The Superman Dilemma, and Which Three DC Heroes Rocksteady Should Make Games Of Instead
Ever since Rocksteady Studios released the highly acclaimed Batman games, Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, people have said that they should do a game based on Superman. On the surface this sounds like a killer idea. Rocksteady did an incredible job with one DC Comics superstar so they should do it again with the most popular superhero there is. This works in theory until you realize that there’s a reason that no one has been able to successfully create a good Superman game.
The fundamental problem with creating a great game where you get to play as Superman stems from his powers. Superman isn’t called “super” for nothing. He is THE most powerful hero in the DC universe. The character is so powerful that things like Kryptonite had to be invented as a way to make him vulnerable since he is normally all but invincible.
A nearly indestructible character simply doesn’t work in a video game. Where is the challenge going to come from if your character can’t be hurt by normal means, can fly, moves at blinding speeds and can shoot lasers from his eyes? Most games have hordes of specific enemies to fight but your garden variety mercenaries, robots, aliens or zombies would not be a match for Superman.
In the Superman games that have been released he has been extremely underpowered so that he could work within the limitations of a game. The problem with this is that he doesn’t “feel” like the same character we’ve read in the comics. The fantasy of playing as Supes quickly fades when thugs with normal guns can kill him.
Normally I’d come into this article with a solution to the problem I’m presenting. However, if I was capable of coming up with a killer idea of how to create a mindblowingly awesome Superman game then I’d be a millionaire. No one else in the gaming industry has done it either — or come close — so this is a riddle that may take some time to figure out.
Since Superman is so hard to make work within the confines of a video game, I propose that Rocksteady choose a different Justice League member to do a game on. While DC has many members in its illustrious superhero group, I want to focus on three specifically. I think that the characters of Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern could make for fantastic video games set in Rocksteady’s version of the DC Comics universe.
Before I move forward I want to say two things. The first is that two of these characters already have video games but for the purposes of this editorial, I’m ignoring them. Rocksteady would start their games from scratch anyway and wouldn’t use the previous games for reference (especially considering how bad they were). Secondly, what all of these characters have in common is that, unlike Superman, they are vulnerable to some extent. They’re extremely strong (obviously) but they can be hurt or killed a lot easier than Big Blue can.
With that said, let’s move on!
Look… I know what you’re thinking, but hear me out. Despite what you may think, Aquaman is actually one of the more interesting characters in DC’s universe. Yeah, he can talk to fish but there is so much more to the character than that.
Arthur Curry is the king of Atlantis whose kingdom is always under threat from outside forces — and from within. Seeing as how Game of Thrones is so popular these days, the game would do well to play up the political aspect of the story. All of the familial betrayal and backstabbing would make for an engaging story.
Gameplay would be split between underwater and non-underwater parts. Getting the underwater sections to play right will be the key here. The fact is that few people are fans of underwater sections of games because of how slow and sluggish the characters control. Aquaman CAN’T feel slow, especially if he is swimming. He needs to feel fast and responsive at all times.
Underwater combat can borrow elements from games which feature characters that fly or even from flight simulators. This seems a bit counter-intuitive but it makes sense if you think about how sharks and dolphins seem to “fly” underwater. This is something that Aquaman should be able to do with ease. Games like Zone of the Enders: 2nd Runner or even the Dragon Ball Z games can be used as examples of how to make a character move fast in flight. Like those two games, we can see battles involving magic or projectiles which Arthur would have to quickly dodge and counter. These sort of flight controls can make the underwater segments a heck of a lot of fun to play.
The oftentimes ridiculed ability to speak with sea animals can actually be used to great effect. Imagine being able to summon a school of sharks or even a giant blue whale. You can’t tell me that wouldn’t be cool.
Arthur is an extremely skilled combatant which, combined with his use of the trident and magical powers, should make him feel different from other action game heroes. Although he isn’t as strong as Superman, Arthur’s body is able to resist underwater pressures which gives him super human strength. On the surface world, he should be able to jump really high and to send foes flying with his punches and kicks.
Since Aquaman is the king of Atlantis I would see it as the central location of the game. Atlantis is not just a city. There are a few Atlantean continents as well but for the sake of the inaugural game, it would be best to just stick with the city everyone knows.
Since Arthur has dominion over all of the world’s oceans, he can also appear anywhere on Earth to deal with dangers that are above the sea. However, keeping with the idea of not spreading itself too thin, the first game would do well to stick to the Atlantic Ocean. Future games can take us to different surface world continents, Atlantean continents and even some of the other mythical places in the Aquaman universe.
Why a Wonder Woman game hasn’t been made yet is beyond me. It’s even more baffling considering how huge the God of War games are. Diana is basically Kratos, only with hair and boobs. They’re both the children of Zeus, fight ancient Greek monsters and are bestowed with items and powers from the gods.
