Hands-on: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is a quantum leap for the franchise
Defining LEGO games going forward
Having formed a sub genre of its own, the LEGO game franchises are still as popular as ever. Whether it be adapting movies into brick form or telling original stories, the developers at Traveller's Tales continue to find new ways to keep the gameplay fresh. I was fortunate enough to sit down with game director Phil Ring and talk about why Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2 is a quantum leap from its predecessor.
It all starts with the fact that the game will be coming to current-gen consoles only. We had a good chuckle when Phil stated "next-gen exclusivity", realizing that it's been almost 4 years since the release of the PS4 and Xbox One. Removing the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 from the slate allows the game to be more cinematic, for the character roster to be much larger, and for the open-world hub to be more expansive and unique.
The game opens up with the Guardians of the Galaxy on their ship the Milano as they respond to a distress signal on Xandar. Phil told me that the minifigures in the level are the ones that you would get if you bought the actual LEGO set, adding an additional layer of authenticity. The characters all have individual traits. For example, Peter Quill AKA Star-Lord can materialize and dematerialize his helmet, or listen to his Sony Walkman. This latter ability actually helps in combat, causing enemies that might swarm you to dance along, giving you an opening to blast them to pieces. Oh, and he also has gravity mines which are used in both battles and puzzles: they're very fun. Phil told me every character, even the lesser known ones such as the Black Knight will have at least one ability unique to them. Spider-Gwen, for example, can take selfies or whip out her drum set and pull off a ground pound move. The respect for all of these characters from the developers really shines through!
The demo then skips to the Guardians on Xandar facing the Celestial Eson. Eson has been recruited by Kang the Conqueror, the big bad of the game, to aid him in ripping Xandar from time and space and adding it to his own domain: Chronopolis. More on that in a bit! It is immediately apparent that LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is the most ambitious LEGO title to date, and how when no longer shackled to last-gen consoles the developers can work wonders. There were a variety of enemy types and tons of powerful cinematic moments that would feel easily at home on a movie screen. It was at this point I asked Phil that with all the new additions, will the game on Nintendo Switch be neutered compared to on the beefier consoles? He promised me that every release of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes 2 is identical. The open world is the same on the Nintendo Switch, and every character will be available which was really great to hear.
One of the biggest new game mechanics is time manipulation. As Kang attempts to capture Xandar, time will slow down or even reverse, adding an additional puzzle to navigate whilst playing. If you played the stellar Xbox One game Quantum Break, it'll give you a good idea of what I'm talking about. Certain puzzles and areas will only be available when time is being messed with.
After taking down Eson in classic LEGO game fashion, Phil showed me the open world of Chronopolis which is when I really started to get excited. Chronopolis is Kang's domain comprised of different worlds from different time periods. Modern day New York City, ancient Egypt, Lumeria, Noir Manhattan and many other worlds all exist within the same plane. As you move from one to the other, the environment changes. For example, when in Noir NYC the graphics change to a glossy black and white. Phil expressed that they didn't wish to simply redo an open world Manhattan, and whilst parts of the city do exist in Chronopolis in various forms, the other different regions make the open world a delight to explore, with characters from one world appearing in another. For example, we were swinging around Egpyt as Spider-Gwen, when a Taxi Cab leaves NYC and falls into a sand pit right by the Sphinx. We then switched to Star-Lord and flew over to an ocean; rocketing down below the water's surface and exploring the aquatic city of Lemuria. This excited me greatly, as going underwater has been something I've always wanted to do in a LEGO game.
The open world at first will be limited to a few areas, which Phil explained was due to the sheer size of the map. Because of how many different things are going on, they didn't want to overwhelm fans with choice, especially the younger ones. To demonstrate this, Phil pointed out an object floating in the sky in the distance. He told me that was Knowhere, the iconic location from Guardians of the Galaxy, and that you can actually leave the atmosphere of Chronopolis and explore Knowhere; a massive location unto itself.
A nice new touch is the character selection screen. Before, it was a flat, bland grid of circles with the characters' name and face. Now, it's much more dynamic with animations and a design reminiscent of choosing trading cards. Each card then has the character's name, their first appearance, and a short bio of who they are and their powers. This is extremely helpful, as this game has some of the most obscure characters yet. Even I, a die hard Marvel fan, struggled to recognize some of the heroes. On top of Star-Lord and Spider-Gwen, I got to see Spider-Man Noir, Medusa and Agent Venom in action! Many of the characters were hidden, and Phil explained that they hadn't even completed the roster yet.
I was pleasantly surprised that despite there being countless LEGO games before it, Traveller's Tales really seems to be reinventing what these titles look like going forward with Marvel Super Heroes 2. Ditching outdated hardware, and focusing on a more immersive experience has me hotly anticipating this release. Let us know if you're excited for LEGO Marvel Superheroes 2 in the comments below!