‘Marvel’s Avengers’ Narrative Team Talks ‘War for Wakanda’ Expansion

Marvel’s Avengers highly anticipated War for Wakanda DLC drops tomorrow and gamers are preparing for the arrival of the king of Wakanda himself. It was announced this summer that T’Challa would be voiced by the illustrious Christopher Judge (God of War, 2018), and also that T’Challa was going to bring fans a different kind of story from the folks at Crystal Dynamics.

The team behind the RPG has been hard at work sharing details of the new content leading up to launch, from beautiful animated shorts, to Black Panther outfits and abilities. Hannah MacLeod, writer for the Marvel’s Avengers expansion, recruited the support of narrative consultant and Rise of the Black Panther writer, Evan Narcisse, to help tell T’Challa’s story.

The narrative team was eager to explore Wakanda as both a region and a space to share the personal narratives embedded in its soil. Characters like Okoye and Ulysses Klaue expand on familiar stories, and the rift between T’Challa and Shuri will introduce players to new ones. The DLC has been the game’s most anticipated content, with gamers flooding Twitter posts and retweets from Square Enix. I had the immense privilege of speaking with MacLeod and Narcisse about their work on the upcoming expansion.

Marvel's Avengers: War for Wakanda preview: the Black Panther DLC is a step  in the right direction | GamesRadar+
CREDIT: SQUARE ENIX/CRYSTAL DYNAMICS

Hannah MacLeod, Writer for Marvel’s Avengers Expansion: Black Panther – War for Wakanda

Congratulations on the work so far on Marvel’s Avengers! How has the scope of this game and its demands compared to your previous work?

Thanks so much! Marvel’s Avengers is by far the largest project I’ve ever worked on, but we’ve got a narrative team that gels really well, so it makes the sheer amount of content we’re working on not seem so daunting. It’s challenging in a fun way to be constantly expanding our story – every time we introduce a new character we have to figure out how they fit into the jigsaw puzzle that is a post-A-Day world.

I know your team was incredibly excited to work with Evan — can you talk a little about how you navigated the War for Wakanda DLC leading up to his recruitment?

We knew the story we wanted to tell in War for Wakanda early on, but Evan helped us figure out the “why” of everything we were doing. Though we’re telling an original Black Panther story, we wanted to make sure every character was motivated by traits they already have in the comics. You’ll be able to recognize familiar aspects of this T’Challa, this Shuri, this Ulysses Klaue, even if they’re doing things they never have before. That’s all thanks to Evan.

What are you most excited for fans to engage with in War for Wakanda? The approach you and your team has taken speaks volumes.

I’m actually most excited for fans to engage with a part of War for Wakanda that narrative designer Keano Raubun and game writer Jessica Krause had the most to do with — the new outpost in Birnin Zana. They did so much work bringing that space to life, and I think fans are going to enjoy exploring it and seeing how the Avengers react to being there.

How much influence did previous runs of Black Panther (like “Man without Fear”) play into your approach to the narrative of War for Wakanda?

As I said above, though the story in War for Wakanda is original, we wanted to make sure that whatever our characters were doing was rooted in who they are in the comics. From a plot perspective, we also know there are tentpole moments in T’Challa’s life that have made him who he is, so we’ve done our own spin on those key moments (i.e. the death of his father). One of the things that really came across in reading Black Panther comics in preparation for War for Wakanda was that T’Challa has a surprising amount of arrogance — he has worked very hard to be prepared for anything, and that can sometimes mean he’s a little off-putting to the people around him. He has a right to be that confident, though!

Marvel's Avengers: Black Panther release date set for August | GamesRadar+
CREDIT: SQUARE ENIX/CRYSTAL DYNAMICS

Evan Narcisse, Narrative Design Consultant for Marvel’s Avengers Expansion: Black Panther – War for Wakanda

You’ve been on board so many superhero projects, infusing rich culture into their respective stories — how important has that representation been for you in your writing process?

I always think of superhero characters as inherently symbolic. They can function as reflections of humanity’s complexity, with metaphorical potential that can make them bigger than just the stories they appear in. And, of course, they can inspire us to feel like we’re more than we think we are, too. It’s my personal belief that a character’s metaphorical potential grows more when creators infuse cultural specificity into their work.   

It’s all probably under lock and key but can you share any details about other heroes of color whose stories you’re set to work on or bring into the video game world?

All I can say is that I’m definitely doing more work with superheroes in comics and other media. 

I’ve been obsessed with Afrofuturism and the many cultural nuances within the genre the last several years. My father’s got stories from Haiti that end up finding their way in the poetry or short stories I write myself. How intentional are you about including culturally relevant details in the stories you bring to life? Does it happen organically, or might it sneak its way into your work sometimes without your knowing?

When I was writing Rise of the Black Panther, there were definitely some scenes that were meant to invoke my Haitian heritage. The Dr. Voodoo one-pager I wrote for Marvel’s Voices does that invocation a lot more explicitly. Either way, the hope is that, when pieces of you make it into a story, it’s always organic. But there have definitely been times when I go back and read something I wrote and wind up surprised at some subtext I didn’t realize I was putting in.

Marvel’s Avengers War for Wakanda DLC drops tomorrow August 17!