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Avengers’ Black Panther expansion is a lavish free update - but it's more of the same, for better or worse

If you want more Avengers, the Black Panther War for Wakanda expansion will delight. If you want something different, well, tough luck.

The addition of Black Panther and the War for Wakanda expansion pack is what Marvel’s Avengers needs. After a rocky launch and an initially pacy stream of updates, things have slowed. The developers have put out tiny XP and balance tweaks, but there’s been nothing new for fans to sink their teeth into. Thankfully, this expansion appears to have those things in abundance.

The War for Wakanda expansion brings with it a bunch of new content, all important to improving the wider Avengers experience. Top billing of course goes to T’Challa himself, the Black Panther - an all-new playable hero for this expansion. As promised, he’s a free addition to the game, with monetization coming in other forms if you take to him and want to nab neat cosmetic rewards to show off in multiplayer.

As far as how he plays, T’Challa appears an interesting and unique addition to the game. He feels more eminently physical than the other heroes - probably closest, in the broadest sense, to Black Widow. Of course, T’Challa also has the super strength and other abilities imbued by the heart-shaped herb, something which combines with his acrobatic nature to make for some thrilling-looking combos.

He’s mostly a close-range attacker, then, but also has throwing knives and a spear for ranged attacks. He has a variety of special moves, including one that actually summons a ghostly panther that dashes at your foes. Put simply, he seems pretty damn cool.

Cool, but… still quite familiar? In terms of how it looks and feels, this is still absolutely the same game that launched a year ago, more or less. That includes the positive and the negative - so it’s lavish and expensive-looking, and feels great when you really hit the tempo and flow of battle - but sometimes your superheroism just doesn’t feel all that heroic.

Part of this is still down to the flow of combat, I guess. It’s a difficult problem to solve. Another problem, one I’ve had with Avengers since even before it launched, is the selection of enemies. War for Wakanda expansion villain Ulysses Klaue has a range of mercenaries at his disposal that fit into the usual grunt categories. The basic one, the sniper one, the heavy one. Drones and robots; you’ve seen it all before. I at least did see a battle with Crossbones, a ‘proper’ supervillain, to balance things out.

The story is where the expansion shines. For all the mockery this game came in for when its own-brand versions of the Avengers heroes were revealed, I’m enjoying the version of the Marvel universe Crystal Dynamics is building here. The Jungles of Wakanda look gorgeous - a lush new biome with a lovely, smoggy jungle atmosphere to it. Wakanda itself is wonderful to see - beginning with caverns that seem to mix tribal structures with high technology, then culminating in a grand palace and high-tech lab you can walk around like a hub zone. As you pass through the corridors, guards drop the Wakandan salute for their king.

These sorts of details and moments are the elements of Avengers that I felt landed best in the base game, and the same is true here. The developers say that, including the Wakanda DLC, the game features some 25 hours of story content - which is impressive, and a strong value proposition. I fully intend to reinstall the game and go back to at least experience the Wakanda story stuff.

How you feel about how the game plays will ultimately decide your feelings on this expansion, then. It clicked for some, and fell flat for others - and this addition is unlikely to change your opinion. If you want more Avengers, though, this seems like a fine new chunk of it - and for free, the best possible price.

War for Wakanda hits Marvel’s Avengers is out now for Marvel's Avengers as a free update.

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