What If: The Next DC Comics Game Is The Legion of Superheroes: The Great Darkness Trilogy?
For the last few years we’ve had a steady stream of Batman: Arkham games coming, with the next in the series–Arkham Origins–set to release this year on October 25th. With Warner Bros Montreal developing the game in Rocksteady’s absence (while oddly using Rocksteady’s engine and assets) it not only makes me curious of what other game(s) Rocksteady could be developing, but what other properties DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Interactive could (or should) be working on.
With Injustice: Gods Among Us storming the fighting game genre, what other kinds of games and genres could DC Comics’ franchises explore?
Well, what if the next DC Comics Game is:
Influences: The Mass Effect series
Much like the Mass Effect series, Legion of Superheroes takes place in the future, during a time where–despite the existence of and cooperation between thousands of alien races–xenophobia has run wild, danger is everywhere, and any semblance of peace and serenity upheld by the United Planets is usually just one incident away from falling apart.
The Legion franchise has seen numerous interpretations since its first appearance in Adventure Comics #247 in 1958: a Legion of Superheroes game should take elements from each of the various iterations and create a single and unique vision from it. This means taking the classic superhero conventions and relationships of the original series, the destruction and turmoil of later years, the twists and evolution in the first rebooted series, and the power of rebellious youth in the last rebooted series.
With all of this in mind, this isn’t “a story” of the Legion, but your story of the Legion, your vision of their storied past. And this idea is why Mass Effect is the best template for the series.
Bringing The Team Together
Influences: Mass Effect 2, Valkyria Chronicles
Any Legion fan knows that no matter the incarnation, the Legion has always started with three founders: the even-tempered leader and master of magnetism, Cosmic Boy; the telepathic and supportive heroine, Saturn Girl; and the hot-tempered but dependable Lightning Lad. But from those three eventually came an entire, well, a legion of superheroes, one with members and powers for every occasion.
One of the biggest aspects of Legion lore is recruiting new heroes, and where some original stories have turned the tryouts into a humorous running gag completely with comically ridiculous powers–Arms-Fall-Off Boy, anyone?–a Mass Effect influenced game should make it a necessity, a mission, to find the right people for the right jobs. And so, much like Mass Effect 2‘s Seven Samurai, Magnificent Seven and Ocean’s Eleven-styled recruitment drive, players should have an active role in what planets they’ll be traveling to, which characters to persuade to join them, and how to manage a team full of disaparate personalities, skills and abilities.
Like Valkyria Chronicles, each hero–besides their powers–should have unique traits and quirks that Cosmic Boy has to consider when choosing teams to go out on missions. Put these together, and team management goes well beyond “Do I want a guy who blasts with a blue power beam or a red one?”
Teaming opposites together could make for interesting effects, like Light Lass’ gravity negation abilities–think Mass Effect‘s “Lift” power–with Star Boy’s gravity-increasing abilities–think Mass Effect‘s Slam–could make for a simple but effective levitate-and-decimate combo. Or Shadow Lass bathing her enemies in darkness while Timber Wolfe uses his sense, agility, speed and superior fighting abilities to take them down one-by-one would be swift and unexpected. Or using Invisible Boy and Chameleon Boy to provide for two different ways to so stealthily sneak past guards: the possibilities are endless.
Then considering character’s personalities and you have to consider: do I put Sun Boy, Ultra Boy or Wildfire on my team for a diplomatic mission, knowing that they’re all impulsive, prone to rash actions, and insubordination? Players should ask themselves: are there any characters with relationship issues, prejudices or fears that could impede the mission? Do these characters have room for growth? By not bringing a character along to confront their faults and flaws, will it stop them from overcoming them?
Take for example the second Legionnaire to be called Quantum Kid: she joined the Legion, but hated them for the death of her brother, the first Quantum Kid (who died due to his own inexperience and faulty technology). But over time, she became as dedicated to the Legion as any other member, becoming so well-liked, respected and trusted that she even led the team through periolous situations, and with the confidence and trust of Cosmic Boy himself.
These kinds of decisions not only made the story incredibly unique and engaging in the Mass Effect series–arguably more than the gameplay–but it made your role of Commander feel even more immersive and compelling. It also made the threat of the universe even greater and more imminent: it wasn’t just the guns and powers that would save the day, but each and every decision that could destroy people, alliances, or entire races. The destruction of billions of lives rest on your shoulders and your choices.
So you might want to think long and hard before you put the fate of humanity in the incapable, detached hands of Arms-Fall-Off Boy.
Missions should be just as varied as the members of the Legion roster. Not only should there be missions to retrieve, release, persuade, coerce or rescue potential new members, but they should also be about responding to emergency situations, to social, political and racial conflict, and always to promote peace and unity.
Imagine needing to find a shapeshifting Durlan assassin before he can kill an important diplomat to start a war. Imagine trying to prevent a full-scale Khundian invasion by reasoning with their brutish and aggressive culture, or being forced to quell an uprising through a rare and more lethal approach. Imagine needing to infiltrate a Dominator or Psion lab to free humans who have had their metagenes manipulated, forcing you to decide whether you’ll take the hard way in subduing these mutated and horrifically powerful creatures, or completely destroy the lab so that no one else can steal its secrets and continue these experiments.
And just like the Mass Effect series, every decision made should come with a consequence of some sort, be it something negative that will scar you (and your character) forever, or some tough decision that will (ultimately) come back to you in some positive manner.
With decades of comics history to build from, there are countless missions that could be created–now we just need a game for them to exist in.
More to Come
Everyone has their own favorite version of the Legion, or at the very least, their own favorite versions of particular characters. Players should be given a variety of costumes and looks to unlock (and/or purchase as DLC), allowing them to customize their own dream team of Legionnaires from all previous continuities.
Likewise, special missions could be unlocked (or purchased as DLC) based on the stories from Legion history that don’t fit well into the main narrative, which would also lead to special and powerful characters to unlock. A few examples could include a fierce battle that climaxes with the freeing of the legendary Daxamite Mon-El from the Phantom Zone; helping time travel expert Rond Vidar to stop his evil father, Universo, from regaining the power ring Universo once owned, later leading to Vidar’s gaining the ring, becoming a Green Lantern, and assisting the team; or, as a special treat (I mean, no matter the continuity, you can’t do a Legion game without him), a mission with a classic, campy, Silver Age vibe that requires the Legionnaires to go back in time and save a teenaged Clark Kent, the very person who would grow up to become Superman and inspire the Legion ten centuries later.
The Legion videogame franchise could also build from the formation of the team to a mixture of major Legion storylines, including The Magic Wars, Legion Worlds, the xenophobic hero Earth Man, Legion Lost and more, but ultimately culminating with The Great Darkness Saga, where the Legion has to take on the greatest evil in the universe, the New God of Evil, Darkseid.
And like the Mass Effect series, there should not only be allies won over during the course of the story, but Legionnaires lost, perhaps providing fresh, new takes on the deaths of characters like Ferro Lad, Lightning Lad, and others.
The Legion of Superheroes may never have held onto its popularity as long as the various Justice League or Teen Titans properties, but they have stood the test of time–albeit in various iterations–with some of the most interesting characters and stories DC Comics had, and definitely deserves a shot at making video game history.
With an industry that can’t get enough of futuristic worlds and in-depth action-RPG mechanics, there’s no reason why a well-written Legion of Superheroes game couldn’t wow the world and convert newcomers into hardcore Legion fans.
DC Comics and Warner Bros Interactive Entertainment, make this game, please.