After the triple run of LEGO Batman, DC and LEGO team up once to bring a new offering, LEGO DC Super-Villains. This got me thinking, "if this is a game about super-villains, then what happened to the heroes?"
While trying to deal with the everyday villains in Gotham and Metropolis, our favourite heroes - Batman, Superman, and the rest of the Justice League - are zonked away by the new kids on the block: "The Justice Syndicate". They do indeed sound evil and the world does need saving from them. Without the Justice League to balance out this new evilness from Earth 3, it leaves Joker, Harley Quinn, and their band of miscreants (DC and LEGO didn’t spare any villain from their repertoire) to do what’s right: save their beloved heroes so they can continue pestering them. We all know Joker and Batman’s relationship is just complex bro-love, we’ve seen the LEGO Batman movie.
What we haven’t seen before is something LEGO have added for the first time into their games: character creation! Excitingly, you get to dress up a little lego of your own, "the Rookie", put a wig on, and even don some wings (or a dinosaur tail, if you so wish) to build your own evil super-villain that’s broken out of prison by none other than Lex Luthor.
Unfortunately, your character never speaks, and this felt a little bit thumbs down as I felt my winged, evil mastermind didn’t contribute much to the plot as a whole. Instead, I felt like a bystander as the other villains pushed the story forward. I would have liked to give input at some point, even if it was choosing between one path against another, and I’d still end up in the same place. I also don’t like being called a Rookie… My character should be the greatest super-villain to ever walk through the DC Universe. Then again, we do all have to start somewhere.
What I love most about this game is that everything is in the classic LEGO game style. The game is so creative in turning people, buildings, and props into quirky-looking LEGO graphics, which never ceases to amaze me. I absolutely revel in how everything can be LEGO-ified!
Much like recent LEGO games (and the Lord of the Rings series really stands out for a similar reason), the quests are easy to find if you hunt down the, non-earning LEGO blips that float in the middle of walkways or roads, and this really helps to make sure you don’t get lost in the open world - though that’s still not a difficult feat.
Of course, we are once again reminded how every character is special by giving each one of them unique abilities and actions only they can complete. This is most obvious when moving into a new area, or to completing certain quests, is ability-gated. If you plan on playing with your custom Rookie most of the time, you'll have to get used to looking for the hub points that allow you to switch between the characters you need to get things moving forward.
Many of these characters are also not available at the beginning of the game, and acquiring them adds an important objective (besides the plot and actually wanting to finish the game) to the experience. You can only get so far with a small bookshelf but, as you complete the chapters, more of the cast are added, giving you a diverse library of resources at your disposal. Wait, that sounds diabolical already, "resources at your disposal".
The typical "destroy everything to collect currency and to find buildable parts" is still very much part the core component of the gameplay loop, but I found this often distracted me from what I was supposed to be doing in the game. Thankfully, there is a quest-free, open-world version that you can return to later if you simply feel like smashing and grabbing all the extra goodies.
Oh, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the spray paint areas; these secret locations give extra credit points. The more credit points you earn, the easier it is to collect more aesthetic items for Rookie.
What I did find a little detracting is the way the camera and movement worked. Turning to move in a certain direction always caused the camera swivel, but then it would swivel back so that it felt I was being forced into going in a specific direction. This would be great if the game had a only single path to drive the plot forward (such as a game like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice), but it’s an open world, so why does it feel like I’m being forced to run in a certain direction? Perhaps this was what made my driving bad; I couldn’t drive Joker’s truck to save my life! I ended up leaving it to fade away, stuck in a sidewalk store sign…
Lastly, in true DC tradition, the soundtrack was impeccable. I find myself regularly turning the background music off in games, but once again, I could not deny the dark, Arkham-sounding tunes from making their presence felt. Rob Westwood and Ian Livingstone provide the game with a very glum soundtrack that fitted the core concept of being villainous and trying to take over the world.
I think this game would be a great couch co-op for DC fans, or something you would play to teach your kids the greatness of the DC comics lineup, only without the superheroes taking the forefront. As with so many great stories, the villains are where every good story begins.
Just… Keep an eye on Lex, please. He's always up to something.
A conundrum of killing all the things, but also into unicorns and glitter pens. Wears her allegiance on her sleeve. Lok’tar ogar!
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Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
PC, PS4, Xbox One, Switch
19 October 2018
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