War for Wakanda — Marvel’s Avengers free expansion — dropped last week, and T’Challa’s exploits defending his homeland from the likes of A.I.M. and Ulysses Klaue revitalize the game in considerable ways. When Square Enix and Crystal Dynamics announced their All-Access weekend ahead of the expansion on July 31, their player count spiked to over 10,000 gamers through the weekend, well above the game’s average of around 800 since its release last September.
The obdurate king and lethal strategist brings a fresh selection of missions, abilities, and stunning cosmetic items to a game many feel is still lacking, but also highlights the need for a standalone Black Panther game sooner than later.
In the brief catalogue of T’Challa appearances in video games, War for Wakanda offers the most significant chapter. Though Birnin Zana, and the jungles that surround the Black Panther training grounds, provide a limited space for players to explore, T’Challa’s world here is far more expansive than anything we’ve seen in games to date. From the early days of Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2, to Disney Infinity 3.0 and Lego’s renditions of the Wakandan king, many of his earliest appearances were broad strokes, barely scratching the surface of the numerous comic runs he’s been in and heroics he’s displayed.
The contents of War for Wakanda include a collection of outfits that would make Tony Stark blush, abilities that utilize Wakandan technology, and nameplates that feature his most iconic appearances in comic books. The story, as stated by the narrative team at Crystal Dynamics, is wholly its own and explores the struggles between Wakanda and the outside world, and T’Challa and his bond with his sister Shuri.
Ulysses Klaue features prominently as the campaign’s main antagonist, with A.I.M. providing the occasional crew of armed cronies to beat down. Crossbones does make a brief appearance but the ensuing battle with him is treated almost as a throwaway because of how quickly more important events follow his defeat.
The Black Panther abilities at T’Challa’s disposal make for engaging and satisfying combat, with basic attacks that clearly typify the African roots of his fighting style. Percussive blasts use the kinetic energy stored during combat to knock foes back that surround him, and his pounce ability draws on the ferocity of the spirit of Black Panther.
The appropriately named signature move “Out of My Sight” can be added to combos that features a rising uppercut, accentuated by royal purple slashes on screen. He’s also equipped with Devastating Daggers that become more powerful when amplified by the various combinations made possible once unlocked.
T’Challa also has an arsenal of upgradeable moves that make fighting as the Black Panther even more engaging. His Panther’s Cowl has the ability to block incoming attacks at the cost of Intrinsic Energy and coupled with Panther’s Parry, which provides a kinetic blast when timing your block just right, makes the king a tank.
The three new heroic abilities introduced in War for Wakanda showcase nods to afrofuturism and the wicked coolness of Wakandan technology. King’s Mercy has the Black Panther summoning and launching a huge spear made of vibranium and capable of skewering multiple enemies at a time. Kimoyo Beads will track down and stun enemies long enough for T’Challa to execute a finisher on them, and his ultimate ability, Bast’s Chosen, summons the panther goddes herself and grants damage and defense buffs for the king.
War for Wakanda is a glimpse into a world of possibility. Despite the incredible new narrative for T’Challa, Marvel’s Avengers still suffers from the same formulaic style of missions and boss battles that bookend various activities. Several of the events that have appeared throughout the lifetime of the game either failed to deliver replayable content, or simply left too soon, as was the case with the exotic gear event that took place during the All-Access weekend that many wished stayed.
Regardless of these pitfalls, War for Wakanda was stuffed with incredible content — from the voice acting work of God of War legend Christopher Judge, to the immaculate character designs throughout its campaign, this expansion shows us that T’Challa is more than ready for his own Black Panther game. The potential is there for us to grapple with significant narrative arcs, clash with iconic villains, and don even more incredible suits in a stand-alone title, and there’s little doubt the player base is there as well.