Make Your Own Bad Guy in LEGO DC Super-Villains - PreviewEvan Norris , posted on 09 October 2018 / 1,611 Views
LEGO games have been around in one form or another since 1995, and over the years they've found a safe, easy niche. LEGO DC Super-Villains, the latest co-op brawler from TT Games, sits—at least based on its New York Comic Con demo—firmly inside that niche. It boasts button-mashing combat, light problem-solving, and character collection, all set to a goofy, tongue-in-cheek, family-friendly storyline. Where it departs from the norm—and where it makes a more favorable impression—is with art direction, move-sets, and, most of all, a surprisingly deep character customizer.
If you're expecting a quantum shift in mechanics and gameplay loops in this latest LEGO title, lower your expectations. This is the same simple local co-op brawling you've come to know since the sixth generation. Super-villains (swappable on the fly) beat up on guards and heroes, flip switches and solve puzzles, and collect lots of studs along the way. There's also a large open world—although I didn't see it during the demo—that covers Metropolis, Gotham City, Smallville, etc. This is a LEGO game, for better or worse.
Some small and large changes make it an attractive proposition, however. The art design, drenched in vibrant hues and peppered with graffiti font, is more adventurous and fun than your standard brick-based game. It's weird and slightly unhinged—an ideal match for a piece of software designed around a group of psychopaths.
The wide assortment of move-sets and attacks that come with that group is interesting, also. Each of the baddies, whether Harley Quinn or Solomon Grundy, has a different weight and feel, and a unique set of offensive maneuvers. Flying about as Lex Luthor in his warsuit and spraying neon death was easily the most mechanically-satisfying part of the demo; he coud certainly star in his own game.
What sets Super-Villains apart most significantly from the LEGO pack, though, is its deep character customizer. "We've had character customizers before, but always as a free play thing, as an afterthought," said TT Games' Arthur Parsons at this year's E3. "This time it's front and center." Indeed, the first thing you do in the game, after watching a cinematic cut-scene, is create a custom villain. It's truly built into the game. On Stryker's Island, Commissioner Gordon presses an imprisoned Lex Luthor to describe in detail the identity of a mystery villain. That's your cue as a player to craft your own bad guy.
During my demo, some of the customization tabs were locked, but even without the full suite of variables the total number of options was almost overwhelming. You can alter heads, bodies, limbs, faces, hair, capes, hats, accessories, weapons—all of which have their own color options—or hit the randomize button to create some unpredictable combination. I probably spent a third of my demo tinkering around with my custom villain, who ended up looking like a mix between Gene Shalit and The Greatest American Hero.
I was also able to choose introductory powers for my unique felon, and watch those powers grow at the end of the demo's first chapter. Yes, Super-Villains has some "RPG-lite" features, to quote Parsons. TT Games even promises the actions of the player-created super-villain will have some effect on the story's ending.
It's far too early to tell where Super-Villains will fall on the LEGO spectrum. The more open-ended franchise games tend to be the best, and this title suggests a liberating sandbox spread across several DC habitats. That, paired with a host of mechanically-diverse villains, a novel artistic approach, and an engrossing character creation tool, seem to signal good things to come—despite the fool-proof gameplay typical of the series.
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