LEGO DC Super-Villains Hands-On Preview: A Fresh Spin On the LEGO Game Formula
The Star Wars franchise kicked off the LEGO video game era, and it’s been a fruitful one at that, but the past few LEGO games have started to feel a bit too mundane. It seemed as if the gameplay formula would only get basic tweaks in between titles, which made the experience start to feel stale and a bit mindless in terms of the button-mashing gameplay. Thanks to the latest LEGO title in the pipeline though, which is LEGO DC Super-Villains, the development team is trying something new in terms of gameplay and narrative that just may be enough to bring back fans who have taken the last few LEGO titles off due to fatigue.
I was lucky enough to go hands-on with LEGO DC Super-Villains while at E3 2018, and right from the start of the demo I could tell that it was going to offer a slightly different take on the LEGO gameplay formula. For starters, you play as the bad guys in this game, which is a LEGO game first. You’re not a good guy, but a part of the Legion of Doom, so instead of playing a hero you play a villain, which is already a much different experience than any prior LEGO game. You also create your own hero in this game, which is also a franchise first, so before I even got into the gameplay, I could see that LEGO DC SuperVillains was aiming to shake things up to bring a fresh take on the experience to fans of LEGO games and the DC universe.
After I created my character using the fairly deep character creation tools, I set out on the game’s opening mission, which featured the who’s who of the DC villain-verse trying to escape from prison to get down with their latest plan to foil the Justice League and bring the world to their villainous knees. Like other recent LEGO games I could control my own character, as well as two other DC villains by swapping control with them, which you still have to do to complete puzzles thanks to how each villain has a special power sets that are suited for the environmental puzzles.
Gameplay-wise you still mostly mash buttons to break up structures to collect bricks and to find bricks for building so you can proceed to the next area. Although, the combat is much more action-oriented and the animations feature more than just Brick Bros kicking and punching. Each DC villain for example have attacks that relate back to their character. For example, when playing as the Joker he’ll use a spring loaded punching glove or fake teeth to attack, while Lex can hover with his suit, or shoot green lasers out of it to break special bricks. Your custom character on the other hand earns superpowers as you progress through the story, which you can customize all the way down to the color of the power if it’s say for a beam you can call from your mind. You can also pick up characters during combat now and juggle them in the air like a fighting game to land some devastating combos, so while I still believe the combat is basic enough in this game for young gamers, the presentation is at least a bit more action-oriented, so it feels more like a traditional third person action-beat-em-up than a brainless LEGO game button masher.
Visually the game looks very vibrant thanks to the LEGO setting, so it looks as detailed and alive as a DC LEGO video game can. All of the DC characters look true to their comic book forms, and each features skill sets that relate to their powers, so the dev team definitely paid close attention to those details. I don’t think a LEGO game will ever win awards for cutting edge visuals, but this one definitely looks just as crips as say The LEGO Batman Movie, or The LEGO Movie, so it’s very polished even in this early state.
LEGO DC Super-Villains, thanks to its many firsts for a LEGO video game, does indeed intrigue me now after playing it. I like that you’re your own character this time around, and that you’re a bad guy. I also dig where the story seems to be headed, which is pitting the bad guys against the Justice Syndicate, which is a Justice League knock-off from another dimension. I think that dynamic will make for a fun narrative that will make DC’s villains more than just bad guys, so experiencing this game’s story is what intrigues me most. I do appreciate the gameplay changes, especially with combat, but in the end I think the narrative will be what sets this game apart from its predecessors. LEGO games and DC fans should definitely keep tabs on this unique entry in the long line of LEGO video game projects as it nears its October 2018 release.
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