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.
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."
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