Last year at E3 I asked one of the creators of Lego DC Super-Villains if they were concerned at all that children may not want to play a game where they play as the bad guys. He laughed and basically said “no.” The game works on the premise of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
And while all the big gun superheroes do make an appearance in the game, it only enhances the flavour of the villains as they struggle with an identity crisis.
Now, I’ve played a lot of Lego games. Like …. A LOT, and I’ve had my quibbles with how they’ve changed over the years. But I really do feel that they have flourished when the focus is put on original storytelling – especially in an open world.
And letting the villains from DC take centre stage in this latest game only enhances the experience. It’s probably one of the most entertaining Lego games I’ve played in a long time. Here’s why.
The return of funny
Lego’s ability to make family–friendly versions of sometimes very adult content has always been the heart of its franchise. Even all the way back to the Indiana Jones games, released over a decade ago, Lego’s childlike use of bananas and other silly props have put a smile on my face. Over the years I’ve found the colourful, whimsical sense of humour has been toned down – especially in the main campaign portions of the game – and Lego games have felt more serious. One in particular that springs to mind is the Harry Potter trilogies which seemed rife for comedy but ended up being more dark and true to the story. Well I’m pleased to say the DC Super-Villains really brings the funny back. Not only are silly and light-hearted side quests very prevalent throughout the game, but the main story is filled with funny moments that literally had me laughing out loud. And not just prop comedy and silly site gags but the dialogue is filled with delightfully dry whit and sarcasm. I’m sure that was partly due to subject matter, which brings me to my next point.
Marvel movies may have dominated the box office over the last decade but I dare anyone to say the franchise has more charismatic, entertaining, ridiculous and well-rounded villains than DC. Joker, Harley Quinn, Riddler, Lex Luthor, Deathstroke, Sinestro … the list goes on. These characters have been so well–developed over the years and their characters so well flushed out that their vulnerabilities — especially their egos — are comedy gold. These are characters that you have no problem watching for hours to see just what they will do next. They don’t need the crutch of the “good guy” to carry the story because they are the story.
Open world that keeps on opening
With these charismatic villains comes exciting locations. To be honest, I was fine with the game when I was just tooling around Gotham, Metropolis and then Smallville. But that’s only the start of this open world game. There’s plenty of places to explore – both on earth and above. And just when you think you’ve seen it all, a side quest takes you into somewhere new. This really made me want to keep going back to the game long after I had finished the campaign. I’m not a completionist but even wondering if there was another location out there to discover kept me returning.
More entertaining levels
One of my gripes with many recent Lego games is that the levels are too long and the maps are just the same thing over and over again. It makes, what is usually, an incredibly fun game seem arduous. But with Lego DC Super-Villains, the levels were a good pace and had enough variety to really be enjoyable – especially when having to go through them a second or third time on free play to pick up some of those collectables or unlock a character. As well, it was nice to not feel like I was missing something the first go-around by not having more characters unlocked. In certain other games I felt like there was a big red X on areas I wasn’t allowed to enter yet and I was getting shafted by the fun I could be having if I had another character unlocked. Another bonus is that flying feels really organic around these maps. Any time I had a character who could fly I used them to their full advantage, searching the area high and low.
Unlocking all the characters feels more organic
Not only is Lego a fun tension relief with all the brick smashing but the puzzle elements have always been one of my favourite feature and in Lego DC Super-Villains they’ve brought it back big time. Discovering characters in levels often involves solving in-level puzzles or side quests, and something about it just made it feel very organic. A villain had been trapped and you freed them or someone was stuck in a silly screw-up of their own creation and you had to save them. It made, what was a somewhat intimidating looking character map, pretty easy to unlock one by one. You still have to go around and bash a bunch of bricks to actually pay to unlock these characters in game but many of them are reasonable and the coins can be quickly gathered around the map or during free play. The one issue is that there are a lot of repeat skills these characters have so many don’t really serve any exciting purpose that’s greater than the main characters you’ve started with, but if you have a quirky DC Villain or Hero that you want to play with, chances are they will be there. Once I could, I played as Wonder Woman whenever possible cause I love her.
It isn’t all sunshine and roses in Lego DC Super-Villains. I did experience a few tough glitches – a couple forced me to restart the game and there’s still one side quest I can’t seem to finish – but overall this is one heck of a fun game that I still go back to even months later. There’s lots of variety in this game that, I think, will make it enjoyable for DC fans, Lego fans and people just looking for some light fun. Sure there were a few side quests I didn’t really like but nothing’s perfect and the game isn’t created specifically for my enjoyment. But overall, I’ve not enjoyed a Lego game this much in a very long time. My congratulations to the whole team.