If you're not playing Marvel Puzzle Quest: Dark Reign [Free], now's as good a time as any to start: with a steady stream of updates, content, characters, and tweaks, the game is better now than it was nine months ago when it was released. Marvel Puzzle Quests's most recent update, rolled out earlier this week, introduces "True Healing," however, much to the chagrin of its most vocal fans.

Before "True Healing" was introduced, MPQ worked about like you'd expect: healing abilities rather straightforwardly replenished characters' hit points, and your hit point total was carried over from fight to fight. Injured characters were slowly healed over time, or you could buy a Health Pack with in-game currency to be restored immediately to full health.

Now, according to the developer, "characters receive true healing if their powers heal their wounds. Character powers that ease combat but don't heal wounds provide temporary health." Translation: damage that you sustain during a fight will carry over, even if it's healed back with a character's ability.

This only actually affects three characters: Modern She-Hulk, Classic Spider-Man, and Original Black Widow. Let's say, for example, that Thor has 1000 HP and takes 500 damage. Black Widow could heal him with her Anti-Gravity Device ability, restoring 250 temporary hit points. At the end of the fight, those temporary hit points disappear, leaving Thor with the 500 points he had before he was healed. She-Hulk, Spider-Man, and Black Widow have been well and truly nerfed.

For the record, other characters with healing abilities like Wolverine (and his variants), Daken, and Ares remain unaffected by the new True Healing mechanics.

While our own forums have been quiet, Puzzle Quest players on Twitter and D3 Publisher's forums have been vocal with their disappointment, accusing the team of changing the healing mechanics in an effort to force Health Pack sales. D3's "True Healing" thread is currently 53 pages long, much longer than any other thread in the forum.

IceIX, the board's administrator, explained that the "True Healing" mechanic was introduced to prevent Prologue Healing and to encourage roster diversity by forcing people to find new teams. Later, they directly addressed the accusation that D3 Publisher made a calculated move to sell more Health Packs: "We do think that some players will buy a couple more Packs off the back of this change for a couple days after it. This is the case with any change," they explained. "But we don't buff or nerf an ability because we want it to bring in revenue. We do it because we believe it will be in the best long term benefit for the game and for the users."

It is "absolutely not the case" that True Healing was introduced to promote Health Pack sales, they wrote.

On the one hand, this change only currently affects three out of Marvel Puzzle Quest's 40-odd characters; on the other, Original Black Widow was overwhelmingly popular, precisely because she was the game's best team healer. If the Marvel Puzzle Quest team was worried about character diversity, introducing more healing characters might have made Spider-Man and Black Widow less necessary.

And, to be fair, the change is working as intended so far: in the few days following the change, Black Widow teams have become far less common. Now that players can no longer depend on Spider-Man and Black Widow to keep their favorite maxed-out characters healthy, the player-vs-player modes have become much more diverse. However, as time goes on, self-healing characters like Wolverine and Daken, whose healing is still permanent, will surely become more popular.

Similarly, there's another incentive to keep a large stock of healthy characters: without a way to heal your heroes, you'll need fresh cannon fodder to keep your play session going once your favorites go down. To balance the change in healing abilities, characters now regenerate health faster than they did before. There are now fewer ways to heal your team, but they're not out of commission as long. For anybody that didn't depend on Black Widow or Spider-Man, "True Healing" simply makes wait times shorter.

By their own admission, D3 Publisher doesn't make the lion's share of its money from Health Packs. Cynicism would suggest that this is precisely why True Healing was introduced, but alienating your players to push an item that doesn't sell well doesn't seem smart. However, a more diverse meta-game does encourage players to spend on covers, hero slots, ISO-8, and hero points, all of which are used to obtain and strengthen characters.

One of Marvel Puzzle Quest's strengths is that it offers a variety of game modes, satisfying competitive PvP players and more laid-back story mode players. Each mode has its own trends and strategies, and True Healing affects them all in different ways. The Marvel Puzzle Quest devs have backed down from tweaks before—there's no longer a penalty for skipping a retaliation battle, for example—but only time will tell if they choose to scuttle "True Healing."

  • markaman

    Do I look like a pretzel? I ain't salty!

  • Poo

    At first that sounded like balls cause I use black widow a lot but I would trade that for faster heal times cause using her limits the characters that work effectively with her.

