In 2021, Marvel Strike Force developer Scopely announced Kestrel, the first all-original character in the massive roster of its hero-collecting mobile RPG, designed in collaboration with Marvel. Kestrel is the long-lost founder of STRIKE, the in-universe organization for which the game is named. Later in that same year, the studio revealed Deathpool, a second original character that imagined what a child of Deadpool and Death would look and act like. While Deathpool originated as a part of Deadpool’s 30th anniversary, the studio’s third original character comes as a result of Spider-Man’s 60th anniversary.
“With Spider-Man’s 60th anniversary happening, Marvel came to us and they asked us, ‘Hey, could you come up with a new, original Spider-Verse character?’ – no pressure there,” Marvel Strike Force creative director Sean Dugan says with a chuckle. “There’s this big responsibility because not only is it a Spider-Verse character, it’s a Marvel character. So how do you come up with something that is new, fresh, innovative, something you haven’t seen before in the Spider-Verse? So our team started gathering ideas and one of the things that came up was the notion of this Navajo figure, the Spider Woman Na’ashjeii Asdzáá.”
Scopely has revealed, exclusively through Game Informer, that Spider-Weaver is the third original character coming to Marvel Strike Force as a part of a new Tangled Web team, which also features other new additions, Spider-Man (2099) and Spider-Man (Noir). Scopely is intentionally leaving this new team as a trio, allowing players to figure out who works best in the fourth and fifth spots.
“Tangled Web is going to be the new force in Cosmic Crucible, our PvP game mode,” Dugan says. “They’re going to be a really crucial addition on top of Wakandans and Unlimited X-Men. The Tangled Web team is going to be a three-person team – we’re going to have Spider-Weaver, we’re going to have Spider-Man (Noir), and Spider-Man (2099). So you’ve got that core, three-person team and then a couple of slots available for other characters. That will provide interesting opportunities for people to craft their own version of what’s going to be viable in the Crucible with the Tangled Web team.”
While Scopely doesn’t foresee any particular characters as the surefire additions to the Tangled Web trio, all three members have the Spider-Verse tag, making them work well with other characters from that corner of the Marvel Universe. “It depends on how you want to play with some of the theming and tags because certainly with Spider-Verse, you could drop Doc Ock and maybe somebody else; we can mix and match a little bit,” Dugan says. “[Maybe you can] get some damage dealers in there like Electro. Symbiote Spider-Man is still a pretty solid character for a lot of people, but you definitely do have some pairings like Cloak and Dagger or The Eternals that fit in. I find it interesting when you have these three-person teams that then there are a couple of other slots. It allows for a lot of opportunities for the players to explore.”
Spider-Weaver’s real name is Ajei Benally. She was born from a long line of Navajo weavers. Ajei is described as “brilliant and extroverted” by Scopely. She attended college in Las Vegas, Nevada, but while she was away, her grandmother fell mysteriously ill and couldn’t continue weaving the textiles that paid for Ajei’s tuition.
Ajei returned home to discover what caused her grandmother’s illness and find a cure. Ajei remembered the tales of Na’ashjeii Asdzáá, the Navajo spider deity who protects and guides those in need, and she set off on a mission to find her. After venturing out into the desert, she placed her hand on a glistening spider web. As soon as she touched the web, she felt a pain shoot through her hand. She soon discovered a spider sitting in the middle of the web.
After returning home, she came down with a fever and began having visions of Na’ashjeii Asdzáá. The deity told Ajei about the Web of Life and Destiny and that a powerful being was tainting her grandmother’s thread in order to curse the Na’ashjé’ii At’ééd’s past and future weavers. However, Na’ashjeii Asdzáá told Ajei that she could free Ajei’s grandmother and protect the web if she agreed to help her.
When Ajei woke up from the dream, she began weaving. Somehow, she produced mystical silk, which transformed into a uniform with a spider design. When Ajei showed her grandmother the mystical silk, Ajei sprouted ethereal spider arms, which she used to cleanse the Web of Life, which healed her grandmother. Now that her grandmother is safe, Ajei decided to protect Na’ashjeii Asdzáá, the Web, and other weavers who might come under attack. She does so sporting the outfit she wove, taking on the name Spider-Weaver. She followed the path of the being that tainted her grandmother back to Ajei’s other home of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Unlike many of her Spider-Verse compatriots, Spider-Weaver is a Global Mystic Protector Hero. Meanwhile, Spider-Man (2099) and Spider-Man (Noir) follow suit with the majority of the Spider-Verse characters in Marvel Strike Force, retaining City Bio tags. While both Spider-Man (2099) and Spider-Man (Noir) are important parts of the Tangled Web team, Dugan describes Spider-Weaver as the anchoring character.
