Slow and methodical video games are certainly nothing new, but since the pandemic, this type of gameplay has been embraced more and more by players who don't mind taking their time with a story. Just look at the legions of fans committed to Animal Crossing or Persona 5 -- games that encourage the player to take their time, and Marvel's Midnight Suns is no exception. As a turn-based, deck-building RPG, it's no surprise that the gameplay isn't as reflex-intensive as other precision action games. Truth be told, it's not the combat at all that sets this game apart, but the moments outside of combat that are the most impactful.
When not taking on hordes of enemies, bringing down enemy helicopters, and positioning your heroes around a map to make the most advantageous move, you're exploring the Abbey, a tranquil, beautiful pocket dimension near Salem, Massachusetts. Maybe because the real-world Salem is like a second home to me, my favorite parts of this game are allowing Hunter to learn more about this space and form meaningful friendships with the heroes they're fighting alongside. At the end of the day, Midnight Suns' most benign moments are also its most impactful.
Why Are Midnight Suns Hangouts So Important?
Similar to other RPGs like Persona 5 Royal, you have abilities and strengths based on your relationship level with the people you team up with. Your physical levels can increase while in combat, but it's the moments in between missions that allow you to get closer with one or multiple teammates at a time. The Midnight Suns hangouts help build out the stories of each character and give some terrific insight that you wouldn't otherwise get to enjoy if you just mainline the missions.
Plus, hangouts are integral to leveling up your team and unlocking abilities. Sitting down with Nico to watch a movie while she tells you about her upbringing helps you form a stronger bond with her, or you can choose to play video games with Carol Danvers or enjoy a deep conversation with Tony Stark. No matter which activity you select (and there are usually multiples to choose from each evening), conversations can greatly expand your knowledge about Midnight Suns' lore, like Nico explaining more about the Staff of One or how blood magic works.
Sometimes, it's fun to match an activity with a character who might not traditionally fit, like taking Blade to go painting out in the Haven. There's something hysterical about watching the chiseled and stoic Blade lightly take a brush to canvas while he talks with Hunter during their Midnight Suns hangout. Just like in real life, your responses matter: Saying things the character likes will give you more friendship points and help level them up. However, say the wrong thing and you can lose friendship points.
Actually getting to know the character and how they'll respond to your comments will go a long way in helping you maximize the time you spend with them. Plus, getting Blade to open up about this crush on Carol Danvers is pretty satisfying, too. Just don't tease him about it -- this is a surefire way to lose friendship points with the Daywalker.
Even when you're not in a traditional hangout, it's worth it to walk around the Abbey and speak with each character to see what they have to say. You can trade wits with Stark when you visit the Forge or see what oddity Doctor Strange has for you on any given day. These conversations open up a host of dialogue options, which I'm always a little leery about. Which dialogue options are worth selecting, and which are just there for filler? What questions will unlock an interesting insight into the character, and which are just there for show?
The dialogue trees in Marvel's Midnight Suns mostly rein themselves in so even completionists don't have to spend close to an hour finishing out a conversation with one character (looking at you, Horizon Forbidden West). Though these side conversations aren't as effective at leveling friendships as hangouts, they are a way for the player to learn more about their teammates, which is helpful, considering the amount of time you'll spend fighting alongside each one.
Your Battle Team Affects Who You Can Hang Out With at Night
Not every character will be available to hang out with every evening. However, if there's a character who you're working to increase your friendship with, you can bring them out into the battlefield with you during the day. This can make them available for an individual Midnight Suns hangout in the evening, whether that's to work out together, explore the grounds, watch a movie, or have a deep conversation.
Engage in a deep conversation with Tony Stark, and he may debate the concept of being a billionaire with you. Being removed from time by a few centuries, it's something that's a bit difficult for Hunter to wrap their head around. This reveals a gentler but more pragmatic side of Tony -- revealing that he could give up his money, but it's easier to do good in the world when he's able to pay the bills.
Spider-Man, on the other hand, may be closely guarding his identity at first, but after some coaxing will drop the costume to reveal his true identity. As your friendship levels grow and your teammates learn to trust you more, you'll unlock more gratifying moments with them. It's these slower-paced, character-based parts that turn Marvel's Midnight Suns from a churn-and-burn RPG to a game you can get lost in for dozens of hours. Don't feel like beating up bad guys on a particular day? There's more than enough stuff to do around the Abbey to keep you occupied. Talk to another hero, start a workout routine, play some video games, or just watch a movie.
You can even customize your room and add your own unique touches to the space you can call your own. These little additions make Midnight Suns feel more like Animal Crossing and less like Avengers, but it works. Like densely packed RPGs before it, Midnight Suns encourages you to take your time and savor the moments that occur between battles. Before long, you may find that you're speeding through battles to get to those in-between moments.
Midnight Suns' Hangouts Make a Good Game Great
Saying that designing an 80+ hour RPG is difficult is an oversimplification at best. Developers need to add side quests, character interactions, leveling systems, and so much more to make the hours committed to a game feel worth it. Some games succeed at this with flying colors, while others tend to crash and burn. Midnight Suns would have been a great experience for fans of deck builders and Marvel comics, but it would have had trouble securing a wider audience beyond that. The thought and dialogue options that go into the character interactions, however, make Midnight Suns a brilliant RPG that rewards the player for following each thread that unravels.
As for which hero friendship is the best? That's an unsettled debate as old as the first school yard kids arguing over which comic book superhero is better.
Marvel's Midnight Suns was played on a PC with a code provided by the publisher. Midnight Suns is also available on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X|S.