  • Jake7905

    New updates on free-to-play games are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're going to get. That's the biggest problem with good freemium games: the developers almost always tinker with a game's mechanics and difficulty through updates. Usually as a sales technique to push IAP.

  • Simon

    I think the 53 page rant is truly justified. If you paid money into this game and they switched things this much you would be pissed too. I've gone from being able to happily play this game for a decent length of time whenever I chose, to one or two games once or twice a day (some people work and have lives). This can't be good for them trying to make money, or keep their user base happy - the user base is not happy. I'm already hunting around for something else to fill the gap that this game has now given me. That doesn't sound like a good business decision to me.

    This article seems to be one of the needle in a haystack comments from a minority of users basically telling everyone to 'suck it up' .. however it really has totally ruined the game. I'd much rather spend a once off $20 and play as much as I want offline, then to be constantly limited and badgered for IAP. I'm not the only one who has had enough of D3 and their 'funbalance' changes.

    I hope more people kick up a stink and make them realise that they actually have to listen to their customers and not constantly screw them over. I'm sure loads of players will drop off and stop playing as much, especially if you hit the 3* character brick wall.

    • Morgan01

      ...and this is why I mostly avoid Freemium games. You get invested in the game, developers do not feel like they are making enough money, and then make changes as they please. You start with one game, several updates later, there can be a notable change in gameplay.

  • JCman7

    I stopped playing this game after the last update it was just getting stale with reused missions and taking away valuable rewards and they keep changing the characters, the rules, and events I just didn't want to bother with it anymore. It's a shame because it was a game I was playing daily every day since it was released.

    • Emotive

      Same but boy, was it fun while it lasted haha so addicting.

      • JCman7

        Haha yes it was!! Guess in a way it's a good thing i have more time to do other things

      • T-REZ5000

        Yeah, this game was really fun until they changed the way pvp brackets are set up. That killed it for me.

        On the upside, I no longer have to schedule my life around this game!

      • Kakorot214

        I use to play this game viciously. Upgraded from 3G phone to a 4g phone just to experience shorter load times when playing this game. Then they started nerfing every character under the sun, along with the pressure to play from being in a top 10-25 alliance. I quit my alliance before receiving my Nick Fury cover, and only play 3-4 matches a day because at the end of the day, i think its a great match 3.

      • Yan Ping

        Hi, how do you transfer your game to a new phone?
        I been trying to transfer but can't.
        Appreciate your assist.

      • Poo

        You have to link your Facebook in game.

      • Yan Ping

        I did.. but cant. The game in the new phone ask me to link my facebook but it says tgat it will overwrite my old backup. Im worry that all my old data will lost. Is it save to do so?
        Sorry for the trouble.

      • Timothy Smalls

        Linking to a new device with your FB account will not overwrite your old roster. The in-game instructions are very unclear on this, but I have transferred my data twice this way without problems.

        Linking your FB account on a new device will briefly log you out of the game. You will see a loading screen - that is the game downloading your old roster, hp, ISO, etc. to your new device. When you enter the game again, you will see that your progress has been restored.

  • DemoEvolved

    When players a gaming healers to keep playing your game, you know the balance of the game is broken for iap
    It's just that simple

    • torosama

      There were multiple types of IAP, coins to increase roster size and do the character lotto and ISO crystals to lvl up. The healing packs regenerated 1 every 12-15 minutes. If you bought healing packs it was a giant waste if your money compared to the other two options. I do think they did this to increase revenue but I think most people won't buy health packs when there is no need. Besides I can just change to one if my 30 other characters if I so desire. I don't feel it was broken, but it did kinda keep me using black widow so I could play longer. But I did drop lots of cash to unlock slots.

      • Poo

        My health packs always took more then 30 mins to recharge one.

  • MeanDinosaur

    2* Widow and Storm were my goto characters before this (mostly because I had the covers to max both and snowballing blue was a good time).

    I maybe used the prologue healing once or twice, but mostly I needs the healing because any PvP event immediately escalated to facing max chars (2* at least), and without healing, I was lucky to finish those fights. Going only for blue/purple and trying to starve them and heal what you can is you only choice when you're underleveled.