Like Kratos, Diana’s main nemesis was Ares, but to not make this game so much of a GoW clone, it would be best if this game sticks to the New 52 version of the WW mythos where Ares is now a teacher/father figure. Diana’s enemies would be some of the other Olympian Gods and the encounters with them would not only provide some of the game’s boss battles but would also serve to give Diana some new powers and items.
A WW game would work best as a beat-em-up title. Diana is from an island of warrior women (Themyscira) and she is the best fighter among them. Her advanced proficiency with martial arts and weapons would give her a vast array of skills and combos to use in battle. Diana is a really brutal fighter as well so her moves could emphasize that and make for some really nasty (but awesome) attacks and finishers.
The plot should involve Wonder Woman coming to grips with the knowledge that her father is Zeus, and with the other gods — her sibling deities and demi gods — vying for his throne after he dies. The story should make players feel like they are interacting in a modern Greek Epic and therefore should take place on many locations like Earth, Mount Olympus, Hades and even the Fourth World. This would also serve to introduce a whole slew of characters that will make the game world feel richer.
A game based on Green Lantern sounds like it could fall into the same trap as a Superman game given how powerful the character’s signature weapon is. However, the power ring does have certain limitations which would serve to keep the character from being too powerful.
The power ring needs to be recharged every day so this is something that could be worked into the game itself. It wouldn’t involve having to go back to a hub or anything since the power battery can easily be summoned, but recharging the ring is something the game should have in it. There could also be sections of the game where the ring has lost power and you have to make do without it.
The power ring is capable of doing whatever the wielder can imagine so getting it to work within the confines of a game will be tricky. I mean, you can have standard stuff like lasers and melee weapons but it would be cool if, for example, you could whip up a train, a giant gorilla or something completely bonkers. If the developers could have a Scribblenauts-like mechanic to allow gamers to conjure up a wide variety of things, that’d be great. This is a bit of wishful thinking however so let’s stick to what can actually be accomplished in a game.
Although the ring’s true potential is hard to bring to life, Rocksteady can still come up with ways to give the illusion of unlimited constructs. As the game progresses, different constructs can be unlocked. By the game’s end you could have — for example — 30 different constructs for melee attacks. Although this isn’t exactly an infinite amount, having those constructs be randomized during combo chains will make it seem like there is an infinite amount of them. The same applies to every time you shoot projectiles or interact with destructible environments and objects; different constructs will appear every time you perform the similar actions and tasks.
Battles against other Lanterns would be a highlight in the game since they each have different powers and abilities. One of the nastier Green Lantern enemies is the Red Lantern Corps of Rage. These guys have the ability to vomit red, napalm-like blood which can actually destroy the protective shield that a Green Lantern creates. The greedy Larfleeze, the sole Orange Lantern, would also make a compelling enemy because he can eat a player’s constructs, thus forcing them to find other ways to defeat him. Of course, having the Sinestro Corps in the game would make for some really engaging battles too but it might be best to save them for later games.
The ring can also act as magic would in an RPG and be used to protect yourself from damage and to conjure up constructs of different nasty aliens that can aid in battle. Outside of combat, the ring can be used to scan your environment in the same way that Batman does in the Arkham games. It can also be used to travel through space and to teleport you to different locations.
For the sake of keeping in line with Rocksteady’s way of starting small and gradually expanding with each title, the game can start on Earth and then take you to some other planets in Sector 2814. Later games in the series can be more “open world” and take you to Oan Space and the wider universe. The game should stick with the modern Green Lantern stories created by Geoff Johns and focus on the various Lantern Corps and the rich mythology that’s been established with those groups and individuals.
What made the Batman: Arkham games so fantastic is that they were structured around Batman’s abilities. Batman wasn’t dumped into a standard beat ’em up or stealth game. The character is one of the world’s best martial artists and is the world’s greatest detective so a game was made to emphasize those attributes.
The same thing should apply to the DC heroes I talked about in this editorial. Rocksteady should analyze them thoroughly and come up with ways to make the games take full advantage of what they can do. I’ve talked about what each character could do in their game but I’m admittedly not a game designer. I’m sure that Rocksteady could come up with some truly ingenious ways of playing with these characters.
Superman is my favorite character of all time but I realize that creating a good game based on him would be a super feat in and of itself. Although Rocksteady could potentially create the most awesome Superman game in existence, I think it would be wiser for them to instead focus on the three Justice League members I’ve talked about. As you can see, games starring Aquaman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern which are given that “Rocksteady touch” would be incredibly fun and make for some engaging narrative experiences. Let’s forget about our pal Supes for now and ask for games starring any of these three characters instead.