Big game companies have gotten into the habit of releasing sequels that are much larger than the prior games. And that’s the case with Lego Marvel Super Heroes 2, which is being developed by TT Games and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment.
We played a preview of the game and sat down with game director Arthur Parsons of TT Games, who was also the leader on the previous game. He said this one features more playable characters (there were 180 of them in the last game), a bigger story in terms of minutes of game play, and a bigger world in the form of Chronopolis. In this story, the villain Kang wants to rule everything, so he pulls all of the realities together, and in doing so, he threatens to destroy the whole Marvel Universe.
I don’t think Stan Lee is going to be happy about that, and so players will have to stop Kang using any Marvel superheroes at their disposal. The game is coming on November 14, 2017, for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and Microsoft Windows.
Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
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GamesBeat: How long have you been working on this one?
Arthur Parsons: As far as actual physical development, it’s been less time, but we’ve been working on the concept of the story since we finished the first Lego Marvel Super Heroes in the fall of 2013. The story development has taken a long time. The actual game development — by the time it comes out it will have been about 18 months.
GamesBeat: It seems like a bigger game than last time. Can you measure that in terms of dimensions?
Parsons: The open world is much bigger than Lego Marvel Super Heroes. The story is bigger. I know that sounds weird, but we always add up story in terms of minutes of narrative, and the story is a lot bigger in that sense. There are more level sections, more hidden missions, more open world gameplay. A lot more diversity in what we’re trying to achieve with everything in there. And there’s a heck of a lot more voice work.
GamesBeat: The Guardians played a role in this mission. Did they get highlighted because of the movie?
Parsons: We picked the Guardians group because, at the end of the first game, the Guardians turn up after you save the world. The idea always was that the Guardians turn up and Star-Lord says, “That’s not why we’re here. It’s something else.” That “something else” is the next story in the Lego Marvel Super Heroes universe.
It was natural to lead off with Guardians because that gives the overlap for anyone who’s played the first one. For anyone who’s not played the first game and comes fresh to this, Guardians is going to be something they’re likely familiar with, especially the younger audience that might be very new to Marvel and these characters. You want them to have a touch point. The film’s out. The Blu-ray will be out later in the year. For the younger players, it’s recognizable. They can get into it before we introduce all the other characters.
GamesBeat: Do these characters have a role in the larger story?
Parsons: I can’t remember the exact number, but there are more than 30 characters woven into the main story. The Guardians are there in that opening level but very quickly they’re dispersed. I think there’s one level where Star-Lord goes with Captain America and some other characters. Drax goes off with other characters. They split up pretty quickly. They’re not the driving force of the story. The driving force comes from a couple of different characters we haven’t yet revealed.
The first game was a threat to the Earth. This is now a threat to everything Marvel. We’re working with different realities as well. 2099 comes into play and even medieval Marvel. It’s Marvel throughout the ages. Kang is just here to take it all, basically.
GamesBeat: He’s the consistent villain, then?
Parsons: There’s a whole load of villains, but he’s the main persistent bad guy. He comes in and brings all these different places from different Marvel realities together, and he says to the villains, “Either you bow before me or rise up with me. You’ll have a place of power in my new realm.” A lot of villains crop up that are effectively working for Kang. And there’s a bit of double-crossing that goes on. We do a lot of cool stuff with the villains.
GamesBeat: Are you also changing up some of the gameplay?
Parsons: We’re trying to refresh everything. We want to make this game feel fresh and new and invigorated. But at the same time you can’t lose that core Lego DNA. That’s a vital ingredient, along with the fun and the humor. If it’s not funny, it can’t go in. Or we like to think it’s funny, anyway. First and foremost it has to be authentic to the IP, the way the players want. But we’re trying to refresh everything.
The combat is getting a massive overhaul. You’ll find that, in the final game, there’s a whole host of different enemy encounters and ways of interacting with different characters. The core controls are getting an overhaul. We identified every single touch point and asked ourselves, “How do we improve all of these things?” Some are getting a slight overhaul and some are getting a massive one, but we’re trying to refresh everything.
GamesBeat: What can you tell us about the boss battles? The one we saw is very chaotic.
Parsons: Oh, yes. We’re not quite to the E3 version yet. There’s still a bit of balancing to do. We probably need to dial things back a touch. [laughs] It’s a bit extreme. But it conveys the idea. This was the first time anyone’s played it outside the office. After watching people play we’ll tweak and we’ll modify and adjust and balance some things. It’s good to see fresh eyes play it.
GamesBeat: A lot of seems to revolve around puzzle-solving. You’re figuring out which guy to go after next.
Parsons: That first level, we wanted to keep it pretty straightforward. Very soon after that level, in the flow of the game, we release people into this Chronopolis open world and give them choices. It’s always difficult with a first level, because you want high-impact action, but you also need to understand that this could be someone’s first game. It has to be easily understandable and playable. You’re teaching people to play on the go. Not everyone has played a load of Lego games like you and I have. We have to find that balance. Again, this level will be run through numerous groups of children before it gets out into the wide world.
GamesBeat: What’s the backstory to the Chronopolis world?
Parsons: It’s actually a real thing that comes from the comics. Kang is such a great character for that. He wants to rule everything, so he pulls all the realities together into this one city. That’s where you get all these great Marvel locations, whether it’s something out of the blue like ancient Egypt, or whether it’s Hala or Attilan or Sakaar or Manhattan. There are so many great Marvel locations in one place. That’s what captures the imagination so much. You get all that diversity in one big sprawl. When players get the chance to run and fly around that city, it’s epic.
GamesBeat: Are we talking about dozens of characters you can play, or even more?
Parsons: In the full, final roster? There will be a couple of hundred. It’s going to be a big number. But it’s not settled yet. We’re always adjusting and adding to that. We work very closely with the Marvel guys. They’re always suggesting new characters to add, so that number will only go up.
GamesBeat: Any other things you’d like to add?
Parsons: We’re going to have some cool stuff at E3. The great thing is we’ll have real players for the first time. That’ll be cool, seeing more hands-on. I can’t wait for people to see more of the game. We’ve just scratched the surface with what we’ve been able to show so far. We’re trying to take the Lego games another step forward and really shake up what makes them great.
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