    At least the temporary healing still allows this fight by fight. Not being able to strategically top off (which required some careful, controlled play) will be painful.

    I'll be interested to see it once I can use Widow again. The forced 3* Widow in the event that just ended makes me wonder how you could have really noticed much of a change in people's styles.

    At this point I'm just annoyed that I dumped so much ISO into Widow (and she's only 72). I really think the covers shouldn't cap you level cap so strictly; underleveled or missing powers will already hurt you (and if they don't, balancing should go there). Getting a 3* or 4* character for the first time shouldn't make you hope that might get enough additional covers in a few MONTHS to actually get that character to even 1* level caps.

    • MeanDinosaur

      And I lost my new lines apparently. Was already long enough without going into wall of text mode.

  • bhornburg

    The shorter healing times are much better. I didn't like how the healing could be exploited previously, and I had a really enjoyable time fighting more varied teams for the hollow-point event that just ended.

  • Poo

    My new goto team for season 3 is 85**thor 77ragnarok and 69**daken they're shredding. Although I didn't like how bad they had nerfed Thor he works well now that black widow can't heal.

  • T-REZ5000

    I had 162 days played and 4 fully leveled toons when I quit due to the changes in pvp bracketing. The game used to set up brackets by first come first serve. Now it sets it up by days played.

    Prior to this change i could get top ten in pvp (needed to advance a character at a reasonable rate) with about 2 hours played. Now it takes about 4-5 hours played and many shields. The shields used to get top ten will cost more HP(in game currency) than what you can earn in game.

    This game starts out very f2p friendly but trust me when I say you will hit a hard wall and all the fun will be sucked out of the game once you've put in some time. Not only that, but be prepared to schedule your whole life around this game due to how the events work.

    • T-REZ5000

      I should clarify that I had 4 fully leveled 3 stars (c. Magneto, thor, punisher, and falcon). Plenty of maxed 2 stars.

  • CecilMcW00t

    I need to vent about this game. I played this game for a long time. But the IAP is way too prominent and in-your-face. The healing situation is terrible, but I also loathe the freaking roster system.

    I like to collect the heroes and buying roster slots is very expensive. They also made it so that after you buy a certain amount of slots, the price goes up. This is just punishing for absolutely no reason. You will end up holding onto hero tokens because you're scared of getting a new hero that you won't have room for.

    Usually with games like this, it's exciting to get a new unique unit. But, in this game, it's terrifying. They should take a cue from the Puzzle and Dragons-type games and make the roster slots more reasonably priced. Then I may come back. As it stands now, every update makes the game less fun. Back to Avengers Alliance for me.

  • Phantom Bruiser

    The last update they stuck their proverbial dick in Classic Spider-Man. In this update, they went ahead and broke it off. It was one thing to limit his ability to freeze players; it pissed me off but I got used to it. Even though, to be honest, running a game against high level tanks like Hulk and the new Thor had their trade offs--yes with a strategically set up team with a full powered Classic Spider-Man, you could take down people fairly easily--BUT, it took a very long time to do it. Not a big deal for some, but in the final hours of a PVP event, time is important, and you could win, but maybe only play half as many matches as most people. I could win one match, come back to the lobby, and find I'd lost 2-3 matches in the time I spent in the one match. I felt that helped balance it a bit along with the fact that getting an effective full-level CSM takes a good long while. Now I spend way less time playing then I used to, and am gradually more and more unhappy with the overall game.

  • Goggles789

    This is not a pertinent matter in the slightest. The world still turns.

    • Bladejay

      No, you are wrong. If you go back and look at the exact time the update loaded, you'll find that the world stopped spinning for 0.000001 seconds.

      • Goggles789

        SHIT

  • rewind

    I thought this was a fighting game like Injustice. Then, I saw the picture on the left. Say what, a puzzle game?! Guess I'll have to try it out...

  • http://www.deltaattack.com/ Fade to Slack

    I quit the previous update (Spidey nerf) because it's obvious they're screwing over players in an effort to force IAP purchases. Hell, they have spun the monetization into an entire series over on Gamasutra.

    First five months with the game, I spent around $5 in the game. The three after it, I spent nearly $200 before I decided that the game was only getting worse.

    If you are playing and are pissed, as well you should be, quit. Player numbers have got to drop, or you're enabling them.