Yesterday, I got a chance to check out the first thirty minutes of Telltale Games’ Batman title. You wouldn’t immediately think that Telltale’s adventure game formula would work with Batman, but it actually does. The game devotes equal time to both Batman and Bruce Wayne and is a nice break from the usual sort of Batman game we’ve seen before.
The thing with Batman is that he is already set up to make a great video game hero. He has an assortment of powerful weapons and technology at his disposal, an entire rogues gallery full of boss battles, countless minions to beat up in-between boss fights, and the sort of menacing presence that game fans seem to gravitate towards. If you make a game that emphasizes Batman’s unique skills and world, you’re going to have a winner on your hands.
Watching the Batman game demo made me think about Superman and whether or not he would be suited to an adventure game. While Superman is arguably the most popular superhero out there — and my personal favorite hero of all time — he hasn’t had much luck in the video game realm. In fact, his solo games have been downright terrible; a travesty considering he is the very first superhero.
The problem with Superman is how powerful he is. Even if you make him only as powerful as the post-Crisis on Infinite Earths Superman, his power is immense. Regular enemy types wouldn’t pose a credible threat to the Man of Steel. The only option would be to make Superman fight nothing but bosses. But even then, there would only exist a handful of beings powerful enough to match or surpass Supes. Doomsday, Mongol, Darkseid, Bizarro, and Brainiac That’s about it.
On the other hand, if you depower Superman, you take away what makes him… well… Superman. In nearly every game that Big Blue has starred in, he is able to be taken out by common enemies. When petty thugs can kill Superman with non-kryptonite bullets, there is something seriously wrong. A weakened Superman is pretty much pointless.
Perhaps the best thing to do is to take Superman out of the action genre and put him in the adventure genre. Instead of trying to give Supes strong enemies to fight, why not put him in situations that he can’t just punch his way out of? One of the things that most people (and regretfully, most writers) forget is how clever Superman/Clark Kent is. Why not utilize this to make an awesome game where Superman has to rely more on his wits than his fists?
Despite how silly they were, Superman comics from the 1950’s and 1960’s did a great job of giving Superman problems that had to be solved using his noggin. These comics had very little violence in them thanks to the Comics Code Authority which had just been implemented, so you’d see weird stories where Superman is transformed into a lion or has his identity revealed after a dragon burns off his outer clothing. Again, goofy stuff, but the writers had to come up with imaginative tales each month where Superman didn’t resort to violence.
Telltale Games are all about player choices and this mechanic would work great for both Superman and Clark Kent. Choices can have consequences for Superman, his allies, Metropolis, or the entire world. In order to ensure the best possible outcome out of any given situation, the player must be as clever as Superman.
Though this would be an adventure game, it’d still contain a fair deal of action. Superman is so powerful that he tends to hold back during fights and this could be an aspect of the game. Putting too much force behind a punch or using a laser attack at the wrong time could make a bad situation even worse. But of course, the game could also have epic boss battles where the player can unleash the full power of Superman.
If Telltale Games’ Batman game is a success both financially and critically, perhaps the company will consider giving Superman the video game he (and we) deserve.
Check out IGN’s tour through E3 2016’s Batcave.