists are Friends with Benefits
Some of the best synergy traits are the elements: burn, freeze, and shock, and whirlwind if we include it for air. Characters that can perform these moves with these traits often synergize with just about anything, making them wonderful team members to include, even if you don’t necesarrily enjoy playing them. Excellent Elementalists include Crystal, Star-Lord, Storm, Ghost Rider, and Wasp.
Block and Dodge
It’s easy to forget in the chaos of large battles, but it becomes important to know how (and when) to dodge attacks. Holding L allows your character to block, significantly reducing all damage. Hold L while moving will result in a dodge roll, one of the most useful tools for any hero. Most enemies have easy to see wind-up attacks, and you don’t want to be caught flat-footed.
Charge to Stagger Big Enemies
Any enemy who’s not a grunt (including bosses) has an additional purple health bar called the Stagger Gauge. Attacks deplete this bar first, which temporarily stuns the enemy and allows you to damage the enemy’s health bar.
Hero abilities are all rated for damage to health and to stagger, and charge abilities specifically are well suited to damaging the Stagger Gauge, making them a great opening move when facing these more powerful foes.
Because charge is so good against stronger enemies, you always want to include one or two heroes who can perform charge attacks on your team, and upgrade the charge abilities ASAP. Thankfully the Charge trait is very common and just about every melee hero posses a charge ability, such as Hulk, Captain America, Ghost Rider, Psylocke, and Captain Marvel.
Save Extreme Attacks for Stunned Enemies
Extreme attacks are triggered by tapping the L + R buttons when your Extreme bar is filled up – that’s the yellow circle around your character portrait. Tapping L + R repeatedly allows other characters to join in (assuming their bars are full as well) to unleash an Alliance Extreme Attack, the most powerful ability you can perform, and turning the battlefield into a kaleidoscope of death.
However, it’s best to time these big attacks for the right moment, such as when a boss, or a room full of stronger enemies, are stunned. You’ll know they’re stunned when their purple bar is depleted, following by a glass-breaking sound as they enter a stunned animation. That’s the time to pull your Extreme Attacks, doing massive damage to their HP. Gleeful cackling is optional but encouraged.
Infinity Trials for Grinding
If you enjoy switching heroes, you’ll find the campaign quickly outpacing your ability to keep everyone leveled up. To make matters worse, the story annoyingly shoves nearly half its roster at you in the beginning of Chapter 2, where many heroes will languish in low-level purgatory.
That’s where the Infinity Trials come in. These challenges are designed to be replayed many times to grind your heroes’ levels and earn XP cubes and ISO-8 loot drops.
The best Trials for boosting heroes’ XP are the Rush trials, as they provide large amounts of enemies, which equate to more XP gains. You can power-level lower level heroes by slotting them into a higher level team, and using that team to quickly clear the highest level rush trial you have access to, such as the Lvl. 24 Rush at Avengers Tower. Upon completion, many of these trials reward XP cubes over and over again, granting another nice boost when leveling up heroes.
Pay Attention to Trial Rules
Frustrated by how you’re dealing no damage to Doctor Octopus in the Lvl. 10 Synergy Trial? Read the fine print: Synergy attacks deal more damage but everything else deals less damage, including Extreme Attacks. It’s important to note when trials have special conditions that you have to exploit, while others are simply beating on bad guys before time runs out.
And don’t worry about three-starring everything early, you can always come back once you have higher level heroes, upgraded powers and the right ISO-8’s equipped to wipe the floor with earlier trials.
The lab is where you want to spend all those credits and enhancement points you’ve been earning, which is accessible on the main menu or any SHIELD checkpoint. It’s a series of grid-webs full of passive bonuses, which should be familiar to fans of action-RPGs like Path of Exile.
You can only unlock adjacent bonuses starting from the middle. It’s best to go toward the edges first, as you will unlock additional grid-webs. Filling out an entire hex grid will unlock a major central bonus. A great bonus to aim for early is in the upper left corner (unlocked from the Extreme Gauge Recovery bonus). Filling out that blue energy grid results in a flat 10% XP boost for all heroes!
Don’t neglect the Enhancement grids as they provide lots of stat boosts that quickly add up.
About half-way through the campaign you’ll gain the ability to upgrade ISO-8, which are crystals you earn in battle and can equip on heroes. ISO-8 provide stat boosts and other benefits. You can upgrade them via the Lab. It’s a good idea to check the Lab every so often for ISO-8 upgrades, as it’s a good way to turn the dozens of ISO-8 you’ll earn into upgrading the few you have equipped.
Finding stellar team combinations is part of the fun. Every hero has several team affiliations, with each affiliation resulting in a different passive stat boost for the entire active team. On the Hero Select screen, press Y to view all the team bonuses, or tap L to view your current roster’s affiliations. The Guardians of the Galaxy, for example, grant a bonus to Resilience from 2% (with two members) up to 8% (for four members). Team Bonuses are cumulative, meaning that characters can earn bonuses from multiple teams. Captain Marvel, for example, can contribute a team bonus to her fellow Guardians (know your comic history!) as well as to Avengers and Women of Marvel.
Most characters have four or five team bonuses. Oddly Gamora is one of the most team-friendly heroes around, having no less than eight (!) affiliations: Guardians of the Galaxy, Femme Fatales, Agile Fighter, Ultimate Alliance 3, Women of Marvel, Family Values, Martial Artist, and Cutting Edge. No matter who’s in your squad, Gamora will probably compliment it.
If you’re looking for a high team bonus boost, check out the X-Force gang: Deadpool, Psylocke, Wolverine, and Nightcrawler contribute a whopping 17% Strength and 8% vitality bonus, thanks to the four-person bonuses of X-Men, X-Force, and Cutting Edge. Considering all these heroes benefit greatly from both strength and vitality, this is one of the most powerful teams in the mid-game, and when you unlock Elektra, you can squeeze out a few more stat bonuses.
Other good-looking team comps include:
- Black Web-heads: Venom, Black Widow, Spider-Gwen, and Miles Morales
- Midnight Sons: Dr. Strange, Elsa Bloodstone, Ghost Rider, and Scarlet Witch
- The Defenders: Luke Cage, Iron Fist, Dr. Strange, Daredevil
- Old School Avengers: Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, Wasp
Find one or two heroes you love, and build a team around them. Look for good synergy traits and team bonuses – or throw all that out and build your own Marvel dream team.