I don't even know how to begin to describe the absurdity of the explorable "island" in Marvel's Midnight Suns. The game's website describes the Abbey and surrounding area as "a relocated Transian fortress that's remained safely hidden in a pocket dimension on the cliffs of Salem, Massachusetts for hundreds of years.", but that barely scratches the surface!
If you're unfamiliar with the Midnight Suns game, it's the latest release from Firaxis Games, the developers of the XCOM and Civilization series of games. Like XCOM, Midnight Suns focuses on a lengthy series of turn-based combat encounters in various appropriately themed combat arenas. While XCOM has you give orders to generic or customized soldiers, Midnight Suns puts you in control of all your favorite Marvel heroes like Spider Man, Iron Man, and, uh, Nico Minoru.
One of the biggest differences between XCOM and Midnight Suns is how you spend your time between missions. XCOM essentially had you flipping between screens to access various parts of your headquarters to research and prep for upcoming missions. Midnight Suns, however, opts to give you a whole "island" to explore.
I'm only part way through the game, but I am baffled at how much nonsense there is to explore and do on this "island."
As mentioned earlier, the Abbey and surrounding area is a chunk of Salem, Massachusetts ripped from reality and safely hidden in its own pocket dimension. And yes, it is the really real Salem, Massachusetts. The same Salem, Massachusetts that hosted the infamous Salem Witch Trials in the 1690s. Why? Just go with it.
The Abbey itself is a big ol castle that has been repurposed by the Midnight Suns as a home base. There's a forge for you to research upgrades and gain new abilities, there's a training yard with training dummies to … train with, there's bedrooms for every single hero to sleep in, and so on. If the game had JUST the Abbey, that certainly would have been enough. It would have been a ye olde version of the Normandy from Mass Effect.
Instead, there is a frankly unreasonable amount of explorable area around the Abbey. We're talking forests, swamps, caves, rivers etc. It's A LOT. Here's a stream of consciousness list of things I have experienced this far:
(Warning: I'm going to spoil the solutions of environmental puzzles. If you plan on playing the game and solving the puzzles on your own, please stop reading).
You can forage for mushrooms and flowers to use in crafting. There are 13 different plants to collect that you can find in different areas and at different times of the day. I have yet to actually craft anything, but I've collected so many mushrooms.
You can find a stupid amount of collectibles. No fewer than FIVE people have apparently left pages of their journal strewn about the island. There's tarot cards featuring the likenesses of various Marvel heroes on rocks and stumps. There's craft books for the aforementioned crafting recipes scattered around.
I found a few dolls that went into my inventory. Some time later, I found a grave stone and the game asked me if I wanted to place the dolls on it. I obliged and was rewarded with a cut scene explaining that the grave belongs to my father and I made the dolls when I was a child. Alright.
There's a bowl that you can place items like books or necklaces in and say a magical word to transform them into random things. Mix and match items and magic words to find out what you get! Oh, but you can only cast the spell at night, and can transform only one item per night. Tough.
One of your spells reveals hidden things. One time I used it and five stone pillars around the spot glowed with glyphs. When I touched the glyphs, they lit up. It appears you need to touch them in a certain order. Later as I was walking through the Abbey, I saw a picture on the wall that had the glyphs in a row. Sure enough, that was the order of touching the glyphs. I was rewarded with … a loot box chest. Why was that picture hanging in the Abbey? What do the glyphs mean? Why did it reveal a loot box chest?
Oh yeah. There are loot box chests everywhere. You collect keys throughout playing to open them. These chests reward you with visual customization options for your heroes, like face masks or shirts, but it's never anything you actually want. There's varying rarity levels of chests from common gray to legendary gold. After you open one you have to wait an arbitrary number of in game days for it to be openable again. It's weird.
One time I found a different glowing glyph on a rock wall and a guiding ghost NPC said "the Gods wish to test you. Come back when you're stronger." Ok, sure. So I came back ten gameplay hours later when I was stronger and won. What was my reward? The rock wall crumbled to reveal an entire new section of the island to explore! More collectibles! More weird puzzles! New mushrooms to forage!
There are hidden caves that were the homes of witches from the late 1600s. I can't do a thing with them right now, but I'm sure they'll do something later. They HAVE to do something later.
At one point you find a church. Behind the church is a cave. In the entrance to the cave is a magical barrier keeping you from entering. So, of course, you are tasked with showing Dr. Strange. You then literally have to have him follow you from the Abbey to the cave to show him. Whhhyyy couldn't you have just told him??
You have a devil dog named Charlie that you can command to follow you around the island. I don't know what this does.
Oh. There are 4 tall stone statues of the Gods that you can pray to. When you do, their eyes light up. I've only found two. I wonder what happens when you find all four.
HAVE YOU FORGOTTEN THAT THE FOCUS OF THIS GAME IS TURN BASED COMBAT ARENAS!?
Why is all of this here!? It's just so dumb in the best way. It's like a little kid telling a story and just making shit up as he goes.
None of this is necessary. None of this is needed. It is the fluffiest fluff of time wasting you've ever experienced in a game. But I LOVE IT. I'm gonna continue to explore every nook and cranny of this stupid island.