Developer: Traveller’s Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platforms: Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Windows PC, Nintendo Switch
Voice Cast: Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Clancy Brown, Michael Rosenbaum, Brandon Routh, John Barrowman
The Justice League has disappeared, leaving Earth’s protection to their counterparts from a parallel universe, the “Justice Syndicate”, a new, strange group of wannabe superheroes with unclear intentions. Whether it’s Graffiti Spraying walls in Metropolis or using Fear Toxins to scare characters in Gotham City, super-villains have full reign to use any trick in their arsenal to stop the Justice Syndicate’s evil scheme.
The Joker, Harley Quinn, Lex Luthor, and others from the Injustice League won’t stand for second-best when it comes to villainy. Embrace your inner super-villain, as you battle opponents, solve puzzles, and overcome obstacles using menacing pranks and tactics experienced best from the unique perspective of the bad guys.
Thanks to Warner Bros., I had the chance to play Traveller’s Tale’s newly released LEGO DC Super-Villains. In this iteration of the LEGO game series, you get a chance to cross over to the dark side and take control of DC’s supervillains. We got a taste of this in the first LEGO Batman game, which had levels that mirrored the main story levels, but from the villains’ perspective. But in this game, the villains are the focus of the story.
And don’t worry that this game might be a corrupting influence on today’s youth. The villainy is not on the level of murder and terrorism, but more on the taking-candy-from-a-baby level (literally). The Joker is not the psychotic murderer from The Killing Joke, but a merry prankster who lives to pester Batman.
This game also for the first time allows you to have some personal involvement by crafting your own villain. You can be either gender and have any skin colour – including some decidedly unearthly hues. You can make your villain look fiendish, friendly, or outright freakish.
You character has the ability to gain new super powers as the game progresses. These powers are doled out as the game requires the abilities to continue, allowing your character to grow from little more than a henchman to a major player that can hold his own against the likes of Lex Luthor and the Joker.
And don’t worry that you won’t get to play as your favourite DC Heroes. They are present in the game, but you have to do some work to unlock them. Many are available by doing quests in the hub world, while other characters are unlocked by playing through the story levels.
The main storyline is loosely based on Forever Evil. The Justice League is missing and Earth Three’s Crime Syndicate has taken their place. With Earth’s heroes missing, it falls to the villains to save the world from the Syndicate.
The story also borrows elements from Justice League: Darkseid War, which brings Darkseid and several characters from Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, including Mister Miracle and Big Barda. Most importantly, Apokolips forms a major chunk of the game’s hub world.
LEGO DC Super-Villains boasts an all-star voice cast, with actors from DC’s varied movie, TV, and video game properties. Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill return to provide the definitive voices of Batman and the Joker – with Clancy Brown returning to the role of Lex Luthor. Brandon Routh and John Barrowman from the CW TV shows reprise their roles as the Atom and Merlyn. The rest of the voice cast is a who’s who SF names and voiceover giants, including Michael Dorn, Armin Shimerman, Nolan North, Cree Summer – just to name a few.
And if the events of Heroes in Crisis have you down, you can take some consolation that Wally West and Roy Harper live on in LEGO form. Both are playable characters, and like with all other characters, death is momentary, being immediately followed by instantaneous resurrection.
In the past, I have had little interest in using the capacity to make custom characters. I much prefer playing the established DC characters, and have only dealt with the customization feature to the minimum degree necessary to gain the achievements for doing so.
However, by making your custom creation the star of the story, Traveller’s Tales has breathed new life into this feature, making it engaging to create, use, and modify your own character. It makes it easier to immerse yourself in the game by removing a layer of abstraction. Instead of merely controlling third person characters, you are also controlling your own first person avatar.
The gameplay for the most part flows beautifully. Traveller’s Tales has refined their game mechanics through multiple LEGO games, and it shows. The characters and vehicles respond appropriately and act as you would expect them to. The flight mechanics, which have been a major problem in previous games, are much improved, making flying around the hub world a joy.
While there isn’t a difficulty setting per se, this game gives seasoned players to play without training wheels. For new or younger players, the regular mode offers plentiful hints to help with basic abilities and interactions, which will get you up to speed in no time.
Speaking of the help system, the game includes a nice nod to DC history by using Johnny DC to dispense hints to the player. Johnny DC was a mascot used in the Silver Age in ads for DC titles. He appears here in his original form, incorporating a variation of the Silver Age DC logo in his design.
The only DLC released so far is a character pack that adds a half-dozen villains from the DC TV shows on CW, but several more packs are coming with characters from the CW shows, the DCEU movies, and the DC comic Justice League Dark.
There are also six scheduled story level packs: two each for the Shazam! and Aquaman movies, one based on the Young Justice cartoon, and one for Batman: The Animated Series. This wealth of DLC content will be available individually or in an all-inclusive Season Pass.
I wish that I could say that there are no problems with this game, but like many games when they are first released, LEGO DC Super-Villains has a few bugs and glitches. Most of the ones I encountered were merely annoying, but I did encounter one that was almost game-breaking.
In the very first level, where Harley Quinn wouldn’t respond to any user input. This forced me to exit the level and restart it. Luckily, I only had to complete the final section of the level rather than the very beginning of the level.
I found a similar problem in the hub world with flying characters. Sometimes, when you land, the character is out of synch with the hub world. The character is unable to interact with objects and unable to move into certain areas – if he is able to move at all. Sometimes the character stops responding to any input except the prompt to resume flying. However, this is easily fixable by either starting a new level or exiting the game and restarting it.
The big glitch I found was at the end of the level set on Oa. Upon finishing the level, the ending cut-scene would run, and as it finished, it would crash to the main screen of my Xbox One X. Restarting the level put me back at the start of the final section, but would crash again as I ended the level.
I looked online, but no one else had encountered the same issue, or at least had not posted about it. Luckily, after some experimentation, I found that having the Minikit Detector Red Brick active was somehow causing the crash, and I could complete the level by disabling it. But if I hadn’t figured that out, I would have been unable to progress past that point in the storyline until a bug fix gets released.
And I’m sure that as players discover and report these glitches, they will get remedied.
The only other drawback is the races. Looking online, it seems that the races are everybody’s least favourite part of a LEGO game. And it always seems that there’s that one race. You know the one – the one that seems to forget that LEGO games are primarily for kids and casual gamers and bumps the difficulty meter up so high that it makes hardcore gamers cry with frustration.
I’ve only done about a third of the races so far, but I haven’t encountered that race yet. But I have a gut feeling that it’s lurking somewhere in the game. At least the flying races are much more intuitive than in previous games, which makes the flying races much more manageable.
All the DC LEGO games have been immense fun, but LEGO DC Super-Villains is the most fun yet. Being able to create and control your own villain allows the player to make their own mark on the DC Universe. Even though Batman is my favourite character of all time, I have to admit that putting the Dark Knight in the background and bringing the bad guys to center stage was a brilliant move. Whether you’re an adult or a kid – or a parent who wants to play together with a child, LEGO DC Super-Villains is a guaranteed good time.