I’ve been a big X-Men fan since I was a little kid using my monthly allowance to buy the latest issues of the comics. Naturally, I was immensely eager to try out Rise of the Phoenix, the X-Men DLC Expansion for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, even though it meant purchasing the game’s entire season pass. But is Rise of the Phoenix alone worth the price of admission? Ultimately, that is going to depend on what gamers are looking for in their DLC.
The story for Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: Rise of the Phoenix can be summed up thusly: Professor X senses a disturbance of cosmic proportions out in the universe and wants the Alliance to put a stop to the Phoenix Force before it annihilates whole solar systems again. The Alliance sets out to do just that through a series of increasingly difficult Gauntlet trials, and some new allies join their ranks along the way. Those expecting actual story scenes will be disappointed, as the DLC’s paper-thin plot is presented entirely via ambient dungeon dialogue and Gauntlet challenge descriptions.
The meat of Rise of the Phoenix comes from the Gauntlet itself: a set of three phases of congruent challenges that increase in difficulty every time you open up a new one. Just like in the main Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, players select their team of four heroes and traverse through a connected set of trials. Each stage has its own goal, and once this task has been accomplished, the team must continue to the level’s next stage without utilizing experience points or gaining respawn points, the latter of which are available in limited quantities for each trial. A team that “retires” from a trial essentially forfeits any of the rewards they might get from fully completing the Gauntlet challenge. So any team that either retires or gets a Game Over has to restart from the level’s first stage all over again.
Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: Rise of the Phoenix also has an added mode called the Danger Room that allows players to practice battling amongst themselves in teams or against computer-controlled opponents. Teams race against each other in Danger Room battles, and players can net special bonuses by participating in the mode. While competing in the Danger Room, teams encounter various mini-challenges and Danger Room hazards that can either assist your team or negatively impact your competition. The Danger Room is the most unique element of Rise of the Phoenix and provides incentives for those who are willing to give it a shot as win or lose, players are rewarded simply for their participation.
Of course, the other big draw of Rise of the Phoenix is the four new X-Men characters players can add to the Alliance once they beat the boss battles in the first phase of the Gauntlet: Cable, Gambit, Iceman, and Phoenix. All four characters have different playstyles and bring something unique to the table, but given how large the roster of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 already is, whether players will really want to use these new additions most likely depends on their fondness for the characters themselves. For example, since Jean Grey and Iceman are two of my favorite Marvel characters, they naturally became mainstays in my personal team lineup after acquiring them, but I very rarely found myself using Gambit or Cable.
Upon acquiring the new Rise of the Phoenix characters, players can carry them over into any of Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3’s other modes. I took my newly formed team and tried out some of the Infinity Trials that I’d enjoyed when I first played the game, which was a nice reason to replay some fun challenges. If you do plan on using the new characters, know that they need to be leveled up, which is a good excuse to go through some of the Gauntlet challenges from the first DLC expansion pack, Curse of the Vampire. I found that this DLC made me go back and experience some Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 features I hadn’t really explored before.
Rise of the Phoenix is essentially more of the same when it comes to Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order. It is meant to be played either at the later stages of the main story campaign or directly after, given how much the difficulty spikes throughout the Gauntlet’s three phases whenever they’re opened up. This DLC simply offers more gameplay and battle challenges for players to take part in, either solo or together. I would have enjoyed it more if there had been an actual plot because I love X-Men lore, but fans who simply want more characters to choose from out of an already impressive Marvel roster and those who desire more challenging fights to overcome will most likely find quite a bit of potential replay value in this DLC. Rise of the Phoenix offers players a chance to further test out Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3’s gameplay, but whether buying the full season pass is worth it or not is wholly dependent on just how fond they are of either the game itself or the new DLC characters.