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A beginner’s guide to whooping baddie butt in Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3

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Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order is a beat ’em up starring more than 30 Marvel superheroes. In conventional superhero fashion, you’ll spend the brunt of your time beating up baddies big and small with both your fists and powers. While it may seem utterly simplistic at first, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 has more to it than continuous button mashing. To get the most out of your chosen superheroes, we’ve put together a beginner’s guide with all of the essentials you need to know about the latest Nintendo Switch exclusive.

Depleting the Stagger meter

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Standard enemies have a single red health meter. Some unnamed grunts, usually larger in size, also have purple meters. The same goes for all mini-bosses and main bosses. This meter relates to Stagger. Consider it a buffer, a shield of sorts. Before you can deal noticeable damage to enemies with Stagger meters, you need to deplete the Stagger meter, which temporarily immobilizes them and lets you wallop their health meter.

When working on an enemy’s Stagger, you want to rely on heavy attacks. Light attacks do damage to the purple meter, but it’s an uphill climb. You can also use abilities to quickly chip away at Stagger, but make sure you don’t deplete your energy gauge. Once stunned, your team typically only has a few seconds to deal maximum damage. This is where you want to hit them with everything in your arsenal, especially when fighting bosses. Abilities, Ultimate Alliance attacks, synergy attacks — your primary objective should be firing away at the staggered grunt or boss during this brief window.

How to use Abilities and Synergy attacks

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Abilities are what make each of the 36 heroes unique. They also happen to be quite powerful. Win, win. As you level up your heroes, you’ll unlock more ability slots, maxing out at four per hero. Abilities can be executed by holding down R and pressing one of the face buttons. You cannot simply spam your abilities, though, since they are tied to energy points.

Your energy (the blue meter) refills slowly, and you can pick up blue orbs dropped from enemies to fill it even quicker. Since there’s no penalty for running out of energy, we suggest using abilities as often as you want.

Synergy attacks can deal even more damage. If you look on the lower right-hand corner of the screen, you’ll notice that an “A” button prompt will occasionally flash over your hero’s icon. This means one of your teammates is using an ability. In this brief window, you can stack ability attacks together for even more damage.

Time up Ultimate Alliance attacks

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Your green special meter fills steadily by attacking enemies. Once it’s full, it will pulsate, letting you know that your Ultimate Alliance special move is ready to go (hold L + R). Unlike abilities, you want to be fairly careful with Ultimate Alliance moves, as you’ll be able to use them a handful of times each mission. If you’re fighting a large group of enemies, by all means, deploy it. But if you’ve already cleared out most of the baddies from the area, it’s best to save it.

During boss fights, it doesn’t hurt to them fly whenever, but they pack the most punch when the boss is staggered. Also, if the boss is really close to the next phase, marked by a line in their health meter, it may be best to hold off. On a couple of occasions, our Ultimate Alliance attacks were abbreviated due to a cutscene being triggered between phases.

Like abilities, you can stack Ultimate Alliance moves. Once someone triggers their move, teammates can join in on the carnage. If you’re playing with the CPU, you can trigger all of them yourself. Ultimate Alliance Extreme attacks, where all four heroes use their most powerful move at the same time, are the most powerful attacks in the game.

Don’t forget to dodge

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As a button masher, it can be tempting to just stay in the thick of the fight and absorb blows. This works against standard enemies and many mini-bosses, even on Mighty difficulty. But if you’re struggling with a main boss, chances are you aren’t making ample use of your dodge (L + direction). Dodging is the only surefire way to avoid some attacks. So get your strikes in and then leap away before you take another hit.

Pay attention to your level

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If you’re having a hard time with a level, chances are one or more of your heroes are under-leveled. When you pause the game, you can see the recommended level under the area name. If there’s a big gap (more than two or three levels) between your characters and the recommendation, you need to either go back and replay a chapter, run through some Infinity Trials (more on this later) or switch out your under-leveled hero(es) for a more suitable hero. Before you switch out a hero though, check to see if you have picked up any XP Cubes, which can level your heroes instantly.

Heroes not in your party will not level up with you. So if you subbed out Star-Lord after the first mission, he’s probably still sitting at level six and won’t be of much help at all in Wakanda.

Upgrade stats and abilities at checkpoints

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At each S.H.I.E.L.D. checkpoint, check out your skill tree, abilities, and ISO-8 crystals. As you play, you’ll rack up currency, ability orbs, and uncover ISO-8 crystals. Currency and tokens can be cashed in at the skill tree for global increases to the six main stat categories: Vitality (health), Strength (physical attack), Energy (ability meter), Resilience elemental defense), Durability (physical defense), and Mastery (elemental damage). Each purchase provides a minimal upgrade, but hey, you’ve got the money, so spend it.

Ability orbs can be used to rank up abilities, increasing their damage and efficiency. You won’t have a huge excess of these points just by playing through the campaign, so spend wisely on the heroes you’re using the most.

ISO-8 crystals also increase stats across a variety of categories. Once acquired, you can assign up to four (depends on your level) ISO-8 crystals to one hero. These provide more substantial buffs to damage, vitality, and more. ISO-8 crystals can also be combined, though make sure you’ve spread the wealth out before combining them. The bonuses for combining aren’t actually that significant.

Team bonuses

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3
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By all means, feel free to assemble a four-hero team that is to your liking. We recommend doing so, but you should also know that the composition of your team can alter your stats. In the hero selection menu, you can look at team bonuses. All heroes are members of four groups such as the original Avengers, Femme Fatales, Defenders, etc. Choosing more than one hero from the same group provides a stat boost for your party, with bonus percentages provided for each additional member hailing from the same team.

Smash boxes and take a look around

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Ultimate Alliance 3‘s levels are extremely linear. You’ll never get lost, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stray somewhat off the beaten path. If you see boxes in a corridor, smash them. You might find a rare chest behind it holding an item. False walls and forcefields can be broken with synergy abilities to access chests. If there’s an accessible area that’s not in the direction of the waypoint, it will almost always have a chest to plunder.

Complete Infinity Trials

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3
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We touched on it a bit above, but Infinity Trials are a great way to level your characters and earn rewards. Unlocked about halfway through the adventure, you can access Infinity Trials from checkpoints and the main menu. Infinity Trials drop your team into familiar-looking locales and give you a set objective. It could be clearing a room of 100 baddies or fighting Mysterio for a second time. Sometimes these trials have rule modifications, such as increased damage output for certain attacks or changes to your health.

Examine the star rating conditions before entering a trial, as three-star ratings earn you more rewards. Infinity Trials will do wonders for your experience points and they also give you something fresh to do once you complete the campaign.

Steven Petite
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Steven is a writer from Northeast Ohio currently based in Louisiana. He writes about video games and books, and consumes…
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