marvel ultimate alliance 3

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 Tips, Synergies, and Team Bonuses

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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.

Stat Breakdown

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.

Synergize

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.

Alliance Enhancement

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.

Upgrade ISO-8

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.

Team-Ups

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.

jurassic park danger

Jurassic Park Danger! Review

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Game publisher Ravensburger is celebrating Jurassic Park’s 25th anniversary with Jurassic Park Danger!, an adventure strategy game that pits the heroes (and victims) of the first film against the rampaging dinosaurs on Isla Nublar.

By melding together fun board game mechanics from Euro-style games, Jurassic Park Danger! is far more compelling and rewarding than many family games found in the Target gaming aisle. Its dedication to the source material is immensely rewarding for fans of the 1993 film – but be prepared for the dinosaurs to come out on top more often than not.

Man Creates Dinosaurs, Dinosaurs Eat Man

Jurassic Park Danger! is both cooperative and competitive. It’s designed for 2-5 players. One player always takes the role of the rampaging dinosaurs on the island – specifically a dilophosaurus, velociprator, and Tyrannosaurus Rex. Each dinosaur is represented by wonderful little dino-meeples with printed pictures.

The other players each play one of ten color-coded characters from the film, including Dr. Alan Grant, Dr. Ian Malcolm, Dr. Ellie Sattler, and park owner John Hammond. Every player (including the dinosaur player) gets their own character mat and deck of cards.

The island board isn’t quite a faithful recreation of the park. Instead it’s randomly constructed every game through the modular hexagonal inner pieces, not unlike The Settlers of Catan. This randomizes the locations of cliffs, electric fences, dinosaur spawn points, and some of the objectives. To maintain a semblance of balance, the main objectives are always placed at the cardinal directions of the island, with human players always starting in the middle.

The human players’ goals are to active three locations, such as the control center, then escape off the island via the helicopter. If the humans can collectively get three characters off the island, they win.

jurassic park danger

At the same time, each character has their own specific goals, listed on their character mats. Like everything else, they’re drawn from the film. Ray Arnold, for example, must go to the maintenance shed location to earn his goal token before he can escape (hopefully a better fate than in the movie). These goals help add an interesting wrinkle to players’ plans – particularly when a character dies.

Clever Girl

The dinosaur players’ goal is to eliminate three human characters. Crucially, Jurassic Park Danger! works around player elimination by letting the humans play a new character with a fresh deck of cards. In fact, the manual very plainly states on the first page that there’s a good chance the character you start with won’t survive to make it off the island!

The low odds of survival is due to the card playing and health mechanic. Every round every player selects a card and places it face down on their sheet. The dinosaur player always goes first, revealing their movement capabilities and attempting to maneuver and ambush as many humans as possible. When a dinosaur enters a human space, the dinosaur attacks, and the human has to permanently lose a card. That’s bad news for humans, because they need to play those cards to get around the island.

The humans all have similar cards in their hands: Run, Climb, Sneak, and Distract. Running, climbing and sneaking offer different means of traveling around the map, but you’ll need to roll a dice to accomplish some of them.

jurassic park dangerI like that all the characters vary slightly, and aren’t just a simple aesthetic change. Tim, Hammond’s grandson, is slightly better at sneaking but not so great at climbing, for example.

Additionally, each character has special ability cards they can deploy. Lex’s I’m a Hacker card let’s her reroll a dice. Nedry can turn a single electric fence off or on, while Grant can rescue a nearby character by moving them into his space.

Playing multiple characters with different goals and abilities makes the game far more challenging for human players than the dinosaur player. Humans must also coordinate their actions to accomplish as much as they can while they’re still alive.

It’s far easier for the dinosaur player to use their unique abilities – like the dilophosaurus spit – to spread their attacks, block paths, and generally wear down the humans.

While it’s fun to watch both sides sneak around and out maneuver each other, it’s less enjoyable to lose your human character simply because you slowly ran out of cards to play. The balance feels particularly painful with less human players, as you have far fewer options to survive the onslaught of attacks. In half a dozen plays I’ve never seen the human players win, though they have come close.

The Rating

Jurassic Park Danger! is recommended for Ages 10+. Since movement is tied to card choice, and humans start with a full hand of all 10 cards, every single choice is strategic and tactical. Characters are eliminated, but players are not.

While Jurassic Park Danger! is suitable for families, it’s also aimed squarely at nostalgic fans of the original film.

The Takeaway

I count Jurassic Park as one of my all-time favorite films, and Jurassic Park Danger! absolutely nails the themes, style, and story beats remarkably well. The randomized board setup and ten characters provide a wealth of replay value, and the wooden meeples and card-playing strategy reflect the game’s Eurogame roots rather than a mass-market family game. I didn’t think I’d ever see a solid board game adaptation using the original Jurassic Park license, but life finds a way.