Developer: Travellers Tales
Publisher: Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Platform: Xbox One (reviewed), PS4, Switch, Windows
Release Date: October 16, 2018
ESRB Rating: E10+ for Everyone 10 and over
Links: Amazon | Steam | Official website
Travellers Tales has been developing licensed Lego games for more than a decade now, and though the series has made some leaps and bounds, the core formula remains the same: jump into a familiar pop-culture universe, embody Lego-fied versions of your favorite characters, and play through a story that involves action-adventure gameplay and lots of scenery smashing.
Lego DC Super-Villains is comforting in its familiarity, like a favorite meal that always makes you feel better. The character creator adds a new mechanic while fitting neatly into the story, and theres enough content to keep players occupied for dozens of hours. Its not particularly challenging, and gameplay remains largely the same. But theres enough heart and humor to make Lego DC Super-Villains an enjoyable adventure.
No more heroes
Unlike the previous Lego games in the DC universe, Lego DC Super-Villains puts you squarely on the side of chaos, working alongside baddies like the Joker, Scarecrow, and Harley Quinn. When a mysterious group from an alternate Earth pops up and banishes the Justice League, its open season for the villains of Metropolis and Gotham—at least until the so-called “Justice Syndicate” starts showing its true colors. Evil colors.
This puts Joker and friends in an awkward spot—with no Justice League around, they have to band together to defeat the gang of imposters wreaking havoc on their territory and foiling their plans. The games story mode leads you through gloomy Gotham, sunny Metropolis, and even to the fiery realm of Apokolips, with a detour to Clark Kents hometown of Smallville thrown in for good measure. The core gameplay is a mix of platforming, basic combat, and puzzle-solving, though much of that comes down to mashing buttons to smash every person or obstacle in your path. Theres no real penalty for death: if you lose all your hearts, you simply respawn in the same spot, albeit with a slightly lighter in-game wallet.
Between main-quest chapters, you can switch characters at will and take advantage of their various abilities to find hidden collectibles and complete side quests. (One such mission has you helping the Monarch Theater put on an unintentionally hilarious musical about Bruce Waynes parents, for instance.) There are plenty of things to do, and uncovering every nook and cranny will occupy you long after the 20- to 30-hour campaign is complete. Exploring the open world feels a bit like WBs Arkham series of games on laughing gas, with a dash of Grand Theft Auto thrown in, as you steal or summon vehicles at will and even gain a “Wanted” level for dastardly deeds.
Many early missions involve breaking various baddies out of prison to recruit them in defeating the Crime Syndicate, which means youll have a huge roster of villains from the well-known to the obscure. Youre not limited to playing evil-doers, though; interactions with the Crime Syndicate, Teen Titans, Justice League, and other locals unlock those familiar faces as well. Since each character has unique abilities, being able to access a wide range during free play is vital to uncovering secrets and gathering collectibles. Story missions can be replayed to find previously inaccessible items or simply collect more studs, which can be used to buy more characters. This leads to unlikely team-ups, and you may find yourself switching off between the Joker and Batman, or you might pair up Poison Ivy with Wonder Woman.
As a newbie to the villainous group, youll create a character from scratch, choosing details like weapons, outfits, hairstyles, and later customizing special powers. At first, playing as the user-generated character is a downgrade—why be some nobody when you could be Lex Luthor or Catwoman? As your personal Rookie gains new abilities, though, they slowly become a powerhouse. Individual powers can be customized in a number of ways, from the source of an energy beam to its color and style. Want to shoot pink jolts of electricity from your eyeballs? You do you.
The pretty and the glitchy
In some ways, Lego DC Super-Villains is a shining example of how far the series production values have come over the past decade. An all-star voice cast brings the motley crew of characters to life, with well-known voice actors like Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, and Tara Strong reprising their roles from various animated shows. Licensed music makes this one of the series strongest soundtracks—theres just something about Harley Quinn whipping out a boombox blasting “Hit Me with Your Best Shot” that perfectly encapsulates the character and tone. And while the game obviously isnt attempting to replicate the hyper-realistic graphics of other AAA titles, the Lego versions of DC locales are stunning in their own way. The environments are full of life and bursting with color, and theres even a photo mode to document it all.
On the other hand, Super-Villains isnt without its technical issues. Characters clipping through floors is forgivable, but Deadpool getting stuck outside a level and making it impossible to progress is less so. And then there was the time the game crashed completely, making every minor pause afterward a heart-stopping moment. Thankfully, these moments were rare enough that they didnt ruin the experience, but losing an hour of progress is never fun.
On a smaller scale, the series still struggles with the camera, and not giving the player full control can lead to some frustrating moments when you cant see what you want.
Video game comfort food
You know exactly what youre getting with any Lego game, and if youre familiar with the series, DC Super-Villains wont blow your mind. It does have a few new customization ingredients to spice up a familiar recipe, however, and its still a fun, carefree romp—not to mention a great DC universe story in its own right.
- A massive cast of characters spanning the good and evil of DCs universe, with many voice actors reprising classic roles.
- An open-world environment full of side quests and secrets.
- The series first character creator has surprisingly deep customization options.
- Long loads and barely skippable cutscenes.
- The series traditionally janky camera still sometimes works against you.
- Technical hiccups, including a full crash mid-boss fight.
Verdict: Solo or with a co-op partner, Lego DC Super-Villains is family-friendly fun. It wont exactly test an experts gaming skills, but that doesnt stop it from being an entertaining, hilarious adventure. Try it.