LEGO DC Super-Villains is proof that IP means everything when it comes to the quality of LEGO games. The bigger and more diverse the property that developer Traveller's Tales is adapting in their LEGO games, the more fun the final product ends up being. With DC Super-Villains Traveller's Tales tackles one of, if not their biggest property yet, by diving headfirst into the world of DC Comics’ villains (and heroes). The results are unsurprisingly pretty successful, but not perfect.
DC Super-Villains’ is very loosely based on the comic book storyline of 2013, Forever Evil. The Justice League has been neutralized by their evil counterparts from Earth-3, the Justice Syndicate and this evil League has taken over the world. While a few heroes are left, the baddies are running the show and there's villain-on-villain crime across the DC’s Earth (and Apokolips). It sounds like a daring premise but LEGO DC Super-Villains does almost nothing to reinvent or change the classic but aged LEGO formula. Thankfully it still succeeds by having a terrific voice cast, colorful worlds and an entertaining story.
LEGO DC Super-Villains is hardly the first time that the LEGO franchise has tackled the world of superheroes in video game form. There’s not only been three previous LEGO Batman games, the third of which was essentially LEGO Justice League, but there’s also been two LEGO Marvel Superheroes and one LEGO The Incredibles. LEGO DC Super-Villains follows the exact same formula as its predecessors. There are two large hub worlds full of side-activities and side-quests with 20 linear story-heavy missions, which are full of collectibles that are impossible to acquire in the first playthrough.
If you have played a LEGO game any time in the last five years, there'll be no surprises in store with LEGO DC Super-Villains. There's not a whole lot of reasons to play the story missions over and over to get all the collectibles unless you're a completionist but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. LEGO DC Super-Villains isn’t an exciting entry but there is something comforting about the basic loop of the LEGO franchise. It’s aimed at children, obviously, but traveling through LEGO DC Super-Villains' universe, smashing everything in sight and solving small puzzles is oddly relaxing.
Even if LEGO DC Super-Villains hasn’t done much to change the formula, they’ve still added some quality of life improvements and small additions that bolster the experience. It doesn't make for a brand-new game but it's at least a smooth one. For example, it’s possible to completely switch off the obnoxious hint system. These hints are great for any gamer still developing their fine motor skills but useless for anyone out of pre-K.
LEGO DC Super-Villains also puts forward the effort to make each of the playable characters feel unique and faithful to the source material. There are close to 200 playable character in LEGO DC Super-Villains (with DLC adding even more) and they’re not just palette swaps of one another. There are some exceptions like Nightwing and Red Robin who aren’t all that different. Still, LEGO DC Super-Villains is a step up in the character design department from the last dip in the DC Universe, LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham.
One of the most impressive characters early on is Clayface. This Clayface isn't as sympathetic as his comic counterpart but the muddy alter ego of actor Basil Karlo is incredibly versatile. He can shrink and expand in size like Atom, fool security systems like Cyborg and turn into a hulking beast that can dispose of large obstacles like Solomon Grundy. These are all abilities that Clayface would naturally have but older LEGO games wouldn’t have gone the extra effort with his character.
A similar level of polish has gone into the level and world design. LEGO DC Super-Villains starts off mundanely. It begins in an open-world and LEGO-fied Gotham. Although it’s possible to travel across the river and into the city of Metropolis. Gotham and Metropolis look great but they’re locales that have been explored time and time again. There’s more to the DC Universe than just Batman and Superman, or in this case their villains. Eventually the world opens up much more. The story missions travel to Themyscira, Atlantis, and Gorilla City - The last of which is particularly awe-inspiring. About 75% through the game though a whole other planet is even added to LEGO DC Super-Villains with the introduction of Darkseid and his home of Apokolips. The gameplay never really changes, even on Apokolips, but the variety of locales is a visual treat.
Fan service is baked into every inch of LEGO DC Super-Villains too. For fans of the DC Animated Universe that run from the late 90s and early 00s, LEGO DC Super-Villains is the auditory equivalent of a warm bath. Mark Hamill and Clancy Brown are back in their roles of The Joker and Lex Luthor, respectively and they’re not alone. Kevin Conroy, Michael Rosenbaum, Michael Ironside and Susan Eisenberg are back in their voice roles from Justice League Unlimited and much more. LEGO DC Super-Villains doesn’t cater to just the DCaU either. The Arrowverse’s John Barrowman and Megalyn Echikunwoke reprise their roles as Malcolm Merlyn and Vixen. Teen Titans Go's Greg Cipes voices Beast Boy. The list could really go one and on.
The voice cast is more than just nostalgia though. The saving grace of LEGO DC Super-Villains is the voice cast and writing. Without them LEGO DC Super-Villains would be a passable but wholly unremarkable collect-a-thon. With them LEGO DC Super-Villains remains a consistently entertaining experience throughout the 20 or so hours it will take to complete the main story, if not beyond. DC Super-Villains isn't the funniest LEGO game ever made and the humor occasionally dips a little bit too far into childish material but like the best properties made for kids there's a lot for fans of every age to enjoy.
If there's a dud in LEGO DC Super Villains it's you ... or more accurately your custom character. LEGO games have always had the option to create a custom minifigures since the very start of the franchise in LEGO Star Wars but LEGO DC Super-Villains is the first entry to really embrace them. The custom character who will be referred to as "The Rookie" throughout the story is an integral part of the game and its narrative. The Rookie enters the picture by getting swept up in the opening scene of Lex Luthor's prison break and remains front and center to the finale. As the game progresses The Rookie can be continually customized and will gain new abilities and powers.
It's a neat concept but it's a hollow and distracting mechanic in practice. The Rookie never talks. In a throwback to the earliest LEGO game, The Rookie only "speaks" in a series of grunts and facial expressions. They also never fit in the world. LEGO DC Super-Villains' character customization options are limited, especially at the very beginning of the game. Even as the game progresses and more customization options unlock The Rookie never feels as thoughtfully or interestingly designed as the other playable characters. The Rookie always looks like they were created in a limited character generator. The other villains will constantly poke fun at what The Rookie is wearing and their muteness but the humor doesn't get rid of the problem. It just highlights it even further.
LEGO DC Super-Villains never forces you to play as The Rookie for extended periods of time. In gameplay there's always another character to switch to and in the open-world, The Rookie can always be substituted for someone else. The Rookie's only required moments are in cut-scenes. The Rookie is a harmless addition but a meaningless one.
Anyone who goes into LEGO DC Super-Villains thinking that Traveller's Tales will take the lessons from their starring villains and break all the rules will be sorely disappointed. Ultimately, LEGO DC Super-Villains is just another LEGO game that contains everything good and bad that implies. The LEGO formula is showing its age and Traveller's Tales might want to have reinvent themselves if they want to stay relevant. For now, LEGO DC Super-Villains is a far from extraordinary but it's entertaining and makes great use of the DC Universe's sandbox. For DC fans waiting for the next Arkham game or the rumored Justice League or Rocksteady's Superman games, LEGO DC Super-Villains isn't that but it's a decent substitute for now.
LEGO DC Super-Villains is available now for $59.99 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC. Screen Rant was provided a PS4 copy for review.