First off, I want to say that I’m a huge fan of Superman. Among all the superheroes, both DC and Marvel, Superman has always stood out to me because of the power fantasy. He’s everything the average human aspires to be on the inside, and outside he’s extremely fast, strong, and, best of all, he can fly.
Now, all of those qualities lend themselves very well to various storytelling mediums. There have been great Superman comics (of course), movies, and TV shows, but so far there has yet to be a truly great Superman game. Some believe that Rocksteady Studios, the folks behind the Batman: Arkham series, should be the ones to take a crack at Superman, and in fact there have been rumors and hints that the studio might be just doing that. I think they shouldn’t, and here’s why.
Now, it’s important to preface this by saying that there is little doubt in my mind that Rocksteady Studios can deliver a solid, potentially even great, Superman game. With Batman, the studio showed that they could take a superhero video game concept and prove that it doesn’t take much to get things right. Some clever combat, a cool story, and strong character work added up to a franchise that many would emulate for years to come.
Why Limit Rocksteady’s Creativity?
However, it’s very likely that when gamers envision Rocksteady’s Superman game, they see the Batman: Arkham template. Instead of the Joker pestering the character it will be Lex Luthor, and instead of gliding through the city of Gotham, players will be flying through Metropolis. In most gamers’ minds, Rocksteady’s version of Superman is not that different from their version of Batman, albeit with a little more color and a change of scenery.
And therein lies the first reason why Rocksteady shouldn’t make a Superman game. They’ve already done the superhero trilogy, which just ended with Batman: Arkham Knight, and by most accounts stuck the landing. To then have the studio turn around and work on such a similar project would be a waste of their talent, and it would stifle their creativity. After three very successful Batman games, Rocksteady deserves the freedom to work on whatever they want, not what Warner Bros. or the fans think they should.
Think about it; these are the same folks that delivered the excellent counter-based free flow combat, which has been mimicked by dozens of character action games, and coupled it with a dynamic open world. And they did all that of their own accord. Now, imagine what the studio could do if it was once again given creative carte blanche.
How to Make a Fun Superman Game?
While most fans would like to see Rocksteady given the opportunity to work on something completely different, there’s potentially an even bigger reason looming in the background. Although Rocksteady defied the odds with Batman and proved that the Dark Knight can anchor a fantastic video game series, Superman is a tougher nut to crack. At his core, Batman is still just a man, albeit a very cunning and agile one, so designing an open world combat game around him can’t have been too hard. Superman, on the other hand, is nearly indestructible, he can get from point A to point B in a matter of seconds, and he has very few limitations.
That’s all to say, how do you design combat around a guy who should be able to kill/take out his opponents in just a single punch? How do you create an excuse for Superman to stay in a single open world area, when he can literally fly into outer space? These are questions that Rocksteady would be forced to answer if they took on a Superman game, and if they don’t get it right fans will be disappointed. Injustice: Gods Among Us, for example, tried to explain how Superman could fight Green Arrow and Lex Luthor in a very convoluted way that actually took away from the story. Beyond that, though, no one wants to play a Superman game where the character is not at 100%. Using Kryptonite in fits and spurts is fine, but weakening him to compensate for creative limitations is unlikely to sit well with gamers.
A Superman Game Can Work, But…
It’s not as if a Superman game cannot be done, but dealing with a character that powerful will require a lot of careful consideration. And one misstep, be it an invisible ceiling/wall that Superman flies into or enemies that Superman can’t take out quickly, is likely to break the immersion. Rocksteady will need a lot of processing power at their hands and they will need to design combat very carefully (how do you balance heat vision with super speed).
The one thing they shouldn’t have a problem with, though, is the story. Rocksteady knows how to craft a mature comic book style adventure and they are very good at picking the right villains for a given situation. If there’s one major reason for them to make the Superman game, it would have to be the story.
But, for as much as I would love to see what Rocksteady Studios can do with Superman, the opportunity to see them do something completely new and to avoid a very heady task is even greater. However, if they do find a great concept, readers should know that I’ll be first in line to play it.
Do you think Rocksteady Studios should make a Superman game? Or would you like to see them deliver something completely different? Let us know in the comments below.