“We’ve never had a Spider-Verse Protector character, and so playing with the idea of [Na’ashjeii Asdzáá] being a benevolent, protector to humanity, we wanted Spider-Weaver to be this unique character,” he says. “The gameplay mechanics are going to be about her being able to heal and buff and put defensive barriers on the team, but also reduce incoming attacks. She basically destroys enemy teams’ accuracy, so they’re going to be missing. There’s a novel mechanic there where people will just not be able to hit her and her team, and then the rest of her team are going to be able to do damage and apply a lot of debuffs that are going to be very sticky in Cosmic Crucible to the enemy teams.”
The two previous original characters Scopely created in collaboration with Marvel (Kestrel and Deathpool) are still relatively useful in the meta, even as it evolves at a rapid clip in Marvel Strike Force. With that in mind, players should expect Spider-Weaver to also be quite useful outside of Cosmic Crucible, even if that’s where Tangled Web will shine the brightest.
An Increasingly Tangled Web
Building an effective roster when Marvel Strike Force features hundreds of characters can be daunting. Creative director Sean Dugan recommends newer players chase easily farmable teams like The Defenders or Avengers, but longtime players have far bigger fish to fry. Marvel Strike Force has spent much of 2022 steadily rolling out the Apocalypse Saga, a series featuring four Legendary characters, each with their own teams, who will eventually serve as the Horsemen to X-Men big bad Apocalypse. So far, we’ve received Morgan Le Fay and her Darkhold team and Rogue and her Unlimited X-Men team, with Red Hulk and his Gamma team on the horizon. With so many characters to level, gear, and power up, the timing for a new, seemingly important team to demand resources from players seems disadvantageous. However, Scopely still hopes to make Spider-Weaver, Spider-Man (2099), and Spider-Man (Noir) well worth players’ while, so they don’t skip building them.
“We try to make sure that every character is compelling in their own way – that every character has different utility, different value, and is as exciting and as interesting as possible,” Dugan says. “We do also try to make sure that, like, Tangled Web, they’re going to be useful in Cosmic Crucible, but they’re also going to be useful in upcoming events and things that are going on, so you’re always seeing opportunities for a core day-to-day use for the team as well as limited time events over the course of the next year that will feed into the whole goal towards Apocalypse that we’re all shooting for.”
This team also arrives in the midst of a deficit of obtainable characters, many of whom have been in the game for months and are still not farmable (most notably, the extremely powerful members of The Eternals, Sersi and Ikaris, who were first introduced in October 2021). “It’s really important for us to make sure that there’s a time where characters are a little bit more exclusive, a little bit harder to get ahold of, but then gradually become more broadly available to everyone,” Dugan says. “Then there’s a mix where we always want to make sure that some characters who are really interesting and compelling are available to everybody immediately so that it’s a balancing act with all of these things. There’s been a lot of attention lately to making sure that some of the really useful characters are available through different sources. We’ve updated the Raid Store and Arena Store for some of the Web Warriors like Ghost-Spider and Scarlet Spider, some of these characters popping up that you can farm a little more effectively. And we absolutely listen to the things that players are asking for when they say, ‘Hey, when are we going to make this character available?’ We listen to that and figure out what makes sense and how we get that out to the players.”
One relatively new way players have been able to get new characters has been through a series of month-long events. Through these extended events, which have various shorter events feeding into them, players have earned shards for characters like Mighty Thor, Hulkbuster, and Abomination. Players should expect events like these to continue at least in the near term. “I don’t want to say what we will be a year from now or anything like that, but we like these opportunities where the events that we have during the course of a month can fit together that if as a player you feel like there’s always something fun for me to be doing, something fun for me to be chasing, and each individual piece fits into a higher goal, that’s appealing,” Dugan says. “I like that, and I hope that the fans do too. So as we’re going forward each month after month, we look to ways to iterate and adjust and hit the right balance because what we’re trying to do is strike that balance where I can engage, I can have some fun, I can get some good prizes, I can make some good progress, and feel good about playing the game every day with something kind of new to focus on.”
To ensure the highest number of players can recruit Spider-Weaver to their rosters, she will be a campaign event unlock, which is often considered one of the most player-friendly methods for character releases. Spider-Weaver, Spider-Man (2099), and Spider-Man (Noir) join Marvel Strike Force as a part of the 6.4 update, which Scopely tells me is coming soon. Players will be able to unlock the three characters in the subsequent weeks. For more on Marvel Strike Force, be sure to check out our hub by heading here.
Source: Game Informer Exclusive First Look At Marvel Strike Force's Original Spider-Verse Character